Friday, April 23, 2010

Dubai's First Farmers' Market

Yael Mejia is the founder and powerhouse behind Baker & Spice Dubai, and today I met her on the terrace outside the restaurant with its awesome view of the Burj Khalifa. But we weren’t looking at that. Below us was the very first fruits of her new venture, a proper farmers’ market, right here in Dubai.

The Baker & Spice philosophy is refreshingly simple; fresh, organic, homemade and local. Yael works very closely with farmers and suppliers, buying direct wherever possible, and with a strong focus on freshness and seasonality.

Today’s market brought together a number of these farmers and suppliers, giving them an opportunity to showcase their produce and sell direct to the public. Mazaraa Organic Farm from Abu Dhabi, Salata Farms from Ras Al Khaimah and Dar Al Fatah Farm from Abu Dhabi were all here, along with other retailers and producers sympathetic to the cause.

The range of fruit and vegetables was impressive, given that we are nearing the end of the growing and harvesting season, but is was the sheer quality and freshness of the produce that made the biggest impact. Also evident was the passion and pride of the producers, deservedly so. I came away with a healthy selection of vegetables and fruit, and will spend a happy hour or three wondering how best to use them. The tiny organics strawberries are especially good, small, intense and bursting with flavour, the way strawberries used to be.

Judging by the sheer number of people thronging the terrace, this bustling little market is set to make a big impact on the diets of Dubai. It supports local producers, minimizes transport impacts, and delivers some of the best ingredients I have been able to buy in eight years in this city.

It is likely to be repeated next Friday and for a couple of weekends after that, 11.00am to 3.00pm – check with Baker & Spice on 04 4252240 or go to

Thursday, April 22, 2010

When Advertising Goes Bad

Is it just me, or is the current LG radio commercial promoting their ‘marriage’ collections one of the most cack-handed pieces of drivel ever foisted on a long-suffering public. There are many poor quality commercials broadcast over our airwaves, but few ever descend to such depths of perfidy as this execrable insult.

It is awful. Racial stereotyping. Incompetent writing. Leaden delivery. Idiotic concept. Ludicrous premise. It beggars belief that a creative team thought it was worth doing, an account exec presented it to a client, a client approved it, a production house made it, three voice artists recorded it, and a station played it. And not one of these people had the wit, intelligence or courage to question whether it was any good.

It is insufficient to blame the medium, though radio is traditionally regarded as the Cinderella of advertising media, the place where junior teams are sent to cut their teeth on a real job. Good money was spent on this bad advertising, and it was money wasted – I am sure that the result will be the precise reverse of what the client intended.

Two things I know – this ad is so bad, it is the first I have felt compelled to specifically criticize. And second, it actually should be preserved, as a case study in precisely how not to do radio.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The worst drivers in the world?

There's something funny going on in Dubai. Two years ago, traffic was heading for gridlock. Speeds were excessive, or standstill, and in both, aggressive drivers of 4x4s, blacked out Mercs and irredeemable Sunnies would carve you up, flash at you, barge in where no space existed and generally abuse more cautious and law abiding motorists.

And so today. Thick fog hangs in the air, and you set out with trepidation, expecting to encounter the usual morning thrombosis. But no. Today it was foggy, but the traffic was moving. You could get out from The Greens in minutes because all three lanes of the exit road have been opened. Almost all of the vehicles on the road had lights on, and almost none of those were hazard flashers.(Not so the School Buses - some demented bureaucrat somewhere has decreed that they shall be wired to the brake pedal, so they flash redundantly every time the driver slows for any reason, hazardous or not.) Speeds were generally low, and braking distances maintained. A few trucks trundled along line abreast instead of astern, blocking four lanes out of six, but I can see no way round that.

Yet despite the fog, or maybe because of its calming effect, the journey to work this morning was smooth, stress free and swift.

Maybe they're putting something in the water.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Consumer Rights in Dubai

I posted a few days ago in less than complimentary terms about the new Consumer Rights website being launched. Well, now it has gone live:

As a piece of government communication, it is about the best I have yet seen in Dubai, and has to be commended in the highest possible terms. It is cogent, concise, easily navigated and very informative. If only departments such as the RTA could manage the same level of clarity and communication!

One tiny gripe - please, please get rid of the yellow background! It becomes impossible to read after even a few seconds. Pity, because in every other way, it is a beacon of excellence in an otherwise too often murky ocean. Kudos to them!

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Rain, rain, and more to come

I think the NCMS got it most right - heavy, thundery rain starting about 4.00am this morning.

They reckon it will last till this afternoon. has it tailing off around 7.00pm tonight, and the Met Office at Dubai Airport hangs onto it until tomorrow.

Haven't seen any statistics yet for how much fell overnight, but my impression was that the 'water ponds' evident this morning were smaller than Sunday's accumulations - both the exits from The Greens/Lakes/Meadows were open to Sheikh Zayed Road today, and they were previously closed.

But it's still raining...

Drive safely!

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

After the rain

Ok, so exactly what is the official wading depth of a Boxster?

Following last night's rain, Al Qoz is peppered with 'water ponds', roads flooded across their width and deeper than the kerbstones. Who knows what potholes lurk beneath to trap the unwary!

Drier now, though, but some debate as to when the next rain will fall. Weather Channel says tomorrow, Dubai Met Office say tonight, the National Center for Siesmology and Meteorology reckon somewhere in the wee small hours of the morning. I guess we'll have to wait and see. Sitting in the garden, watching the lightning show illuminating the clouds from within was awesome, as always, as was the biblical rain that followed. How does all that water get up there in the first place?

But right now, sunny and dusty, no obvious clouds, and only a little movement in the air. Roll on tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why I hate Dubai

Oh, fer Pete's sake! I love this city, so it offends me deeply when the powers that be get the simplest of things so spectacularly wrong. Today's fail:

Gulf News this morning carries a bold, well-written half page ad drawing attention to the burning issue of consumer rights and protection. This is important in Dubai, as many, many retailers ride rough-shod over their customers, denying responsibility for faulty goods and generally behaving with cavalier disdain for the rights of those foolish enough to buy from them. Personal experience, big time.

So, as a dissaffected consumer, I immediately typed the URL into my browser. See, the ad worked! I not only read it, I acted on the information. Kudos to the agency who created it.

And so it was with a crushing sense of despair that I read those dread words on screen "This site is under construction. Please come back on Mach 1st".

Come on guys! It's not rocket science. Either get the website ready, or don't run the ad. Don't mess with the lives of the very people you're supposed to protect.

Or is that too complicated for you? Honestly, this city. Sometimes it makes you weep.

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