Sunday, July 31


Our shed, that is. I say shed, but I think I'm gonna call it our poolhouse instead. The builders are not coming back and hopefully things will get back to how they were again.

The poolhouse itself is pretty impressive (it has a pitched roof!), and even I'm joining visitors in wondering what we'll do with such a big building at the bottom of our garden. Still, my parents have a knack of getting these things right so I'm sure it'll go to good use.

I'll prolly put piccies on my flickr eventually, so keep an eye out for those.

Film: Charlie And The Chocolate Factory Click for more info

This film managed to get off to a great start, making me wonder why those of my friends who had seen already though this film wasn't that good. I soon found for myself why.

I'm not too sure what was missing, but something was. Noisy and confused Charlie even managed to give me a headache by the end of it. Depp was ok, as was the rest of the cast, but I suspect the biggest problem with the film was the, quite frankly, awful screenplay; anything that could be changed was.

Not totally bad, but disappointing all the same, I'm not sure I could recommend this flick. Read the book instead.

Plan Of Action

I think I need a fling or two before I go back home to get married; y'know for the sake of any future marriage I may have (see here).

I'm thinking a nice wholesome Hindu or Sikh girl (without being racist white girls are so last decade and I feel that as an Asian I should stick to and promote our own fantastic girls). Someone with standards, who doesn't just date anyone and even possibly someone who is also looking for a fling before their own arranged marriage.

Of course I should be careful to find someone who's NOT willing to convert, otherwise I might find myself in the sticky situation of actually having to marry them. Oh, and I won't tell them how they're just acting as a facilitator, because, well, it won't be an important factor in our relationship.

So? What do you all think? Unusually proactive, I know, but it's a sound plan of action I think...

Friday, July 29

Cause, Effect and Retrospective Justification

Y'know, it makes me think when some people confidently exclaim how the suicide bombers' actions were in no way Islamic, that their reasoning being that the religion itself prohibits suicide. I mean I'm not into suicide myself and I do believe that under conventional circumstances (which may include that of a suicide bomber) that it's wrong, and that what the bombers did was really bad (but more 'cos of their effect on others rather on themselves), but still I've left some important qualifications there.

One friend even went on to say that they believed that these guys can't have declared the Shahadah when pressing the button (something that all Muslims are advised to do as close as possible to death) since they weren't really Muslim. It really is kinda like towing the party line.

The analogy I use (and I accept that analogies are generally useless as proof, but they do make good food for thought) is pork. Now pork is generally haram for a Muslim, but that the same Muslim be expected to eat it if it meant death otherwise, in which case I presume it becomes halal. If killing myself saved hundreds of other lives (and I'll leave the reader to construct that particular thought experiment), would it still be wrong for me to do so? If tomorrow Tony Blair decided to stop all support for Israel, I wonder how many Muslims would change their opinions of the suicide bombers? Of course that would never happen in the short term, but looking at history we see long term reactions like this all the time. Would it diminish the severity of the individual crimes triggering these changes?

I guess this post is really about perspective and how one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter. But it's also about how a person's perspective, their sworn concrete opinion, changes over time depending on their position at that point.

I've picked Islam and suicide since they're currently topical but we can find plenty examples of this fluid and ever moving morality. The police just shot dead a random guy and have called it the result of a necessary protective measure. This "collateral damage" argument was used to excuse the deaths in the last couple of wars too. I suspect if you talk to extremists they'll have similar "greater good" arguments too. A cynic would suggest that we may as well kill ourselves before someone else does.

And it's not only killings that are being excused; civil and human rights are also being trampled on the macro level, and individually we always tend to think we are right and even worse assuming others are wrong. Maybe this is a good thing - I think it was Machiavelli that believed that the morality of a successful leader has to contradict that of those he leads. So when can we sure whether an objective action is right or wrong? The clue is in the question, folks. I'm beginning to wonder whether we ever really can.

Sky Gone!

After around fifteen years, Sky television has finally left the Shaikh residence. We were there since the analogue days, in the times of bashed cards and during the migration to Sky Digital.

I think it was The Simpsons that drove me to bug my dad to get it - back then I didn't really watch much telly but this particular show was the show that all the cool kids watched then. Don't have a cow, man.

Over the last fifteen years I've watched a lot of television. I think it all started with Beverly Hills 90210, moving on to Star Trek, then Friends, then Buffy and all the other popular US telly shows in between. In some ways television schedules gave some kind of structure to my day.

