Sunday, May 30, 2010

Judicial reform will make the country stronger
Authorities in the UAE proved their sophistication and diligence in uncovering the plot behind the murder of the Hamas leader Mahmoud Al Mabhouh earlier this year and in swiftly confronting many of those who have committed financial crimes. In the past several years, however, there have been other areas in which the judicial system has been found wanting.

For instance, a tourist was sentenced to four years in prison for a speck of cannabis on his shoe. A handful of former CEOs sit in prison without having been charged with a crime.

An Emirati man who was convicted for murder was released, only to commit another heinous act. And most recently, an 18-year-old girl reported that she was raped by several men, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage by the authorities before she retracted her statement.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Project: MEGA




A different take on the usual institutionally-focused paint-a-cow/horse/camel/etc., this open-air exhibition Project: MEGA, held in the DIFC Gate Village, featured some very eye-catching customizations of 100 blank Robotboy-looking figurines by a bunch of individual artists.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Feast Fit for a King ... of SPJCM

A "little" dinner I prepared for a few friends from SPJCM in honor of our pal Hiral.

First, and in line with the Mediterranean theme, an Italian salad with fava beans, drizzled with oil and vinegar.

Next, my spaghetti specialty, made with my signature recipe pink sauce, tomato chunks and bits of black olive.

Finally, my coup de grace, grilled strips of tender chicken, marinated overnight in an experimental za'atar-based mixture, showered with shavings of parmesan cheese, and served with halves of tomato and mushroom grilled in the caramelized aftermath. Said experiment turned out to be a suprise hit, and will be repeated at future parties to confirm the results scientifically.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Case of Exploding Mangoes

Genre: Literature & Fiction
Author:Mohammed Hanif
Set in the eighties during the military rule of General Zia ul Haq, A Case of Exploding Mangoes can be loosely described as a work of historical fiction, weaving a number of characters and story threads around a framework of historical personalities and events. The author takes his time building the intrigue, but the literary style he uses is so fresh and powerful that it is never really boring. Tiny morsels of suspense bait are fed to the reader until the pieces all fall together beautifully in the grand finale, the historical mystery known to the world as the accidental death of General Zia.

I bought this one based on the approximately 5 minutes of author's book reading that I managed to catch at the Bastakiya Art Fair. That was even before I attended the theatrical performance. A good decision, it turns out, as that small sample was quite representative of the whole. The tone in the tome is laden with sharp sarcasm and noir, peppered with dark humor, even a little of the erotic and the grotesque. There are also a lot of colorful and well-developed characters to take in - some very overtly historical (like General Akhtar), some based on single or composite historical characters (such as Blind Zainab, almost certainly based on the many victims of the Zina ordinances of Zia's harsh state Islamization drive), and others completely fictional but fleshed out to fit in with the historical context.

While the secondary characters are highly significant to the story in their own right, most of the narration alternates between the first-person perspective of a low-ranked soldier in the Pakistani army and the third person perspective on the general who was so esteemed and so reviled. The soldier character is an air force officer from the Himalayan highlands, whose own narration alternates between scenes from his present and moments from his past. In the beginning of the book, all we know is that he is somehow involved in the mysterious climactic event. As he narrates the sequence of events leading up to the same, he reveals little pieces of the puzzle, artfully setting up the checkmate. While it initially seems that he is an unfortunate and innocent victim of the powers that be, the truth is far more interesting.

The general character is a fiction-embellished caricature of the historical General Zia. Under this general's rule, the Americans would wage in proxy a heated conflict to end their Cold War with the Soviets. This "openly covert" operation was naturally fraught with under-table dealing and hidden motives, meaning many things, noble and selfish, to many stakeholders. The general has won the public favor of the West, but now has the Sword of Damocles to worry about.

We all know what happens in the end. Heck, the book begins with the end. But as the personal and political drama hurtles towards the inevitable, the sneaky denouement makes a devilish grin really hard to avoid. Good fun, a most strongly recommended read, and not just for subcontinentals.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Veg Pancit Canton and Tocino Chicken

This time, I actually used recipes. Although, to paraphrase Pirates of the Caribbean, they were used more like guidelines. That George Foreman grill sure comes in handy.

R: Pancit Canton, stir-fried with peppers, snow peas, baby corn and grilled tofu

L: Chicken breast, marinated two nights in yoghurt and Tocino, grilled with spring onions, served with lightly grilled bok choy drizzled with oyster sauce

All laid out and ready to eat

Satisfied customers

Washed down with woody herbal tea


Carrot Soup and Gravad Lox at IKEA

Quality, lean, no-hassle, no-frills ... IKEA is excellent value for money, and not just on the furniture.

Gone Fishing!

Thanks to my thoughtful fellow SPJCM alumnus, Sahil, here I am heading out through the mouth of the creek into open waters for a spot of reel fishing with his family.

This fortunate fugu/pufferfish was thrown back in (parts of it are poisonous, so that helps with leniency). Many sultan ibrahims were less fortunate.

Heading back to the city before we ourselves get baked like fish.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

UAE woman becomes first female Arab to reach North Pole
Elham al Qasimi becomes the first Emirati and first Arab woman to reach the North Pole, performing the feat unassisted and self-propelled.

@polarbent - "the last thing I did was pouring a bag of sand ... on Twitpic

Pouring sand from the UAE at the geographic north