Sunday, October 26, 2008

Underground Bands in Dubai

I have pretty much settled in with my office condition. I know how to describe its location, the staff, the bosses, cool lunch places (but still looking for cooler ones) and style of work. I have also obtained my Residence Visa which entitle me for UAE bank accounts, property rental & purchase and UAE driving licence.

I am officially a resident of UAE

The one thing which is pending, is my crib. But I hope I will move to my flat by this Thursday or Friday as I have been informed by the landlord last night. Otherwise there will be a big hole in my pocket !

I quite like the location of my new hotel. Everything is within a walking distance, so I can save money from the exorbitant taxi fares and get to exercise by walking a lot. There is a mosque just in front of the hotel, a Carrefour, the Creekfront, kebab stalls and last but not least Karachi Darbar Restaurant, which is a famous Pakistani restaurant, recommended by my friend Qamjat before I come to Dubai. I ate mutton briyani accompanied by chicken chilli and man.....I cried in happiness (because it was so delicious).

Mutton Briyani & Chicken Chilli

Ok enough about mutton and coming back to the main topic, yesterday I spent half the day browsing books in Magrudy which is a local bookshop chain in UAE. After purchased a new novel by John Grisham - The Appeal, I headed off to Starbuck (no choice, no kopitiam here). Whilst having my coffee, it strucked me on how long I have not been enjoying my music. Yes I do listen to and watch a lot of music videos in Dubai MTV but those are not my type of music. My music means the underground metal music and Malay traditional folk songs.

So I headed off to Virgin music store and approched one of the staff. I asked him whether there was any underground metal albums from the UAE. I wasn't expecting anything as I was just fishing information. But to my surprise, the dreadlock staff showed me a CD by a band called BILOCATE. I listened to its first track and WOW....they play dark death metal in the style range of Vital Remains and My Dying Bride. The vocal growl and the double bass kick really raised my hairs. The band is actually a Jordanian death metal band but their singer and frontman, works in Dubai. So I bought the CD. For further information you can check them out in their BILOCATE website and Dubai TimeOut magazine and metal website. You can listen some of their tracks in Bilocate Youtube.

I asked the dreadlock staff again whether there was any venue in Dubai which holds metal gig. The dreadlock staff called his long-haired mat salleh colleague and the mat salleh informed me about a place called Touch Club where every Wednesday night they hold event called Blacklist, which feature local underground bands. They gave me the club's address and I think it is not far from my hotel.

I also found out another local underground act in Dubai which is called NERVECELL, who was said to be the veteran of death metal scene in the UAE. Checkout their Nervecell website. I will visit their merchandiser next week in Mazaya Shopping Centre (I have been to this place for dinner last week but did not notice a music store). You can see their video footage in Nervecell Youtubes.

I have also read that every year there is a Dubai DesertRock Festival and amongst the bands that have played last years were Sepultura (2005), Megadeth (2006), In Flames (2007), Iron Maiden (2007), Prodigy (2007), Korn (2008) and many others. Coming soon is Opeth in March 2009.

Damn, I am digging more about this ! If you guys know anything about underground scene in this region, please drop me a line. I feel aliveeeee....

"Forever Underground"

Album by Vital Remains

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Homeless today it has been almost 2 weeks I am in Dubai. By tomorrow I will break my personal record of staying more than 2 weeks in a foreign country. Before this, the longest I have ever stayed in a foreign country was 2 weeks, once in Mecca/Medina (1996) and another in Chengdu (2007). So you could imagine how much I miss keluargaku, rumahku, keretaku, pekanku and kawan-kawanku...huuuuuuu..

There is a little bit of a problem with my arrangement for rental flat. I am supposed to move to a studio flat in International City by tomorrow, but suddenly I received a text from the landlord saying that his renovation is not finished and therefore he can only deliver the flat to me on next Wednesday. Although I am prepared to face anything during this time, but the thought of not having a confirmed place to sleep tomorrow night is really scary !

I quickly checked whether I can extend my stay for a week with the current hotel and the hotel says yes, but the rate almost made me fainted - AED480 per night ! I checked with my company whether they can pay for the extension period but unfortunately, it is not within the company policy. I can't say much because the other 3 new lawyers also live elsewhere after the 2 weeks hotel stay sponsored by the company.

So, I frantically looked for another budget hotels around my office. Technically there is no budget hotel in Dubai, because the rate is surprisingly high even for a 2 stars hotel. All rates start from AED250 onwards. Luckily I managed to book a room in New Peninsula Hotel, Bur Dubai, which is quite close to my office and located in a city centre.

Hey but this is just a booking without paying anything yet...So my fate is still uncertain. Where will I sleep tomorrow???? My god...I am homeless !