But now I find my interest in television (and thinking about my other childhood love, videogaming) dwindling, slowly being replaced by other activities (y'know, like going out and stuff). The few shows I do now watch I can source from elsewhere (like E4 on Freeview as well as cough splutter "friends"), and we get to save twenty quid or so per month to boot.

So anyway. Goodbye Sky. You've been my oldest friend, but alas now I must dump you. Sniff.

Thursday, July 28

Shak Has Cool Friends Shock!

Over the past couple of months many of my friends who didn't know each other before have, for some reason or another, been introduced. Now, while I don't have a problem with that (in theory I could end up having to buy half as many wedding presents as I would need to otherwise) the one thing that's really annoying me is how some, with honest surprise, are telling me how great xxx is or how cool yyy is or how much of a laugh zzz is.

I mean, duh. You don't have to tell me this. I know it already, and it's the reason why they're my mates. In fact I'm kinda insulted that there's any surprise at all. Tsk.

(And yes, I realise that sometimes it's nice to state the obvious and that I should be flattered and know that I'm blessed. But still, if you want to compliment me just stick to my looks or something.)

Link Of The Day

iPod Spamming

Urban dictionary once again proves that it's not just somewhere to go for definitions for obscure slang that some use, but also some kind of social commentary of western life. I've always argued against the practicality of carrying around four gazillion gigs of music* and noted that you often see people skipping tracks on their iPods rather than actually listening to them, but hey, whatever makes people tick...


New Music

Ass Like That - Eminem

One of the few artists I listen to the lyrics of (as opposed to just the music), Eminem again finds it a bit too easy to state the obvious. Pretty funny too - check out the video if you haven't already.

Tuesday, July 26

Rishta, Baby

So, it seems like the mother of a friend is trying to set me up. I don't know too many details (and it's probably unlikely that I would post any here), but I do know that she's female and stuff. I do feel like I might be forcing the issue and charging in, but then that's probably 'cos the whole thing has been swept under the carpet by my parents and me for so long.

As you all know this would be my first rishta thingy, but I'm not holding my breath since past experience dictates that something will probably stop it from moving forward. Hmm - I wonder if this girl likes cynics?

A question for the girlies - the rishta ALWAYS happens at the girl's house, right? It's like besti otherwise, innit?

How exciting.

Sunday, July 24

Film: Fantastic Four Click for more info

Great set pieces, crap story. I'm not an FF expert, but something seemed to be missing here. I suspect it was cosmetic, with the main cast not really settling into their roles.

It was better than Elektra and Daredevil though, so decide for yourself whether to watch or wait for the DVD.

Leicester In "Not That Bad" Shocker!

Ok, I'll admit that I didn't really get to see much of the city (it's a city??), but the little that I did was pretty cool. I guess the first thing that hit me was how similar to certain parts of London it was. Despite that it was different - wider, more open and even cleaner than in fact.

The wedding itself was pretty nice and housed in the apparently "posh" venue of the Walker Stadium. It was pleasant enough but let down by awful logistics (we didn't eat till 10:30pm!) which was especially annoying since we had a two hour drive home afterward. It was another HBZ affair and so the usual suspects were all present and it was nice having another of our yearly catch ups (having said that, I've taken numbers down to try and improve on this situation). Oh and I will especially note the "intelligence" yesterday too. Nobody told me that Leicester was so "intelligent". It was definitely more "intelligent" than some of the weddings in London I've been to.

A booty call from she who will not be named (cough splutter) rounded off a nice evening. It's just a shame Leicester is so far away. Oh well.

Saturday, July 23

Film: Wedding Crashers Click for more info

Hysterically funny comedy about a couple of guys who go around crashing weddings (funny that) in order to meet women. Inevitably one of the crashers (Owen Wilson) falls for his target and mayhem ensues - not least since the other (Vince Vaughn) has his hands tied up (if you've seen it already then bdum tish) with a obsessive and possibly psychotic ex-Home And Away actress. Fantastically politically incorrect but in a bearable way, this is possibly as close as you can get to American Pie for people with more than one braincell.

Philosophically it's great too. It claims that women are easy and shows how simple it is to manipulate... sorry no, I meant manoeuvre them. Now I'm not going to agree or disagree with that (this is but a film review, innit?), but anyone else would have been right to take notes. Play and talk with the young children and old grandmas to get the attention of a girl? You don't say. My only regret with this film is that it spells it out so clearly to its female audience.

