Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Last night we went out for dinner with some friends. At first I didn't really feel like going because outings with my husband's friends tend to turn into shop talk a lot. I might have married a dentist but dentistry is really not my favorite topic of dinnertable conversation. That's one problem.

The other problem is that this particular group of his friends are all Swedish which means they forget themselves & lapse into Swedish sometimes. Conversations in languages I don't speak are definitely not my favorite dinnertable conversations.

The third problem is that people have been saying that me & him spend an unfashionable amount of time together. Married couples are really not supposed to live in each other's pockets all the time. These comments tend to come from his friends so I figured they think I don't let him out on his own or something. And this seemed like a good occasion to demonstrate that this is not the case.

However he really wanted me to go. Really. To the point that for the first time ever he said I'd do it if I loved him. Now I say that all the time & he pays no attention whatsoever. But me am all heart. I thought if he managed to bring himself to utter the L-word then he must really have his heart set on my company that night. So I agreed to negotiate the terms.

My first condition was that he would dance with me at least 4 songs. He thought one. We settled on 3.

My second condition was that I'd be allowed to bring my laptop along incase they want to speak about dentistry in Swedish. He thought that would be rude. I pointed out that it's rude when they talk about things that go over my head. He conceded I might have a point. Seeing an opening I decided to push my advantage & further point out that I was going to be one of 9 people & it's not right to restrict 8 people because of one - especially given the fact that some of them speak no Arabic & very little English & no French. So the win-win solution is for me to be armed with my laptop. He conceded again.

The venue was a bit on the upscale side so I deemed the occasion worthy of dressing up a bit. My first choice was a red satin top. One of my favorites. He said it looks like lingerie. I vehemently disagreed. It comes from Valentino & I think it looks very elegant - perfect for dressing up a pair of jeans. Added to which I've had it for years & no one ever said it looked like lingerie before. He said he still thinks red satin looks like lingerie & added that he would prefer that I not go out in public in my lingerie. I asked if he was really uncomfortable with it. He said really. I took a moment to consider. If I concede that it looks like lingerie that means I can't wear it anymore. Would I give up my red Valentino top without a fight? How many red Valentino tops does he think I have anyway? It's just one. He offered to buy me a red Valentino top that doesn't look like lingerie. Would I give up my red Valentino top from about a hundred seasons back for a free red Valentino top from the latest collection? Hell yes. Am a woman of principle. I said deal but I wanted a promise that we'd go shopping for the new top on the very next day. As in today. He said if I promise to wear red satin only for him from now on. What? For the rest of our life together? He said yes. I asked but won't you get bored? He said ok maybe not the rest of our life - just the rest of next week. I said I thought we could work something out there - with an image of the red satin sheets I got as one of my wedding presents in mind. It's a measure of the strength of his feelings on the subject that he agreed to go shopping with me for clothes of all things.

Having reached mutually satisfying arrangements on all points of contention we set out for the evening in a reasonably good mood.

The topic was not dentistry though. Not in the beginning. Most of the people present were single guys so the discussion turned to their search for female companionship in the beginning. It seems two of them have recently come to know that they have been hitting on the same girl. I watched openmouthed as first one of them & then the other said they were out. Huh? What just like that? I was arguing that they should let the girl choose who she wants. And they all looked at me like I just said something incredibly retarded & said no that wouldn't work. Why not???!!!I know I say all the time that I respect the fact that guys don't fight with their friends over us girls as much as we do over them but still the poor girl! To suddenly be dumped by both of them for something that wasn't her fault, that she didn't even know about!

My husband didn't really take sides on this one but he truly amazed me on the next one. One of the guys apparently went on a blind date with a girl who turned out to be the sister of another friend of theirs. He really likes the girl but decided that it was a no-go because he knows her brother. The guy was of Arab origin but come on he doesn't even speak Arabic. He's a third generation Scandinavian & he still thinks he can't date his friend's sister? When I pointed out that he was supposed to be enlightened enough to know that every girl is someone's sister & what difference does that make. Upon which he replied that yes they were enlightened & all but they still didn't screw their Arab friend's sisters.

