Friday, June 15, 2012

A Visit to Ravi's Restaurant, Satwa High St., Dubai

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 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!"


  1. You are darling dear cousin! I don't know how I stumbled onto your blog but I loved this post.
    I too love communicating. A couple of months ago found a box of letters from my parents, sibs and good friends when I moved away from home the first time. It was such a treasure!!!
    I think someday we will miss our "Snail Mail"
    Have a wonderful summer.
    Your cousin Debi in Oregon (Bev's daughter)

  2. Hello Debi! How lovely to see you here! Yes, I believe we will SOON miss snail-mail. My mum's letters are so precious to me, and she kept all my letters to her which I found when she died so I have a complete "diary" of around 20 years of Nason life. Isn't that wonderful?!

    Please share my blog with your family. Some of them are on facebook occasionally but others I never see or hear from. If you give me your email address (mine is, I'll send it to you by email so you can forward it.

    Much love,
    Berni xox

  3. Bernie#2 ....Bernie#1 here!

    Can't believe what i have just read above!!! So lovely to see your pictures and read your story.

    Can you believe that Ian and I married in 1991 and have 3 children .....well hardly children ....Cara is 18, Connor is 16 and Lucy is 14! Life has flown by! Sadly David, Ian's brother died some years ago now .....we miss him so you remember the first night he arrived and we took him for a walk on the beach in the wee small hours after Lucifers. Happy Days!

    So pleased to be in touch!

    love Bernie x

  4. Bernie!

    I'm so glad to hear from you. I searched for you on Facebook but there are several Bernadette Brooks's and I wasn't sure which one you might be! So sorry to hear about David; such a nice man. Delighted to hear about your happy family though. I think I last heard about you and Ian when you'd just had Cara but I can't remember who told me. Where do you live now? I've been in Austin, Texas for nearly 20 years. Yikes!

    My email address is Would you drop me a line so I can write you a proper letter?

    Berni xox

  5. Its really good to know about your life story in Dubai. I must say thanks to you for sharing it with us. Good luck for you in present and future. :)

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