Anyway. I have a wedding in Leicester to attend. Me whistles innocently.

Friday, July 22

New Music

Bump & Grind (Bass Mix) - Sir Aah Feat. Karamel

This one has been taken off of DJ Sanj's (of Sabrina's I Can Feel It fame) new compilation America's Most Wanted 3. It uses the backing of Rouge's latest Chinese Whispers (which isn't entirely surprising seeing as Sanj produced that too), but lays down a rap and vocal instead and in the process making much better use of it. Realising that it was Rouge that was wrong with Chinese Whispers it has now been totally replaced by this track.

America's Most Wanted 3 itself is a curious enough album, and although I didn't take anything else from it, there may be something that the rest of you might like.

Police! Stop!

For me, Fridays mean a trip to a mosque close to my workplace to pray Jummah. Of course a few people told me to skip it this week, y'know 'cos of the previous day's events, but I just shrugged it off explaining that the likelihood of anything happening would be pretty slim, bearing in mind that a guy had been shot five times this morning.

Crossing Wellington Arch, I noticed (although it woulda been hard not to) that the roundabout was filled with police vans, with around eight to ten officers per van. And I mean filled - we're talking 20-25 vans here. Clearly Wellington Arch had been made into some kinda makeshift Central Police Response Centre (and yes, I made that up myself).

So I did what any passer-by would do: whip out my cameraphone and start taking pictures. Shouldn't be any harm in that, I thought, guessing that I wasn't the first or last to do this. So I took a few and made my way to the mosque where I read my Jummah prayer.

On my way back, around an hour or so later and while crossing the same vans, I noticed that I was getting a few looks from some of the officers. Instinctively I smiled back and carried on walking. After passing them I heard and saw from the corner of my eye a van door slamming. Still I carried on walking.

I'm not sure why I turned around a few seconds later - maybe someone ahead of me was looking over my shoulder, maybe it was just instinct; more likely it was a combination of the two. Two officers were heading directly toward me, flagging me down and asking me to hold up.

They explained that they had seen me taking pictures of them and wouldn't have even given me a second thought if I hadn't adding that now they wanted to stop and search me. I'm not usually rattled by these things so I was fine with it, curious more than anything else. They went through my pockets (I've not seen that much action since primary school I tell you), asked me the standard questions for identification purposes (It's handy working in Belgravia, although surprisingly they didn't get around to asking what a Hedge Fund actually was) and called it all in. All in all, they were quite nice and polite.

I cooperated of course, because a) I've nothing against them and understand the current situation, b) I know how to handle these things and they were courteous toward me and c) some guy had been shot five times this morning. Having said that I did contest the description they put down for my hair ("Skinhead". I mean, please). Oh and I was disappointed that I didn't have to be given a shoulder number due to my being stopped under the Terrorism Act (not that I'm going to pursue this or anything).

So was it the picture taking that drew their attention to me? Possibly, but I think it was more of a legitimate excuse than anything else. When asking what they woulda done if I hadn't returned the same way they said that plenty of people were taking pictures but I'm the only one who returned after such a small period of time. I do have a very "visible" walk and smile way too much, and probably should be flattered that they remembered what I looked like, but I guess I'll never really know.

It is a bit weird being a statistic, and that of the Terrorism Act no less. And if you're curious I'm ok. I'm not even shaken or anything - I'm more amused than anything else, especially after all the claims I made this morning of life in London being business as normal. It's also interesting to experience this first hand; I've been gagging to use the ol' "So have you ever been stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act then? No? Well then SHUT UP" argument for a while now.

Anyway, here's one of the troublesome pictures that I took:

The rest are on my Flickr and I'll leave it to you to decide whether it was worth it or not. What is clear, however, is that I really should get a new cameraphone...

Book: Philosophy For Beginners, Richard Osborne

Another attempt at widening the range of books that I read (and impressing passser-bys on The Tube), this is a strange one. Half reference, half comic book, Philosophy chooses to be more of a historical analysis of the development of the subject rather than treating philosophy as a modern abstract topic.

I soon understood why though. The first point the book makes is that philosophy isn't actually well defined (much like consciousness previously), and so the only real way to approach the subject is to tackle it in the same way the big names of the past (and present) did.

