Dubai's Desperate Housewife

Trials and traumas of a full-time mum in Dubai

Posts Tagged ‘Dubai expat

Upstairs, downstairs – how the other half live

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A news story about golfer Ian Poulter (no, I hadn’t heard of him either, but bear with me) made me giggle this week. The poor man had been ridiculed, it seems, because he complained on Twitter that British Airways had downgraded his nanny from business class, leaving his wife to travel alone up front with her four children.

(I must just say at this point, unless her children are all entirely self-sufficient, I do have some sympathy for her, but that’s not the point.)

Staircase to heaven (on the A380)

Staircase to heaven (on the A380)

While Poulter was daft to complain about the situation on Twitter, his chief mistake was booking the kids and nanny into business class in the first place. Clearly he’s never sat on the Emirates A380 from Dubai to London with a bunch of expat wives.

If he had, he would have seen, as I did this summer, the hordes of women clattering up and down the aeroplane’s elegant staircase as they came down from business and first class between glasses of champagne to check on their offspring in economy.

This, my dears, is how the experts travel.

‘Ohh,’ sighed a cabin crew chap I was chatting to by the loos as another squiffy mum clambered downstairs from the bar to visit six-year-old Felix in 72B. We watched together as she tried and failed to limbo under the red rope barring commoners from heading up. ‘It’s all upstairs-downstairs on this flight.’ He shook his head sadly. ‘It was easier on the triple 7. Then it was just forwards-backwards through the curtain… no-one tripping over the rope. You can’t say a thing, though.’

‘Course not,’ I sympathised…

Next year, DH?

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August 11, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Silent Sunday: Back to school

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"Morning darlings" Mwa-mwa! How was your summer?"

“Mwa-mwa-mmwwaa! Dahling! You look faaaab! How was your summer? We had an uh-maazing time! Very quiet: just messing about on the yacht…”

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September 2, 2013 at 7:30 pm

The Shard

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So the children and I are on a train going through London Bridge station. If you crane your neck (or your BlackBerry) out of the window, you can see London’s finest skyscraper, The Shard.  At 308 metres high, it’s the tallest building in Western Europe.

Titchy Shard taken through train window... I can see what DS meant

Titchy Shard taken through train window… I can see what DS meant

In the seat behind us on the train, a father tells his toddler daughter, “Look darling! There’s The Shard! Look how big it is!” Daughter isn’t convinced.

DS looks out of the window, then looks quizzically at me. Finally, he pipes up to the carriage, “That’s not big! You should see Burj Khalifa!”

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July 30, 2013 at 12:25 am

The Christmas “open house”

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It’s at this time of year that my inbox starts to clog up with invitations to “exclusive open house” events, at which local artisans, fashion designers and small-business owners set up tables to sell their beautiful homemade or self-imported goods.

I’m all for “mumpreneurs” running businesses that allow them to have some kind of satisfying work while retaining a presence at home for their children – and they usually sell lovely things – so I try as far as possible to support the ones I know.

But the “open house”? Honestly? Jumping into a tank of piranhas might be more fun.

Take one I went to the other week.

I walked through the open door and the buzz of chat stopped immediately as 25 pairs of eyes gave me the “Dubai once-over.” You know: The “Oh my God, she’s wearing that?” look, followed by the “What’s she doing here? She doesn’t look our type; bet she doesn’t even live in this community” look (“Oh god give me strength,” I thought, poking a flip-flop further into the living room).

To be honest, I could see why the eyebrows would have raised, had the Botox allowed: The sellers were as dressed-up and made-up as if they were going for a night out at the opera. I’d never seen so many tonal silk scarves in my life. Furthermore, despite it being only midday, they were all clutching glasses of bubbly (“They’ve been at it since 10am,” said the friend I’d popped in to see).

I, on the other hand, had been working at home all morning and was dropping in to the “open house” en route to the first of two hot and dusty school runs, so I was wearing something simple: A strappy vest, ¾ length jeans and flip-flops (I did, of course, have a great handbag). It looked alright, but polished it was not. My makeup was bare minimum and I’d committed the ultimate Dubai Mum faux pas of no lippie.

Not even a Bobbi Brown neutral.

When I finally got both flip-flops into the room (not even Havaianas, dahling), there appeared to be no genuine customers, so the sellers, tipsy, loud and, honestly, a bit precious, were all trying on each other’s stuff. Even if I’d wanted to get my wallet to their tables, I’d had to have broken through their ranks first.

Some of the other sellers had the alcohol munchies – they were stuffing spring rolls into their chops in the kitchen while trilling that faux-naughty, giggly line of “I’ll just try one of these….mmm…. there’s so moreish, Jessica! Did you make them yourself?”  (No, she bought them frozen from the supermarket and got her maid to deep-fry fried them you numpty).

My overall impression of the first “open house” I’ve actually attended in two years was that of intruding at a private party. Sorry girls – next time I’ll buy from you directly.

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December 5, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Silent Sunday: A trip to the hair salon – Dubai-style

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Even the loo is glamorous

Coffee? Yes please!

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November 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Why is everyone looking at me?

