Notes from a sandy country
Aimee Peters

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The sun is going down through the blinds, its 4.30 and the office is deserted. I'm brewing with resentment that I'm still here at this ridiculous hour as the cleaners lean across and attempt to move my still-typing hands off the keyboard with  their plastic fluorescent dusters. It's Ramadan, so officially we only work till 3pm, hence the grudge. Still  it's hard to complain.

Life goes on in Dubai, as it tends to do, and it's still great. I still have a tendency to sleepwalk through weeks, shaking hands and making calls well enough to keep my job, but not earning me any distinct brownie points with the purse string controllers. Having left the fat Scotsman behind, I'm now making my mark (sort of an inky smudge) in the corporate world, enjoying the luscious grounds of Internet City, a 'free zone' for multinationals to exploit Dubai's central position in the Gulf. As well as allowing their expat GM's to carry on the G&T lifestyle carefully honed in Hong Kong back in the good old days. Still stuck in the mires of technology PR, I have yet to understand what a server really does, and why 99.997% uptime is something to be bemoaned. One day the happy PR fairy will land on my doorstep and hand me my gift wrapped, glossy, well paid, 5 hr day, 5 day week dream job, but till then I shall plug along.

I haven't really done the Ramadan 'thing' yet. All around town there are iftar tents springing up, and the only time to drive anywhere is sunset  it feels like a ghost town as the city sits down to platters of dates and mezze style delicacies. I imagine. We might trot along to one this week, there is an Ibiza style tent up on the beach somewhere, which as dreadful as this may sound, merely means that its where the younger crowd head, as it has a chill out soundtrack and a bit less formality. Which is good, as it's quite daunting going to iftar sampling the goods which the faithful around you have dreamed of  all day, fasting at their desks. I tend to feel that I'd like to turn up later, when the initial hunger has been sated, and people are relaxing into their fourth or fifth small course, slowing down and settling into conversation as the nutrients seep into their parched bodies. Sun up to sun down, there's no food, drink or smoking. No dancing or music, and watch your tongue young man swearing is a definite no. You've got to have respect for the people who manage this, for a month, especially colleagues westernized through education, who may not been the most devout throughout the year, until this holy month. I salute them, I don't have that strength.

A missive from Dubai without a nod to the current 'situation' brewing out here would be foolish  if not only to stress that there's nothing really happening here. As the world watches a superpower getting ready to bomb the hell out of a country for reasons not totally clear to the rest of us, the majority of the Middle East is focused on Ramadan  the month of charity and giving. Personally, I'd like to see a Western schism  if we can't stop them, then we shouldn't be standing behind them. Or we could join in and bomb Ireland for their links to the IRA. And Spain while we're at it.

It's interesting to see the different bias of the press though, and I was shocked by the British media on a recent trip home  the vitriol is something I have never seen matched in local press describing either side in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Interesting how a media catering to a people directly involved, suffering and at great risk hasn't yet evolved into the gutter sniping of our dear tabloids. I'm not blind, I know that much of the regional reportage is written within strict 'guidelines' on what will go down well with those who count and what won't, and there are strict penalties for those who overstep the mark. I met a journalist with fingers missing last month. He's writing stories on marketing solutions now. Victoria Galugans don't last that long. But when I go home and see that who Mick Jagger is shagging makes front page, or read the stunning fact that a gay person had sex in the palace (imagine!) I'm not sure which brand of 'journalism' I prefer. Still, I feel safer here than I would in a number of capital cities in the 'civilised' west at the moment so I've got no plans to budge. When the embassy say shift, I shall, till then I'm parking here, watching a fat orange sun sink slowly into the sea, dreaming my dreams, then realising that in fact, I'm living them out.

(c) Aimee Peters 2003