Although it gets a bit heavy toward the end, the book does do a good job as an introduction to philosophy despite it's blurriness described above. I can't help feel unfulfilled however, but then I guess it was a bit of a reach to hope that a single book could give me a fix of such a complex and incomplete topic.

Thursday, July 21

One to Watch

Extras, 9pm BBC2

Ricky Gervais's latest telly stunt, promising to disappoint anyone who is expecting more David Brent. I suspect that Ricky can only do Brent, but hey, I don't mind being wrong if that's not the case tonight.

Including lots of A-list cameos, I think this will be worth a go at least - especially in this television drought we're currently going through.

Wednesday, July 20

Shak's Choice: Evangeline Lilly

The delectable Kate from Lost, Evangeline Lilly:

Probably the first woman I've literally described as "yummy", she plays Kate who is pretty and smart and mysterious and pretty and a whole lot more.

While we're on the subject make sure you catch Lost when C4 begin to show it (which should be soon). I've already started seeing it, of course, since I'm so super l33t and have a knack of spotting a great show from a mile away (whistles innocently).

Random Bumping

On the way home last night I bumped into someone I hadn't really seen for the past ten years - since having left secondary school. For some peculiar reason we were instantly familiar with each other, like it was just yesterday we were sitting at the back of English class (since y'know, that's where all the swots sat).

Thinking about it now, we couldn't have discussed more typical subjects. We reminisced about school, complained about how fast time was flowing, and noted on how we hadn't really changed at all - well compared to everyone else who was either having babies, moving out of the country, had done jail time in the last ten years, had become crack junkies and had surprised us the most.

It was depressing, but in a nice way. Hopefully the next time I bump into my friend I'll have more to tell him...

Tuesday, July 19

New Music

Incomplete - Backstreet Boys

I have a theory that everyone is at least a closet BSB fan. Anyway, this is the first track off their latest album and I pretty much love it big time. I dunno it's very powerful and all that. Unfortunately the rest of the album is yet to convince me of the same sounding way too boyband for my liking.

Wonderful - Ja Rule feat. Ashanti and R Kelly

Another Ja Rule track to add to my collection (I think he and Aaliyah share the "most included on Shak's playlist" award). Classic yet different enough to keep me happy.

I Like Pussies

So the Khans have two new members of the family (names to be decided) and I spent the evening with them. They're ace. Excuse the asexual references to them in the following; we're not quite sure what the gender of the two kittens are yet.

Black cat is clearly the naughty one of the two. It was up for it straight away, allowing me to stroke and play as soon as I walked in. It also got bored pretty easily but we managed to coax it into jumping around and stuff. It did scratch me though, but I forgive it.

Tabby (if that's what it is) cat was the shy one. I say shy because I managed to crack its shell. It was eating out of the palm of my hand by the end of it, up to the point where it was doing all the work getting stroked - I just stuck my hand out.

Anyway, cats are cool. If only my mum wasn't so averse to the things I'd get my own.


Shak says: what was your avatar?
xxx says: http://xxx/yyy
Shak says: lol!
Shak says: 1up
Shak says: you sicko
xxx says: i thought mario was spanking the princess
xxx says: but he wasn't

Saturday, July 16

Saturday Gone

It just hit 6pm on a Saturday afternoon. Today's been pretty hectic, and still isn't over which means I probably won't get a chance to blog later. Here's a quick rundown of what I've been up to today.

Gym in the morning, followed by a recording session on the BBC New Talent Bus down at Chrisp Street Market (which I still pronounce like I do chirp). Yeh, I said recording session; the Beeb are looking for a new radio presenter and I've submitted a demo tape to apply. I don't think I'm entirely happy with the results (I was ermming and umming all over the place for the first half of it, but the second was much better) so I'll probably submit another one, this time recorded at home and under less stressful conditions.

I then had some lunch courtesy of the sandwich section at Tescos, where I also had a brief read of the new Harry Potter book (which I can't wait to read properly). After that I met up with the usual suspects to catch an early film (see last post), after which I'm now at home for a bit waiting before heading off to a birthday dinner.

So yes, a pretty packed day, yet strangely unfulfilling. I'm not sure why, but perhaps everything so far has been somewhat disappointing? I hope dinner makes my day, but I suspect how I feel is more to do with me than the day itself.

Film: War of The Worlds Click for more info

Frankly, I found this to be a tad disappointing. Apart from a few set pieces, there was not much separating this from generic alien film #39. Tom was a good anti-hero and Fanning was again superb (just how does she manage to act so well?).

