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Anatomy of a (Twit)Book Club meeting

October 17, 2010 Leave a comment

October 16th 2010

11 o’clock, I arrive at Wild Peeta, the current venue for our book club gatherings.  The place is quiet on a Saturday morning, so it is the ideal location to host our sometimes loud and often bizarre discussions.  Nominally the meeting kicks off on the hour, but I only see @TDAllonsy, set up behind her mac.  “UAE time,” she says with a sigh.  I empty my pockets at my seat, a habit I display when my better half is not around to supply carrying capacity in the form of a handbag, and get a coffee.

We catch up, and the others start trickling in – @WajihaSaid, who charged herself with snapping some pictures of the meet. Which of course didn’t stop half of everybody else from later on snatching the camera to try their hand at it. @Theregos, who as always provides the extra incentive in the form of cupcakes.  Today it was coffee and walnut. Enough said. @Zooberry, @Shaahima, @Hamna_ (dubbed our resident Niqabi), @Aabo0 and @RupertBu, the man behind the twitter handle of the Sharjah International Book Fair (@ShjIntlBookFair / #shjibf).

Order is brought to the table and we settle down to the business of the day. First on the agenda is discussing the choices made two months back.  Previously titles used to be discussed one month after being selected, but people found it hard to find availability in the local stores, so the gap was widened to two months for this purpose.

Next up we discuss each person’s submission for next month’s selection, after which a vote is taken to choose three.  Other book clubs might choose just one per meeting, but in our case the idea is to have a wider selection to read from to further encourage reading.  Previously four books used to be chosen, but now, to keep true to the “Twit” element of the TwitBookClub, the last book is chosen via online submissions and voting.  Current selections can be seen here.

To see the full tweet-by-tweet update on the goings on, you can either lookup @TwitBookClub (the official twitter handle for the club), or search twitter using the hashtag #TwitBookClub to catch other people’s contributions to the conversation.  I would have liked to include a snippet here on the post, but I have on this occasion found myself to be technologically impaired.  Note to non-Twitter users: the “at” sign @ indicates the twitter handle, or nickname, a person uses on Twitter.  The “number” sign, properly known as a hashtag, is used to index certain terms so that one can search tweets containing said terms and keep track of such mentions.

Before closing Rupert briefed us on the upcoming Sharjah International Book Fair (26th Oct – 6th Nov), now in its 29th edition.  Previously this used to showcase literature in Arabic only,  whereas this year they opened up the scope to include English literature.  A number of authors and industry names will be making an appearance in talks or workshops, among them:

  • Zohra Saed & Sahar Muradi (American Afghan lecturers and authors of “One Story, Thirty Stories”)
  • Samar Jarrah (author of “Arab voices speak to American Hearts”)
  • Yasmina Jraisatti (First European based Arabic Literary Agent)
  • Shelina Janmohammed (Number 1 best selling author of “Love in a Headscarf”)
  • Octavia Nasr (previously with CNN)

Other info, date and location details on the site.

People sometimes exclaim on twitter that they didn’t have the time to read any of the selections, usually on the eve of the meeting.  It is a misconception that reading the books is compulsory, when in fact it is not.  It is desirable of course, as that’s the point of the whole show, but anyone is welcome to come and join the discussion.  In the end it is just a gathering of like minded people discussing a common interest.

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Excuse me sir, there’s a leak in your room

Unlikely as it may seem the above words were the prelude to the best hotel experience I have ever had.

I booked us a couple of nights at the Atlantis on Palm Jumeirah to satisfy our desperate need for a short holiday, without the hassle of going abroad.  Having heard of many people who used it I decided to try booking.com for the reservations, and indeed found very good discounts.

We set off Thursday afternoon, after work, and after the inevitable last-minute packing.  In order not to lose time both my wife and I decided to skip the shower at home, so the first thing we did after settling in our room was enjoy a long hot shower each.  Later we pondered our dinner options and chose the Kaleidoscope (international buffet), not really knowing what to expect.

It turned out to be a really well-stocked and laid out buffet, and the selection boasted a Maltese dish (which was rabbit stew – no, we didn’t try it).  I will not bother to go into lengthy descriptions, I would not do it justice.  As is required in such occasions, we decided to take our time and take the small-portion-from-each-course-route.