Upon which my husband told him that he'd appreciate it if the guy didn't use that sort of language with his wife present. That's me. I said excuse me am old enough to speak up for myself if & when am offended & I wasn't. But the guy said he was sorry. It's like it doesn't matter if am offended - only if my husband is. Didn't want to be diverted by that though from the suggestion that he was looking for a girl to 'screw' & that only being his friend's sister saved that one. I mean what happened to mature, serious, loving relationships? I asked so if his friend was not an Arab it would be fine? He said if the friend wasn't an Arab he wouldn't care & he would just tell him.

And my husband agreed that the guy should lay off the girl. And didn't question the other bit at all. I asked him so if you knew my brother you would have dumped me? Upon which they all started picking on him for getting caught & turned the whole topic into a joke. And I didn't get a straight answer. Am planning to pretty soon though.

The girls present were all on my side. And I thought female politics were complex. Seriously how do guys remember all these rules?


Monday, May 29, 2006

My Blog in Numbers

I currently have 175 posts in my blog. Of course this is not all the posts I ever wrote because I do go back & delete posts sometimes. This is just what I currently have out there.

They break down like this:

35% on my love life.
11% on politics.
10% on my family.
10% on faith.
7% on my career.
3% about my friends.
24% posts about everything else.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Lucky Break

Out on one of our early dates, my husband asked me how can it be that a woman like me(wonderful wonderful me) is still single? I told him I'm not lucky with men. He said no problem, this is your lucky break.

Well he certainly isn't modest about it but I have to admit that it's true. He IS my lucky break. And I'd more or less given up on ever having a change of luck with men.

And I started early. I was about 15 when I developed a monumental crush on my cousin. Let's call him M. He was 31 & worked for the foreign ministry in Morocco so he travelled a lot. Most of the time when we'd be home in Casa for holidays he'd be away. Didn't get to see him that often. But I'd hear so much about him. Everyone agreed that he was the best looking guy in the family. They would talk about how smart & successful he was, how many languages he was fluent in, what a gentleman, how he'd helped so many people etc.....Everyone loved him. My grandfather - who I loved very much - was so proud of my cousin & was always praying for him. And at 15 years old you had all the makings of a severe case of hero-worship.

Looking back I can laugh at myself but in those days I can tell you it was not funny. To fancy yourself in love with a man you saw once a year for about a month if you were lucky & who persisted in treating you like a little sister who was a bit of a pest was painful. I cried many tears over his lack of attention & wrote many pages in my diary. Everytime he'd have a girlfriend I'd feel betrayed, unwanted. I even went through a phase of going Arab & tribal & getting really angry thinking how dare she? He's MY cousin. He's mine. I thought those girls were trespassing on my territory. Never mind that the truth was that they were his gfs & therefore I was trespassing. 'Course I wouldn't see it that way. I was an ARAB for Heaven's sake. What was the point in being an Arab if you can't marry your cousin? Haven't Arabs been marrying their cousins since times immemorial? It's frustrating that just when you've finally found a tradition you can actually live with people stop observing it & suddenly go all MODERN on you! I mean who wanted modern at a time like that? I mean yuck! Not that I had no competition within the family. Lots of girls in my family were crazy about him. But since my crush lasted longer than theirs & was clearly the most violent one they more or less conceded that I could have him if I could get him.

The worst part was that he spoilt me for guys my age. I mean compared to him they all seemed such children. He was so mature & accomplished & cultured. How could a bunch of pimpled 15-yr-old boys who wanted to take me to a movie & Burger King possibly compare?

And it kept getting worse & worse. I'd spend the entire year looking forward to the summer & mid-year holidays so I can see him. Every summer my friends & I would cook up elaborate schemes to make him compromise me so he'd have to marry me to save the family honor. Most of them never came to anything. Except once.

It was the summer after 11th grade. I was staying in my grandfather's house with a bunch of girlfriends I'd brought with me from UAE. My grandfather had been in the hospital & was still recuperating. My aunts who lived with him were pretty old themselves & none of them could drive. Added to which none of them was strong enough to carry my grandfather who was a pretty big man if he needed help. So my cousins would take turns sleeping over for a few days. And then it was M's turn. He was home on holiday & had a few days on his hands. I was over the moon. For the first time me & him would be staying in the same house. I'd get to spend more time with him. I mean 3 whole days & nights. I was sure I could make him love me. You couldn't convince me otherwise.