With so much else on the cinema at the moment it's hard to recommend this; it's good, but wait for the DVD instead.

Friday, July 15

Link Of The Day

The Salman Tapes

VINDICATED! I'll admit I don't understand some of it, but it's clear, like I've always maintained, that Salmon is a bit of a tit. Me == best judge of character.

Thanks to San for the link.

Thursday, July 14

Link Of The Day

World press views UK's 'darkest nightmare'

Bearing in mind these were probably cherry picked, a somewhat depressing read anyway. Makes me glad to be a resident in the UK despite our own "problems".

Link Of The Day

Transformers Live

Oh. My. God.

Thanks to Rubel. Man, I hope they don't screw this up.


I think I'm in need of a catharsis. Any suggestions?

(Oh and just in case: Catharsis)

A Secret Blog

***** Start of the protected message *****
***** End of the protected message *****

Wednesday, July 13


xxx says: wanna meet a girl?
Shak says: uhhh.
Shak says: excuse me?
Shak says: dude, i got asked that enough in dubai. are you practising your pimping skills again?
xxx says: me mams got a girl sorted

Book: Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction, Susan Blackmore.

Despite the title, I found this book to be a pretty in depth introduction to the, quite wide and possibly intangible, topic of consciousness. Blackmore does a fantastic job of keeping the reader interested, and before you know it you're exploring some pretty complex concepts. On my way I read about dualism, religion, philosophy and other things which made it clear that the more you look into consciousness and what it is, the more it presents itself as.

It's also worth mentioning the actual physical size of the book too - it looks more like a handy tourist guide than anything else. And there's a whole range of Very Short Introductions from OUP from Theology to Kafka, and if they're anything like this one they'll be well worth reading too. More at

Temperature Rising

Why is it that 27C here feels much worse than 45C in Dubai? I mean the easy answer is that they have AC everywhere there... But we were walking around too.

It's just weird. Perhaps it's due to us needing a higher concentration of sunlight to raise the temperature or something (y'know, 'cos of our angle with respect to the Sun)? Or maybe it's 'cos I'm working... Hmm.

Does anyone have a better answer?

Don't You Just Hate It When...

... You're about to finish performing whudu when all of a sudden you get the urge to let one rip?

Tuesday, July 12

Woman == Masochist

I had this extremely long freak of an eyebrow hair (we're talking like 2 cm or something silly) which just wouldn't bed down. So, sure, I had to get rid of it. Thinking that the best way would be to pluck it I set myself up with a pair of tweezers and mirror.

I lasted one tug. One unsuccessful tug. "Screw this" I thought as I resorted to scissors. Yes cutting is cowardly and cheap, but I don't care.

You women are crazy.

EDIT: Of course I couldn't just end it there. Beaten by an eyebrow? Me? No way. So soon after Maghrib I hunted down the little buggers (which was hard since they were but mere stumps at that point) and took them out with the tweezers. And it didn't even hurt; clearly a case of mind over matter.

Women are still nuts though. And please - keep any gay implications to yourself. Cheers.

Weddings Suck

I hate weddings. Especially the ones I enjoy.

Monday, July 11

Link Of The Day

The Whatevia Show

Funny pee take of Tom. Not that I condone any of it, having found respect for him after his handling of the water squirt incident. Snigger.

Thanks to Haroon for the link.

Saturday, July 9

Dubai, Day Seven: Home Sweet Home

Not much happened today really. I had a nice late morning flight which I made easily. I raided Duty Free for gifts (I'm so crap with gifts I had bought none till then. That in itself is further evidence of how I so need a wife). On the flight itself I had nice people seated around me and the time passed pretty quickly - having three seats all to myself helped. My parents were late picking me up due to irregular traffic and beefed up security around Heathrow, but I got out of passport control and customs easily enough and so had plenty of time to call friends now that I had access to my own SIM.

So what was the holiday like overall? Well to be perfectly honest, Dubai was pants. Apart from one or two unique (yet commercially created) features, there really isn't much for someone like me and my friends to do. On the other hand, the holiday itself was superb. There is no doubt that the people I had met and the wedding I had attended totally made the trip for me. Everything else was just a bonus.