Half way through the third course I received the fateful phone call from Guest Services.  Apparently the leak was originating from our room, but affecting the service areas.  Our room was still dry.  The lady went on to explain that the whole floor’s water supply had to be shut down until they could fix the leak, and could we please come asap to our room to move our stuff to another room.  Before I had time to explain that I had methodically unpacked and used every storage space available in the room, I was politely interrupted and told that we were going to be upgraded to a suite.

The weight of that immediately sank in, but I still didn’t want to let it go without a fight.  I thanked her and assured her we would have our things ready within the next 20 minutes.  Next I called for the restaurant manager, making a fuss about how we couldn’t continue our meal due to something that was beyond our control.  Without raising any protest or trying to sleaze out of it, the man made me pay only for the bottle of wine, and instructed me to call once in the new room to order items for room service delivery (together with our still-unfinished wine) at no extra cost whatsoever – I ended up not paying for any food at all.

We scrambled back to our room, half expecting to find an army of workers waiting by our door, with their arms crossed, tapping their tools impatiently. Relieved that it wasn’t so, we threw everything in our cases in record speed and waited. Ten minutes passed, nothing. I called, they would be there shortly. Another twenty minutes.  By this point I’m already putting together another complaint, about how we could have easily finished the meal and what was the rush. Then the porter came, took our bags and grinning said, “you’ll like your new room.”

And was he right.  Big living room, big bedroom, 2 TVs (one in each of the mentioned rooms), huge bath, shower, walk in closet, smaller closet, 2 toilets, big balcony, wonderful views.  I had to play the video-camera-tourist this time, so you can see for yourself:

From our balcony we could see the big aquarium, and it’s a truly memorable sight, at night seeing those fish and rays swimming in the back-lit water.

Atlantis aquarium

The aquarium doesn’t look too big from above, but to have an idea here’s the aquarium from the Ambassador Lagoon viewing gallery (which now costs AED 25 to access):

Ambassador Lagoon

View down the Palm

It had finally happened, we could no longer pout that the we were always unlucky in these sorts of events. We spent the following day at the Aquaventure water park, and still flush with the excitement of “it happened to us” we decided to take it a step further and booked a slot to swim with the dolphins.

My god what an experience! It felt like the fulfillment of a dream I didn’t know I had.  Together with a another group of 3 we spent 30 minutes swimming, hugging, kissing, stroking, dancing, and being pulled through the water (with the dolphin of course – her name was Alice).  It is highly recommended.  Forget the cost, where / when will such an opportunity present itself again?

It’s all about Etisalat (and Gulf News)

October 13, 2009 2 comments

Local (leading?) telecoms provider Etisalat has been making the news recently for all the wrong reasons.

First the BlackBerry service stops working:

gulfnews : etisalat BlackBerry disruption latest in a series of problems, say subscribers.

Then mobile services in general:

gulfnews : Etisalat mobile services in UAE restored after disruptions.

Etisalat upgrade affects connections – The National Newspaper.

It is necessary to go back a few weeks to get more context on Etisalat’s behaviour towards its esteemed clients:

Etisalat BlackBerry update was indeed spyware, RIM provides a solution.

Competing carrier Du didn’t think twice before trying to capitalize:

Du launches special offer for BlackBerry users – Telecoms – News & Features – ITP.net.

Uncharacteristically Etisalat took out a full page advert apologising for the muck up faults.

Life in Dubai: An apology from Etisalat!.

I couldn’t help wondering then, how with all this consumer confidence to reclaim they were running this sort of crappy ad:

Taken somewhere off Gulfnews.com

Taken somewhere off Gulfnews.com

I mean, large skyscraper space in business section, say something enticing, reconciliatory, whatever.

Unrelated side news (both puns intended): Gulfnews site running Google Ads?

Anniversary

September 29, 2009 2 comments

Last Friday marked my first year in Dubai.  It was (still is) a fantastic journey, along which I learned the importance of: understanding different cultures, deodorants, starting a blog from arrival not after twelve months.  Oh well.

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Introductions are in order

September 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Welcome to the Mute Herald, the channel of choice for ramblings about varying topics: life as it hits me, pathetic attempts at fighting back, general Dubai miscellania (being my current abode), and other completely random musings.  I sincerely wish your visits to be informative and / or of great entertainment, failing which feel free to deride me in your blog.

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