He spent most of the first day with me & my friends & seemed to enjoy himself. He was so sweet & funny. All my friends liked him. In the evening my friends forced me to go out. They said I might be a native but they were tourists & it was their first time in Casa & they weren't going to spend it sitting watching me worship my cousin. We invited him to come along but he said he couldn't leave my grandfather. So he gave us a lift to the city center & went home. I was on edge the whole time & was probably the worst tourguide EVER. I felt I was wasting my precious time with him.

When we got home he'd already had dinner & was locked up in his room working. I felt worse. We stayed up pretty late but he didn't come out. And in the end we went up to my room where I cried myself to sleep. One of my friends - a Belgian who I guess wasn't very familiar with our culture - took the making him compromise me thing too seriously & decided to help me out. M got up early in the morning to take my grandfather for a hospital appointment. So she got the bright idea of leaving a piece of my underwear lying on the floor in his room - so that when my aunt came in to clean she would find it & think he'd compromised me.

It's a good thing my aunt didn't find it. The poor woman would have had a heart attack. He found it. When I got up my friend had gone to sleep along with the rest of them so I didn't know about what she'd been up to. He'd left a message with the maid that when I was awake he wanted to talk to me. I found him in the garden. Imagine my shock when he took it out of his pocket & asked me if this was mine! All I could do was splutter that I didn't understand. When he told me he found it in his room I said you're lying. He said he wished he was & he asked do you know what would have happened if one of the maids had found it & given it to my aunt or if she herself had found it? I was too humiliated to talk any further so I just grabbed it out of his hand & went running to my room. I'd guessed it must have been one of the girls so I shook them all awake & when she admitted it I wanted to STRANGLE her!

I spent the rest of the time hiding from him. And he avoided me & my friends like the plague. I didn't see him at all until he left. And a couple of weeks later I was back in UAE - still very shaken & embarrassed but still very much in love with him. I thought my heart was broken, my pride was dust & I would never recover. I still cringe when I read the diary entries for that period.

He called about a month later from Spain. I broke out in a cold sweat when Mama came & told me he was on the phone & wanted to talk to me. He told me he still didn't understand what happened. So I told him that a friend thought she was helping me. And he said helping you with what? So I started crying & blurted everything out. He was being very sweet & understanding I couldn't help it. But God how that conversation hurt. Of course he said you're 17 years old, you'll grow out of it, you're like my sister. That was a blow to hear him spell out the fact that he wasn't interested in me at all. Then I got a lecture about how he wouldn't think anything bad about me because he's my cousin but that I should be careful & not behave like that with other men & that I should make sure my friends understand the culture before they get involved in my life etc...I wanted to SCREAM but I want you to think something bad about me you idiot, I LOVE you & all you can think about is the stupid family honor!

It wasn't the end of the story either. It went on for YEARS more. Actually I think the incident - once I got over the initial embarrassment - made me more daring. I didn't have to worry about being embarrassed anymore because how could it possibly get any worse? And I found his attitude provocative. I became even more determined to 'get' him. It became a challenge. Of course I never tried anything as crude as what my friend did again. That would have got me into serious trouble. Besides even then I had enough presence of mind to see that I didn't want any man to marry me because he was forced to by some misplaced sense of chivalry or family pressure. That wouldn't have been much of a marriage. No I wanted him to love me as much as I loved him. And once my feelings for him were out in the open well I didn't have to bother with subtlety anymore did I?

But NOTHING would make him budge. I was stupid to think he'd ever compromise me. I mean the man was made of stone. Sometimes I'd want to scream what are you gay or something?

It didn't actually stop until I was about 20. By then I was in college in the US & I had another target. It was strange that after years of 'loving' my cousin I woke up one morning & realized I hadn't even thought of him once in months. I guess the saying that the fastest way to forget one man is to fall for another man is true. But that's another story.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Have You Ever Been Hit?

Have you ever been hit by a man? The question was thrown at me in the middle of a conversation during which, unlike everyone else present, I couldn't express much sympathy for a girl we know who keeps going back to an abusive fiance. And then D added that no fights with my brothers when we were little don't count.