I think that that's further proof that it's not the country that I'm visiting that makes a holiday fun for me; instead it's the people and what I do with them that does. Whether it's chilling in an ice cream cafe or juice bar with friends in Singapore, or being busy with wedding preparations in Bangladesh or Dubai, I'm sure to enjoy it if I have plenty of good guys around me. I guess that's a blessing.

I don't think that this means that I cannot appreciate a country for what it is, no. However if it wasn't for the wedding and everything that came with it, my experience of Dubai would have been close to that of my travel partners: not too fulfilling at all. So, my advice for Dubai in particular? Skip it, unless you have a reason (y'know, like a wedding or in order to meet fantastic people) to go.

Friday, July 8

Dubai, Day Six: Endings And Goodbyes

My friends had to cut short their holiday in Dubai due to some wedding function they needed to attend in London the next day. The poor buggas had to catch a coach to Abu Dhabi at 9am, and so checked out at six! After seeing them off I got a few hours more sleep before getting ready for breakfast in Sharjah.

Once again I was lucky enough to have had another wicked time with these lot. Cambridge High Crew also came for the pancakes and eggs, and we ended up playing six player Chinese Slaps, boys vs girls in Taboo (in which we totally kicked ass, but still somehow lost) and a new game in which the winner is they who questions Cookie's sexuality the most (I think I won that one at least).

Jummah was prayed across the road and breakfast turned into lunch. And my time with the Vohra's still didn't come to an end. Somehow I scored an invite to the valima that night too, which I wasn't too shy to accept - after all, that really would be the last time I would see them all in one place. My newlywed friend popped over shortly before I left and it was nice to see her all married up and stuff.

The afternoon was spent with my cousin. He took me to Ibn Batutta, a wonderful (yes, I'm describing a mall as wonderful) shopping centre built from six smaller ones each depicting a different part of the world. It's worth a mention since it was there that I found the Dubai I was expecting - big, clean, spacious and pretty.

I didn't really have that much time with my cousin - the valima had crept up pretty suddenly and so I made my way there. The only real thing I was concerned about was how everything was coming to an end; this was my final night in Dubai and with these guys. And then suddenly it was over, and I was sad. I sometimes have a tough time letting things go and saying goodbye and so it was then. Quite frankly (and possibly over-dramatically) I don't expect to be in the same situation ever again.

Still, I managed finally to make my way back to the empty triple hotel room. Man, that was lonely (and that loneliness was underlined and accentuated by the completely opposite company I had for most of the day) and I now realise just how little I can handle "alone" and silence. I couldn't believe I considered going to Dubai on my jones! Even a stranger would have done as company. But I digress. Having packed up I tucked myself into bed, getting some rest for the flight back home the next day.

Thursday, July 7

Dubai, Day Five: Disasters and Weddings

By this point we had officially run out of things to do in Dubai. Still the guys were leaving tomorrow morning and I had a wedding to attend in the evening, and so we didn't feel too peed off. The guys wanted to buy gold and gifts so we spent the morning in the Gold Souk hunting for jewelry.

At around 1:30pm, my mum called. This in itself wasn't unusual; since I had a local SIM we had spoken at least once or twice each day so far. This time she called for the specific reason to reassure me that my dad was ok, and that he had made it into work before the poo hit the London Transport fan. At that point the official story was still regarding power cuts, but there had been rumours about blasts too. I tend to shrug these things off until I have more information and since my dad was ok we just carried on looking for something to eat.

In the restaurant, we started getting more of the facts, specifically that there had been blasts (six at that point) at various stations and on buses in London. Getting through to London was impossible at that time and so we only had text messages to rely on to get more info. Things got a bit hairy after a sister of my friend (who was on her way to Russel Square) was not contactable, but she soon got into contact with her family so that was ok too.

At that point the only thing to do was to head back to the hotel to watch the events unfold on the telly. I wasn't sure whether to be glad or gutted that I missed the whole affair - London is my home and this was an important part of its history that I wasn't being a part of*. The lines to London were still jammed when a friend, with quite a lot of consideration, called reassuring me that all was ok their end.

I left for the wedding in Sharjah a few hours later. After Monday I was looking forward to it even more and so I arrived a bit early to help set things up (not that there was much to do. They obviously had a professional wedding planner or something. Ahem). In a nutshell (hey, there's only so much I can say about a wedding), it was a terrifically understated, pretentious- and issueless affair where all one could do is enjoy themselves.