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So I walked to the local station today, to take a train to London. It’s a walk I did countless times over countless years before moving to Dubai and, honestly, it brought back so many memories.

But, as I clopped along the pavement in my cowboy boots, I noticed all the other commuters and pedestrians were giving me a double-take.

I couldn’t think why. Maybe I was at school with them (always a risk when you’re in the town in which you grew up). But no, not that.

Maybe it was my hair. I dyed it “medium brown” yesterday and it actually turned out black – it looks odd to those who know me as a beach blonde, but, really, strangers wouldn’t notice that, I mused, as I marched towards the 9.31 train.

What could it be?

My outfit for summer in the UK. While everyone else is in shorts.


I didn’t think I looked odd at all. I was wearing a very classic outfit: Jeans, a blue and white sweater, a turquoise pashmina, a beige raincoat, cowboy boots, big sunglasses… yeah, my hand bag was particularly nice and I have a bit of a Mediterranean tan – but was that enough for the double-takes? Surely not.

And then, as the fifth person I passed gave me a strange look, I realised what it was.

As I was bundled up for winter, everyone else was wearing shorts, vests and flip-flops. It was 17 degrees. God bless England.


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July 19, 2012 at 1:56 am

The visa medical

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Back in the Dark Ages, when I moved to Dubai, going for your visa medical was an exercise in both patience and stamina.

First, you had to find your way to a hospital in the deepest depths of Deira. The hospital was, of course, in the middle of a one-way system with no parking within a one-mile radius, so you had to ditch the car and dodge the traffic as you scuffed through the sand in the scorching heat of a Gulf summer.

At the hospital, you’d be forgiven for thinking Michael Jackson was visiting: There would be crowds of men pushing and shoving outside. Once you got through them, there was a good few hours of queuing at various sweaty counters before you got anywhere near standing in the grimy corridor to wait for the actual blood test.

This, as I remember was a lot more of a bloody affair than it is these days. Once I was jabbed with the syringe while standing in the corridor; another time sitting down in a room but, with the door open and all the people in the corridor leering at me as I looked delicately away and thought of England (was it a clean needle? I didn’t dare ask).

There was even a blood bucket into which the excess blood was squirted; another bucket for used syringes. The whole thing, frankly, filled me with dread.

So yesterday I went for my visa medical – my sixth, if you want numbers. And what a joy it was – it took longer to walk from the car park to the health centre than it did to have the test. For those who’d like to know the easiest way to do it, here’s a step-by-step:

1)      Go to:

2)      Click the link to apply for a temporary health card if you don’t already have one (if you do and you can’t remember the number, click and fill in the form anyway – it will retrieve your old number).

3)      Go back to the original page and click “Apply for medical fitness” on the left-hand column.

4)      Follow the steps – if you want a fast, no-stress option and money is not an object, click VIP service and opt for Safa Clinic.

5)      Print out the forms after paying online.  Take the documents listed plus two photos to your chosen testing centre.

I went to Safa Clinic – it said “executive employees and VIPs only” but I figured that I’m a VIP and executive employee to DH, really, and I didn’t mind paying the over-inflated fee (AED 690) for an easy experience. Go in, take a ticket, take your papers to the counter, do your blood test and skip off for a Park ‘n’ Shop sandwich.

It took me four minutes. And no blood bucket in sight.

A word on competitive mums

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“When am I going to get humpy?”

It’s not a question I’d ever dreamed of hearing from 6-year-old DD, nevertheless it’s one she posed in front of DH and I this morning.

We exchanged panicked looks. I can still see DH’s face, frozen in horror as he pored over his sock drawer. I knew what he was thinking: “I know they grow up fast, but…”

I took control.

“Sorry, darling? What did you say?”

[DD in irritated voice]: “When am I going to get humpy? It’s just not fair! I’ve been waiting for ages!”

Quizzical look from me.

“You know! Humpy? The class camel? Everyone else is getting to take him home for the weekend, but I never get him! It’s not fair!”

She was referring to a stuffed camel that’s sent home with a different member of the class each weekend, so they can document what they did at the weekend, illustrated with photos of Humpy.

You won’t believe how competitive it gets.

Poor Humpy at Soneva Gili. Life's a bitch, eh?

It’s like the mums, once Humpy falls into their hands, start taking speed.

“I know we were just going to go to the mall this weekend, and maybe for a bike ride,” I imagine them telling their startled offspring, “but why don’t we actually jump on a plane to the Maldives? We could get the Presidential Villa at Soneva Gili and row Humpy over in a boat! If we flew via Sri Lanka, we could go elephant-riding and be back in time to take Humpy sky-diving over The Palm then out for dinner at At.Mos.Phere? What do you think, kids? Maybe we could make a tiny parachute out of silk and diamonds and throw Humpy off the top of the Burj Khalifa and make a video of him floating down over Dubai Fountain as we toast him with champagne and fireworks? Whaddya think? Has anyone else done that?”

I can tell you now, when DD finally gets Humpy, he’ll be eating toast and marmalade on the sofa and watching CBeebies. Period.

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October 11, 2011 at 5:46 pm