Fights with my brothers? When I was 8 yrs old & my brother A. was about 12 we got into a fight & I jumped on him. Was trying to punch or scratch him in the face & anywhere else he would let me. My father came running & picked me up off him. He yelled at both of us which my brother thought was unfair because I was the one who started it & all he did was defend himself etc.....That night my father came into my room at bedtime & gave me a long lecture about how I should never hit my brothers because if I hit them often enough they might hit me back & it's very bad for men to get used to hitting women.

My parents always hated it when we fought. They considered it disrespectful to them for us to yell at each or call each other names in their presence. You were guaranteed that neither one of my parents would speak to you for weeks if you did that. Sometimes Mama would start crying & saying things like if we hate each other now what will we do after she & my father are dead & make it sound like we were all doomed to commit fratricide before we're much older etc...Needless to say, that was a pain & we all tried to avoid it at all costs.

But that one time because the fight got physical I think we spooked my parents so much that instead of not talking to us or crying, they kept taking turns lecturing us about anger & violence & their consequences etc...all the time to the point where we both wanted to scream ok fine we get the message, leave us alone already!

So no my brothers would not hit me. When I was in the US, I would sometimes say I can't do something because my brother would kill me & then be startled when some people seemed to take that to mean I was physically afraid of him. It made me angry actually because I love my brother & they made him sound like someone he wasn't & would never be.

I wasn't going to say it to anyone in the group I was with. It's something I haven't thought about in years. But yes I have been hit by a man. My ex once hit me so hard I fell down & threw up all over his shoes. And he did it because I slapped him & he wanted to teach me my place I guess.

So is it like some sort of medal I need to have in order to be allowed to express the opinion that you should not allow yourself to be abused? I hate it when people tell me I shouldn't talk because 'I don't know what it's like'. How do they know I don't?

Whatever. I didn't tell them.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Attack of Conscience

Out for lunch with a friend. A group of guys walk in & sit at a nearby table. I notice her watching one of them with this look of wistful, puppy-like devotion on her face. She really likes him. We see him around a lot & everyone knows he's her crush. Am feeling kind of sad for her. She's been having a hard time & well, something good should happen to her. She needs it.

We get up for the buffet. I love their salad bar & am busy filling up my plate when I feel something touch my hair. I look up to find that my hair had been about to fall into a plate of hommos if the guy next to me had not pushed it out of the way. I tell him am sorry & thanks. He says no problem, that it's beautiful hair but not in his food. I smile because am thinking of Maxxed Out's comment about women on bread. Then I notice that the guy am talking to is one of the group of sitting with my friend's crush. In the next instant he's asking if we'd like to join them.

I almost said yes. It would give my friend a chance to establish contact with her long-time crush. There was a time when I wouldn't have thought twice. Just doing a friend a favor. On occasion I'd even approach a guy if my friend liked his friend. The rule is that it's ok to make a guy think you're interested in him if you're not. If it's actually your friend who is interested in him or in someone he's with. If you ARE interested in him then you NEVER approach him. You wait for your friends to do it for you. Who ever made these rules anyway?

But I tried to picture myself trying to explain this to my husband. He'd just hate it if I went through with this. Then I had another thought. The guy was clearly flirting with me, openly checking me out. Had he noticed my ring? If he hadn't then he would sooner or later & then what would he think of me for encouraging him?

So I said no thanks. And I went back to our table. Was going to tell her what happened then decided not to. Couldn't shake the feeling that I'd somehow let her down.

She dropped me off at home afterwards. Didn't have my car with me. I'd been having problems with my sound system so I'd let my husband take it to be sorted out. At home I had to deal with the stress of trying to find the maid something to do. She'd already spent all day scrubbing everything clean. Racked my brains a bit then I told her to do some laundary then gave her a shopping list & money & sent her off to the Co-op. Whew. That got her out of my hair for a while. Had my shower & changed then I sat down to finish some work I'd brought home with me.

Lost track of time until 10:00pm. Got up to pray maghrib & Isha. Called my husband to see why he wasn't home yet. He was out picking up my car. Got dinner started. He came home, gave me the car keys. I said thanks & gave him a kiss. No big deal.