It was there that I met the Forest Gate Gang (or alternatively "the cousins") who were fab, The Cambridge High Crew who were equally fab and a few other guys, including the groom. It seemed that this family couldn't help but attract a whole bunch of nice people.

But yet again the day had to end. In my mind this was the last time I'd be seeing these guys and so I tried to drag out leaving as much as possible (which was kinda hard actually), but then for some bizarre reason I was invited over for breakfast the next morning. Initially I hesitated, after all my friends were leaving the next day, Jummah had to be fitted in, and it would be pretty tough making it to Sharjah for breakfast... Wouldn't it?

* The time for commentary has kinda passed, and all that was needed to be said regarding the bombings was said.

Wednesday, July 6

Dubai, Day Four: Playing In Sand

Wednesday, and we've passed the half-way mark of our holiday. Due to yesterday's bookings and tickets we were seriously low on money, and so we took a trip to the bank to get some more. Since we had to get back to the hotel in time for our safari pick-up at 4pm, we found ourselves in limbo and so we hung out at yet another shopping mall (Bur Juman).

We found out there that the Olympic host city was to be announced sometime that afternoon, and so we though we'd get back to the hotel sooner rather than later to catch it live. Munching on our KFC, we witnessed London winning, and although I tried to distance myself from the whole thing I did feel a bit of pride when the result was announced. Go London.

It struck four and our car arrived. On the way to the meet up point (there were six other cars on the tour) we picked up a nice retired Australian couple who turned out to be pretty pleasant company. Anyway, the safari itself started off with us driving up and down dunes. It was exciting for the first five minutes after which point the effect wore off. Like yesterday, it was still something you could only probably do in Dubai and so worth it in that sense; and the retired couple didn't seem to appreciate it much either albeit for different reasons!

After a few minutes break and then another few at a camel farm (a waste of time in my opinion), we ended up at the camp. Here there were various activities, including camel riding (fun), sandboarding (not so fun if you end up buckling and having a sand shower), mendhi tattooing and hookah (the latter two I didn't do). It was a pretty good set up, after which we all sat down for a barbecued dinner. The food was decent, but the main event (apparently) was the belly dance afterwards.

Now, you woulda thought that being in Arabia the belly dancing would have been pretty good. Well, frankly, I've seen better in Edgware road. Still this was fun, not least 'cos of the way she dragged each of us up in turn to strut our stuff. I won't say whether I went up or not, or how well I did if I did go up, but we did buy the DVD of the whole tour which I've put online here, so perhaps you can find out for yourself... Either way I did get the phone number of a pretty girl for my troubles. Ok, technically it was her older brother's but hey, I really should take what I can get.

Tuesday, July 5

Dubai, Day Three: Getting Wet

After yesterday's events, and bearing in mind the quickly approaching end of the holiday (well for the guys anyway, who were to leave on Friday morning), we went back to The List of Things To Do In Dubai. The two major things left that we had to try were The Wild Wadi Waterpark and a desert safari.

The safari required 24 hours notice and so we arranged that for Day Four, which left Wild Wadi for today. So jumping in a cab, we made our way to Jumeirah home of the Burj Al-Arab hotel.

The park itself was pretty impressive (I suppose). Apart from the little body boarding pools and wave machine, the main attraction was this water slide thing where you sat in a tyre, get propelled up a chute (yes, I said up. I wish someone had told us; we spent ages looking for the stairs to go up) and then made our way down various water slides and the like. It doesn't sound too amazing, and to be honest it wasn't that super fantastic, but I've never been in anything like it so it was worth going.

The hotel itself was pretty impressive, and we had planned to go there for lunch but we didn't for two reasons: a) we had to book a reservation in advance, and b) we had to dress rather more smart than the shorts, trainers and chappal we were all in. Rather than pine to their pretentious requirements, we checked out the nearby Madinat Jumeirah shopping mall, and then took a cab to Diera City Centre for a Subway.

Dinner was spent in Pizza Hut. Meat on pizzas really are great, y'know.

Monday, July 4

Dubai, Day Two: Falling In Love

Ok, the subtitle above is kinda only for shock value, but today really was the start of what made this holiday great for me. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Apart from the wedding, I also had a bit of personal business to do in Dubai and Sharjah. Deciding to get it out of the way sooner rather than later, we (my friends and I) split up for the day. They instead went to the beach, which I had little interest in. Win-win methinks. Thought. Whatever.

