Saturday, October 11, 2014

it's a colorful day in the neighborhood!

Al Satwa is my current favorite Dubai neighborhood and I haven't even had dinner at its hallmark Pakistani restaurant, Ravi. More goodness to look forward to! This funky 'hood is packed full of fabric and notions shops, not to mention tailors and the ubiquitous "General Trading" stores. There's a lively vibe- unless you come in the middle of the day as places close up for a long lunch between about noon and 4PM- but without the hard sell, pushiness of Karama (another neighborhood with fun goods on offer, mentioned in my previous post about the gold facial.) I've gone twice recently as part of my Halloween costume preparations.

I needed a drapey, flowing dress for the costume base. I decided to give the tailors a try.  I brought along a dress with a good fit and style but with flowers all over (Cleopatra is not workin the tuber roses) and then we went into Regal Fabrics, one of the bigger fabric shops. The choice was overwhelming. Luckily we got help and keeping to a budget and a solid color also made it possible to walk out of there without my head exploding. So many rich and varied fabrics!

The fabric store guy walked us down the street to their recommended tailor for a "same same" job. I handed them the fabric and the model dress and they quoted me the price. It was a little more spendy than I expected but I guess it's because the dress is full of gathers and folds and the necessary drapey-ness. And really, upon further consideration, I realized, it's a custom made, floor length dress for under $50 (not counting the material cost) so really, not bad. And I intentionally chose something I can wear again without golden and bejeweled accessories when I'm just being me and not a long-dead Egyptian empress. They were a little busy with the Eid holiday but I wasn't in a big rush so we agreed, two weeks later I'd pick it up. And that's what happened. It's crazy how exactly it matches the model dress. When I went in to pick it up there was a woman with pictures from magazines having her measurements taken. I could really see this becoming a cool but expensive habit: pick some of the amazing fabric, pair it with a magazine photo of a dream dress, have it custom made...

We also visited the "notions" shops. Ribbons and beads, trim and buttons. The trim, though! I have to come up with some project to make with this stuff. I think I may just glue strips of it to a board and call it art. It's fantastical- embroidered and sparkly, brightly colored...

Another thing they sell in Satwa is majlis seating. A majlis is a kind of traditional sitting room/ receiving room characterized by low cushions and armrests- I really wanted some majlis seating for my apartment both so there'd be more places to hang out and because the cushions can double as comfy spare bed set ups for party goers who opt not to try for home. They typically feature a lot of red. With the red couches in my living room, I wanted something a little less bold. We met a shop guy, his name is Mohammed, who'd made a little Barbie sized version of the majlis. I may have to go back and see if he'll sell me a mini version to go with my full sized one. We negotiated (OK not really, I took his price because it was reasonable and he was such a smiley guy) and then Mohammad's nephew ran us around the block to the workshop to load up the car  and then later at my apartment, Michelle helped me cram it all in the mini shopping carts we have in the building. It's a fold-able couch!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

got gas?

Just a quick post on a bit of everyday life: fueling up. The price for gas, or petrol as it’s often called here, is cheap. It’s quite the story problem to calculate, converting liters to gallons and dirham to dollars but I think I figured out that it hovers around $2 per gallon. What was it when I was in the US last summer? About $4 per gallon? Despite the great prices in the UAE, we still suffer a little pain at the pump. Here, the problem is the lines. All stations in the UAE are full service stations, there is no pump-your-own choice. The pumps tend to look like they were installed in the 1970s but that’s unlikely as most of the stations I visit probably didn’t exist in the 70s. Heck, the road that the station is on might not have existed in the 70s. But still, slow, non-digital pumps without credit card readers are the norm in this otherwise tech-mad environment. Turns out, the vast majority of cars have the gas tank on the driver’s side. And these old style pumps have short hoses that will only reach the tank on the near side of the car. And the station flow of traffic is very regulated, no flipping a u turn to come at the pumps from the other side, everyone must enter one direction and drive through in the same direction. So those lucky so and sos with a gas tank on the passenger side rarely have a wait while those of us in the big majority sit in a line, waiting while the digits on the pump slowly flip to fill the tanks of the other half dozen people ahead of us…
gas lines