"People who are homeless are not social inadequate. They are people without homes."

Sheila McKechnie,
Scottish activist, 1948 - 2004

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Visit to Bur Dubai

Last Friday (official off day in UAE) I visited a town called Bur Dubai, an old town in Dubai. I was informed that Bur Dubai is the 'real' and original Dubai. It was just a 15 minutes taxi ride from my hotel in Safa Park and the cost was AED21.00. My first destination was Burjuman Shopping Centre. This shopping centre reminds me of Bangsar Shopping Centre but inside it are full of luxurious brands like Loius Vutton, Saks Fifth Avenue, Prada etc. I spent just 15 minutes roaming the ground and first floors then went out for Friday prayer. After all it served no purpose just to see the price tags and 'gulp' ..

A structure of windtower. An architecturial style of Old Dubai

After the Friday prayer I asked the direction to go to Khor Dubai or Dubai Creek. I walked about 2 kilometres strolling along the various shops owned by mostly Pakistanis and Indians. I thought, are they the faces of old Dubai? Suddenly I saw a structure of an old fortress and to my delight it was the Dubai Museum. So I jumped into a queue of tourists leading to the entrance of the museum. The entrance fee was only AED3.00, very cheap according to Dubai standard.

The tourists were from Spain, all grandfathers and grandmothers

The walls were made from river mud, seashells and clay

A short canon. I doubt it could cause any harm to anything except if you stuffed your butt in front of it

A traditional windtower

Inside the fort

The tour in Dubai Museum was very educational to me. Now I know that Dubai has been the melting port for traders and merchants of the world for centuries, and the foreigners (mostly Pakistanis and Indians) have been the faces of Dubai.

After Dubai Museum, I continued walking towards my original destination i.e the Dubai Creek. The scene of the creek illuminated by sun shine and traditional boats called Abra was breathtaking and spectacular. Besides the Abras there were also yachts and water buses. I pity a water bus when it tried so hard to sail against the creek's current. It was so painfully slow that I finished my whole tea meal in 1 hour but the water bus was still in my sight. I enjoyed the view of peoples embarking and disembarking the Abras whilst having my sips of Turkish coffee and hummus with bread. Very Arabic..hehe. My wife called and I have to shout in order to talk to her in the phone as the whole place was noisy filled with the roaring sound of the Abra's engines.

What a peaceful view for coffee and shisha !

The Abras' engines were very noisy but lively

Passengers disembarking from Abra

Taking my own picture

The Creekfront before Maghrib time

Three Emiratis on an Abra

When can I own one?

After I performed Maghrib prayer at the mosque nearby, I continued strolling along the Creekfront until I reached the city centre. Man, I really love the sound and smell of a river. It was a relaxing walk in the evening amidst the busy life of an old trading city. Whilst walking, I imagined myself to be a merchant from the Far East had I come to Dubai a century ago. But what would be my trade? Hmm maybe ...hehe nevermind.

Passengers on Abra

After dinner I went to the Burjuman Shopping Centre again for taxi. This time I got no choice than to queue for almost an hour just to get a taxi home. I cannot wait to get my UAE driving licence soon.

"What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn't have any doubt - it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn't want to go anywhere else"

Hal Boyle,
American writer 1911- 1974

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My First Work Meeting in Dubai

Hahaha I think for the first few months from now, my idea of blogging is always to share about my first of everything in please put up with the cliche title.

Yesterday I was called by my boss to join him for a meeting with clients in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). It was a dream come true as I have been reading quite a lot about the DIFC and felt grateful to have finally attended a meeting in such a great place. The nature of work in Dubai is international. The professionals in banking and finance sector also comes from diverse nationalities. Yesterday I represented clients from Bahrain and met up with DIFC and Dubai Financial Service Authority (DFSA) regulators from the UK, UAE and Malaysia. Oh yes, there are a lot of Malaysians in the banking and finance industry in Dubai. I feel proud to be a Malaysian because we are internationally known as experts in Islamic finance in Dubai. I have bumped into a few of them in cafes around my office and some were my clients back in Kuala Lumpur.

Pic by Al Abrar Group

The Gate, famous building in DIFC.
I had a meeting inside this building.

Today is my 4th day at work. I just got a message to attend another meeting in DIFC. Luckily it is only a walking distance from my office to DIFC, otherwise the thought of waiting for taxi will kill my excitement to visit DIFC again. In Dubai, owning a car is very important. If you rely on taxis then you will have to suffer the long wait under the dessert sunshine or wind and the behaviour of the taxi drivers. The taxi fare is also exepensive ! But the ride is luxury and comfortable because the smallest taxi cars here are Toyota Camry.

So let me prepare myself for the next meeting and send this post first...