But then this morning when I came downstairs & got into my car I had a shock. At first I thought I was in the wrong car! The car had been washed & cleaned inside out. The seat covers had been changed. That's something I've been wanting to do for ages. I had a new set of speakers. The tank was full. Even my empty box of tissues had been replaced with a new one.

I think it was the box of tissues that did it. I burst into tears. I felt so bad that at the time when he was busy doing all this for me I'd been busy thinking about letting some guy pick me & my friend up.

I actually got out of the car to go back upstairs when some inner voice of reason told me to get a grip. If I go running upstairs in tears & wake him & throw myself in his arms & tell him - which is what the visions in my head were telling me to do -he'll think am confessing to an affair. I'll make the whole thing look even worse.

So I got back in the car & drove myself to work. The minute I got in I ran into the bathroom & did some more crying. Then I washed my eyes with cold water & went back to my desk. Thought of calling him now that I was calmer. Told myself he won't pick up anyway. In the end I called & he didn't pick up. So I sent him sms saying thank you for my car etc.....

Got busy with work for a while but still felt down so in the end I went to M's office & blurted out the whole thing out.

Her advice was:

1) Don't tell him. He doesn't need to know. It will upset him & if he's been doing nice things for me then he doesn't deserve that.
2) Stop feeling bad. What matters is I didn't do it out of respect for his feelings.
3) Remember the suntan oil story. The same thing happened with him. A girl approached him & he passed her on to his friend. And he came & told me about it. Was he crying? No. So I should stop crying.
4) Think of something nice to do for him.

Good advice? I don't know. But I feel a bit better.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

House Help

The idea was that the person I decide to leave my child with has to be someone I've known for a while & feel I can trust. She needs to be found now so that by the time I decide to have a baby I know her well enough. That's what I SAID anyway. Didn't actually go out & do anything about it. Just mentioned it to a few friends & acquaintances & then forgot all about it.

Last week one of my husband's best friends who is in the process of leaving UAE for good asks us if we'd like to take on his children's nanny. She's an offer we can't refuse because she's been 'tried' by someone we know & by all reports she's reliable, responsible, loves kids & kids love her. Furthermore I like her too. She's smart & sweet & very pretty in that dainty, feminine way that Filipino women have.

Somehow we found ourselves agreeing that she could come & stay with us while we transfer her visa & finish processing her papers. And she arrived yesterday.

What can I say? Neither one of us can stand not having the house to ourselves anymore. The idea that this is someone who is here to stay for GOOD - not just a few days - like his sister or my Mom. We feel so restricted.

That's the first problem. The second problem is we don't have any work for her to do now. On weekdays the only meal we eat at home is dinner. Usually I cook & he cleans up afterwards. We enjoy it. It's part of our 'quality time'. We do it when we're too tired to go out to eat. If we felt like being served by a third person we'd just go out. So she can't cook. I don't want her to.

We also hardly ever entertain at home. Usually we meet our friends outside.

She could clean. But then again how dirty can two adults get the house? Usually I wash our bathroom everyday. And in the weekend we vaccum & polish the furniture, change the bedsheets etc...together. It takes us less than 2 hrs. The owner of the building sends someone to wash & shine the glass about once a week & clean out the balcony so that's not our responsibility. The kitchen we clean as we use.

Let's face it we don't need a cleaning lady. Or a cook. This woman is here to take care of hypothetical children we haven't even started to plan to conceive yet. Talk about planning ahead! It's too soon. Everyone says we'll regret it if we let her go because decent house help/child care is so hard to find etc....

And we've already made a commitment sort of. Am feeling kind of sorry for her. I mean she hasn't done anything wrong & it can't be nice to get fired for no reason after you think you've found a job. Plus he promised his friend so that's kind of an embarrassment.