Of course I had a cunning plan. Since I was going to end up in Sharjah, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to meet up with the friend of mine who was getting married. Since this was our first meeting (for those who don't know she was a fellow ALMB'er) I didn't want to just meet her on her wedding day, y'know, since that woulda been very weird and she would've been busy and stuff.

I only planned on staying for an hour. I mean how long can someone meet another for the first time? No matter how long you've known someone online real life is different and these things are slow blah blah blah and besides staying any longer woulda just been an imposition. So of course I stayed in the Vohra Residence for five hours. And had lunch (a part of which was the best pasta I had ever had. Mmmm). I'm so rude... But it wasn't like that I don't think. We talked, chatted, chilled, listened to music, had chocolate milk, played Jenga and what must be the best card game EVAR, Chinese Snaps. It truly was great.

It was like I had known them all (I met her two sisters and mother too) for years and was a testament to how open, lovely and welcoming they were. I will say that a lot of it was to do the romantic conditions (my being on holiday, and them getting ready for a wedding), but it was still acebest and I was sad that it had to end - it wasn't likely that I'd be able to hang with them all like this again (although I did manage to after all, but more of that later). And yes, I think I fancied their family a bit. The cads.

(And if you're wondering about the beach, my mates didn't seem to enjoy it as much as they thought they would. Dubai is not the place to go for girls, apparently.)

Sunday, July 3

Dubai, Day One: Strangers In Foreign Lands

In theory, night flights are extremely practical. You get to sleep through six hours of relative discomfort, saving your waking hours for your final destination. And since I was only spending six nights in Dubai (and the two friends I was traveling with, five), we figured that a night flight was pretty much necessary for us to maximise our time there.

The snag, of course, is that no one can ever really get any sleep on a plane - well not any of any quality anyway. Luckily for me, I got two and a half seats to myself and managed to lie down for a bit so I probably fared better than my companions. But it was clear that we'd need some kind of bedrest when we reached our hotel in Dubai.

So we checked in at around 11am excited with the new surroundings and our hotel room. We stayed in a three star in Al-Nasir Square, figuring that since the three of us were manly guys that we could rough it, but it turns out that the hotel was more than adequate. I'd recommend it if anyone needs a place to stay in Dubai.

A few hours of sleep later we made ready to go and check out what we could of Dubai. Before this, we needed lunch, and since it was my friends' first foray into a land of Halal McDonald's, we decided to treat ourselves to that. Mmm, Big Macs. I also took delivery of a local SIM card for my mobile, which turned out to be the key to making my holiday. For someone who hardly uses his mobile, it's amazing how liberating one is.

Armed with a tourist guide (plus map) and a list of things my uncle told me to go see, we then headed off to Bur Dubai and the sole museum that Dubai had to offer. We caught an abra across the creek, a crowded water taxi that cost us half a Dirham each to use (oh, and by the way, there are around 6.5 UAE Dirhams, or AED, to a Pound).

While we were on the west side of the creek we also (unbeknown to us) checked out Mina Bazaar (which took us around 20 minutes instead of the two days it would have had we had our mothers with us), a couple of mosques, and the general atmosphere of Dubai. To be honest we all began to start having reservations about the place and what, if anything, it had to offer - especially my mates who didn't have the main objective of attending a wedding during the trip. Having said that, I liked the museum even if they didn't.

On the way back we found ourselves wondering through Dubai's famous Gold Souk (or market), a street full of gold shops. After a brief meeting with my expat cousin who works there, we decided to call it a night (it was around 11pm at this point), find something to eat, and go to bed. My cousin recommend a Chinese called "Golden Fork" (which, frankly, should have been enough of a warning anyway) so we went and ordered the most oil soaked bunch of food we had ever seen. We are talking dripping like a sponge, here. We couldn't finish it (our arteries were already clogging up at this point), but it did serve as a warning that we had to be careful with our food; apparently this was the norm in Dubai.

And that was basically day one. Amazingly we had covered over a third of our list, vindicating our decision to take a night flight after all. The only problem was that we less than two third of things left to do...

Saturday, July 2

Dubai, Baby

Only a couple of hours before I leave for Dubai. New place, new people, new friends and a wedding to boot... It's so gonna be good.

I've been warned more than once to behave though. I dunno what's more worrying; that you have to be warned about these things at all, or that I have to be warned in particular.

Besides. How much trouble can one get into in six days? Not much, I suspect. Ahem.