Ohh you are from Malaysia !
Malaysian is nice people...

everybody I met

Sunday, October 12, 2008

First Day in the Office

I woke up early around 5.00 a.m and suddenly got the mood to exercise. I thought of going to the hotel gymnasium but later decided to do push up and stationary run in my room. After shower and prayer, I dressed up (to kill) and rehearsed my smile and introductory line in front of the mirror - "Hi my name is Syamsulfaiz from Kuala Lumpur. I come to report to work".

I arrived at the office at 7.00 a.m and the office was still closed. At 8.00 a.m I checked again and met the receptionist. I was greeted by the HR manager and a few secretaries. They were all beautiful Arab ladies. They ushered me to my new room which I share with other 2 lawyers. My room have a wall sized window facing Sheikh Zayed Road and the sea ! The two partners who interviewed me, came in to shake hand. They were very friendly and good looking. Then a new partner from Canada also came in to my room. He also arrived for the first day same like me. He told me that he used to stay in Bangsar for 3 years. I also met a Malaysian lawyer who has been in Dubai for 3 years. I think I have seen him before in a seminar in Kuala Lumpur. Later we went for teh tarik session but in Starbuck Coffee. A very nice fellow.

"Hi my name is Syamsulfaiz from Kuala Lumpur"

My new battle station.

I noticed all the male lawyers coming to the office in full suit. So this is a new office culture that I must quickly adapt. Luckily I also wore my new suit. Also not to forget, all the office boys were wearing bow tie and vest. They look like hotel butlers, smart and sharp. My office also have Public Relation Officers (PROs), who I guess, are in charge of public relations with lawyers, clients and authorities. They were very friendly to me. All the personnel in the office are of diverse nationalities. I have met Australian, Lebanese, Jordanian, Indian, Egyptian, Canadian and Malaysian.

It was dark outside around 6.00p.m. If it is clear you can see the Persian Gulf

I asked to join my room mate lawyer for lunch. We went to the nearest grocery store and bought lunch packs. Then we ate lunch on one of the benches near Dubai International Financial Centre. Very quick lunch and delicious food. The cost was AED10 but my new friend bought it for me. He is a very kind fellow. I was the only guy wearing a full suit at that time and felt awkward. It was in a middle of the day, hot but I wasn't sweating. Don't want to jatuh standard ok !

After lunch the HR manager briefed me on the next steps for my residence visa and labour card application. Tomorrow I will have to attend a medical check up. They have fixed an appointment for me in a private hospital near Jumeirah. The cost will be AED650. I wanted to go out and buy a new mobile sim card, but one of the PROs volunteered to do it for me and he promised to get a nice number for me.

Feeling bored at my place doing nothing, I went to see a partner in my department and borrowed a few law textbooks from him. He told me they were not many English textbooks but if I can read Arabic then I can read more law books as they were written in Arabic. Refreshing my practice of reading and speaking Arabic will be a good move in Dubai.

A very improtant reading material for my line of work.

The sun sets early in Dubai like in Sarawak. It was around 6.00p.m (10.00 p.m in Malaysia) and already it was dark outside. So I just wait for 6.30pm where people leave the office to home. I looked around to see how busy their works were, but couldn't see them because all lawyers sit in their own room. I noticed a lot of Mat Salleh coming in and out for meeting with lawyers here.

So I just wait and send this entry first...

"Welcome aboard !"

Office colleagues

Saturday, October 11, 2008

First 12 Hours in Dubai

After the stupid incident on 9th October, I finally boarded my aeroplane early and flew to Dubai. The flight journey took 7 hours during which time I hardly could sleep because the stewardesses were hard to be ignored and they kept giving me foods !

I landed in Dubai International Airport at 0300 hours (this time I knew it was 3.00 am in the morning, thank you..). I had a smooth check out with the immigration. There were a lot of peoples in the airport that night. Some of them come to Dubai as their destination and some as transit airport. I noticed a lot of the immigration officers are young and they wore dishdasha and Arab's headgear. I think they are UAE nationals i.e the Emiratis. I can say Emiratis are quite an elite group of peoples in their own country because they are only 20% of the UAE population. The rest are expatriates like me.

I called the hotel driver and he told me he was already waiting outside the entrace gate. He drove me to hotel Holiday Inn Express in Safa Park. Apparently it is a new hotel, just 4 months old. The receptionist was nice and helpful and my room was clean and set in a contemporary design. I looked at my watch after settling down in my room and it showed 5.00 am. Still very early, so I went to sleep.

