Cramming 5 years' worth of Dubai life into one 90-minute storytelling presentation is of course impossible. I had three jobs while I was there: two lasting 18 months a-piece, the final one lasting 2 years. More than enough happened at each job to warrant three separate shows, and that's not including the social life, about which I could tell stories all day. Worked hard, played hard! DINNER IN DUBAI, therefore, comprises carefully chosen highlights from the 5-year stretch, tales powerful enough to stand alone and be told individually with equal entertainment value.
However, I thought I'd include some of the shorter pieces on my blog because they're too funny, too poignant or too culturally interesting to be lost in time. They'll appeal mostly to Dubai folks choosing to reminisce with me but I hope they'll also give an idea of expat life in Dubai as it was 25 years ago to those who've ever wondered about living in the UAE.
My letters to my family in England are so detailed, they act as a diary. Here's the story of my first visit to the well-known (and still open) RAVI'S RESTAURANT on Al Diyafah Street in Satwa. It was December 1987. I'd only been in Dubai 3 months when this took place.
"I worked at the hotel (Jebel Ali Hotel) until 7:30 p.m. -- an 11-hour day, Mum, an 11-HOUR DAY! -- then caught the 8:00 guest bus into Dubai town. I got off at the Hilton and went to Humphreys Bar to wait for Bernie #1. Everyone calls me Berni #2!
Bernie took me to Thatchers -- what a dreadful name for a bar -- in the Dubai Marine Hotel to meet a crowd of her friends, teachers from Dubai College. I spent the evening talking to a chap called Ian (geography teacher). We trooped into Cavaliers, the nightclub upstairs, which is closing down this Saturday to make room for another Chinese restaurant. It was full of young drunks and was most definitely not my cup of tea. Bernie wanted to stay and had her own car so Ian and his brother David (on holiday here) took me to Ravi's, a famous restaurant in expat circles -- I use the term "restaurant" loosely! Ian said, "You'll love it!" but it's actually very like the kind of place we used to find in Libya. Spit and sawdust! There are no loos -- staff, customers and local dogs all use the same grubby sink for hand-washing, dish-washing and whatever local dogs do. First course was curry gravy with sort-of chapattis which looked like dirty flannels (washcloths) and tasted rather similar, I imagine. Second course was sheep brains all mashed up in a milky sauce which I couldn't bring myself to taste. Third course was burnt chicken. We had water in stainless steel goblets which looked pretty stained to me. There was no choice and no menu. You sit down and they serve you, that's it and all about it. It's Ian's favourite restaurant so I doubt I'll be going out with him again!
Afterwards, however, Ian took David (he's a tourist) and me (God knows what I am) to the side of the restaurant where they were turning lumps of dough into those funny chapatti things. They let me have a go. The 'chef' spread the dough on to a cushion (for want of a better description) then gave me the cushion and I had to lean down into a huge hole with a fire at the bottom and thrust the pancaked dough on to the wall of the hole. One minute later, the 'chef' tore the pancake off the wall with tongs and there you have it...one chapatti. I think I lost all the hair on my arms and eyebrows but it was worth it!
They dropped me off at the Hilton Apartments where I caught a taxi back to The Shacks (aka the Jebel Ali Hotel Management Housing Complex). What a fascinating evening!"