Hotel driver and taxi that took me to hotel

My bed.
The widow is facing Sheikh Zayed Road

I woke up, prayed, showered and went to hotel lounge for breakfast. I called my recruitment agent to fix a meeting with him. Around 9.00 a.m I reccee the way from hotel to Al Attar Business Tower, the building where my office is located. It was a short ride of 10 minutes and costs me AED11.00. After I surveyed the office I strolled along Sheikh Zayed Road by foot. There were many shops and boutiques in each building. There were many coffee shops too including Starbuck. This place really attracts peoples with moneys to spend.

My office building. The office is at 18th floor

In front of my office building. View to the west.
The metro line is still under construction

In front of my office building. View to the east.

Emirates Towers, behind my office

Dusit Dubai, at the end of Sheikh Zayed Road

Burj Dubai, 800 meters tall ! still under construction

Around 11.00 am I took a taxi to the Mall of Emirates, one of the biggest malls in Dubai and it has a Ski Dubai where people ski in man-made snow slopes. One thing I noticed about Dubai is that they use their cash to make their life very convenient. The bus stops are air-conditioned. The musolla is big like a mosque and the water for ablution is made warm. In the mall the management put on azan on loud speaker through out the mall, so it is very easy to get reminded to perform solat.

The view inside Ski Dubai, whilst eating my lunch

Main entrance

Ohh yeah...about the food, so far all the food I tasted were delicious. But a little bit pricey. I had fried soba mee for lunch and sechuan fried rice for dinner. Very delicious !

Sobayaki, AED37

The malls contain a lot of shops and boutiques for clothes, jewelleries, IT accessories and a lot more. I went to Borders to look for local law textbooks but they were in Arabic. I went to Virgin music store browsing the local production. I will buy them later. In Dubai, most peoples wear designer clothes and accessories because those branded items are quite affordable. I checked the price and I thought with Dubai salary, inshallah, I can afford them. I think it is useful to follow this trend in order to look apart and understand the culture in Dubai. There was one boutique from the USA called FIT, it covered so large an area and even has pedestrian conveyors on it s floor for people to save their energy from walking. Another convenience sponsored by cash !

Heaven !

I got a running nose that day.

Om Kalthoum of Egypt, the oldtimers sure know..

Yamaha 5 strings bass guitar for AED1950.

Long way to shop


My agent canceled his appointment with me due to other business. Whilst I was queuing for a taxi, a superbly long Hummer arrived at the hotel entrance. The Hummer is too long that it took 5 minutes for it to clear a corner after picking up its passengers. It caused a brief traffic jam in front of the mall. So I went back to the hotel at 11.00 pm. By that time it was 3.00 a.m in Kuala Lumpur. No wonder I felt so sleepy.

Stretched Hummer.

To be continued..

"Welcome to Dubai, Muhammed"

Mohammed, the hotel receptionist

Friday, October 10, 2008

When I get Stupid...I get it all out

I was in KLIA last night ready to board my flight to Dubai. I was exhausted from the hectic day sorting final matters with Inland Revenue Board, Wisma Putra, UAE Embassy and Immigration. I came home late but luckily my lovely wife helped packed my bags. I was frustrated with my Ubuntu computer cannot connect with my new Celcom usb modem. As a result I can only check my emails using my handphone.

I had a feeling that I wasn't ready to fly last night. But it was just a feeling and went ahead to check in for my flight.

I wasn't ready

Then...a problem. I was alerted by the MAS officer that my passport validity was less than 6 months. By Immigration law I must renew my passport first. My knee shook a bit. I showed them my Dubai working visa and finally they checked me in. I should have renewed my passport when I was in immigration office before. What a stupid I was!

Adrin wasn't in good mood

Checked in done. I felt relieved.

My flight was at 2359 and boarding time was 2329. I looked at my watch and it was 10.55pm. 'Still got time', I thought. So I went to talk to my family and friends. I thank them all for coming.
Later the clock has showed 11.40pm but still I didnt make a move to board. Why ?...because for some reason I mistaken my flight to be at 12.59 a.m. So still got time right? What a stupid I was !

So at 11.45pm I slowly walked to immigration counter for boarding. As expected, my passport was declined by the autogate. It took me 5 minutes to explain.

Then suddenly I heard my name being called to board. I thought why so early? So I embarked the aerotrain to gate C1. I almost fell to my knees when a MAS lady told me "Sir, your aeroplane took off already ! what happened to you??". Only at that point in time I realised I had mistaken 2359 to be 12.59. What a stupid I was !

Today I have received my new ticket and renewed my passport. Luckily I only need to pay penalty of RM350 for the new ticket. My flight will be tonight at 11.59pm. SO I MUST BOARD AT 11.00PM !

I just cannot forget my wife first response to me about all these. She just whispered to me a lovely tone (means STUPID in Melanau).

What an experience !...So anybody want to send me off AGAIN tonight?...Wahahahahahaha...!


My Wife


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