But we both want out.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Yesterday & Today


Me: Are you trying to upset me?
Him: No I can't afford to upset you.
Me: Why not?
Him: I like to eat & I like to get laid. Both on a regular basis.
Me: K?
Him: 3iyoon K.(A term of endearment meaning am dearer to him than his eyesight.)
Me: What did other women ever see in you?
Him: It would take me so long to tell you that you wouldn't have time to cook my dinner.
Me(rolling my eyes): That's it? That's all I mean to you?
Him: Howa feeh ba3d kida?(What more do you want?) You women don't know your own power.
Me: After all we've been through? After everything I did for you?
Him: Ah sa7ee7 mana(Yeah right and me) I never did anything for you.
Me: The man I love. The man I gave my heart to. And he just wants me for food & sex.
Him(groaning): Ya di elneila.(Not sure how to translate this. I guess it means oh damn.)
Me: Mnain ajeeb i7sas lily ma yi7is(A line from an Arabic song meaning where do I get feeling for someone who lacks feeling.). Ya bani adam lail nahar aqoolak a7ib ilard illy timshi 3laiha(Day & night I tell you I love the ground you walk on) & this is what I get?
Him: Imta da?(When was that?) Ana awil mara asma3 elkalam da.(That's the first I've heard of this)
Me: What?!!I tell I love you all the time you ungrateful bastard!
Him: La bas elshwiya elakhraneen dol gamdeen.(Yeah but that last bit was too much.) 7ilwa 7kayit elard wilbalat di(I like this ground stuff.).
Me: Khalas yassidi....
(Yassidi means "my lord/master" but it's used in casual conversation to be polite I guess & no one takes it that way.)
Him(cutting me off): Yassidi?(Out of sheer perversity he chooses to take it that way) La(no). Inti t2ooli 7adir, t2ooli na3am bas yassidi la(You tell me "yes" or "your wish is my command" but not yassidi). Mardahalkeesh(I wouldn't ask that of you).
Me: Shut up.

His cell rings. And I hear him tell someone: Wala 7aga(Oh nothing). Mirati 3amala t7ib feeya min taraf wa7id(My wife is indulging in one-sided love with me). La da min tarafha hiya(It's all from her side).

Me(trying to grab the phone from him but he's holding away): Meen?!!(who?)

We keep struggling & in the end he gives me the phone. I say hello & it's his brother.

His bro: 2ooliloh gatak khaibah.

Please O Ground open up & swallow me!!!


At a conference in the Emirates Plaza. We break for lunch. Am sitting in the lobby blogging on my laptop. I get up to go use the bathroom. When I come back some guy has my laptop in one hand & is picking up the case with the other. I go up to him & say excuse me. He says is this yours?I say yes. He says sorry, puts it down & walks off. I think he must be someone who works for the hotel & maybe I was sitting in the wrong place or laptops are not allowed or something. I go ask the receptionist & she says no. I wonder if maybe he got my laptop mixed up with his or something. It's still bugging me so I go back & ask the receptionist. She says no he didn't have a laptop with him, he doesn't work for the hotel and he's not staying. She said he's a walk-in guest.

I walk round looking for him but he's disappeared. I come back before someone else tries to steal my laptop.

Was that it?Was he trying to steal it?Does this sort of thing happen in Abu Dhabi?In a seven-star hotel?


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ten Things I Love About My Husband - In No Particular Order

1) It's a cliche but time flies when we're alone together. I mean it. There's never enough time.

2) He's always the one to get up to switch the AC on/off at night if I say am too hot/cold. Even if I say it when he's already half-asleep. And even if he's perfectly comfortable with the temperature.

3) In the company of other people everyone notices that he lowers his voice & uses a different tone when addressing me. We're always getting the comment hey you two what are you whispering about - when we don't mean to whisper & aren't saying anything particularly private. The only other person I've seen him do that with is his mother - which makes her my biggest rival.

4) Am not always as forgiving as I should be but I just can't stay mad at him.

5) When we talk he doesn't have any taboos. Or if he does I haven't come across them yet. I can get any crazy idea & he'll play along & explore it with me. I can never shock him. He shocks me though. I guess am less broad-minded than him. There are things that I don't like to question or mock.

6) The fact that I love to look at him & that he still gets embarrassed when I say it. And when I give him compliments in general.

7) He likes my hair.

8) He opens doors for me.

9) He eats everything I cook.

10) When other men are joking about how much they dread their wives/miss bachelorhood etc....he just smiles & never joins in.

Ten Things I Do Not Love About My Husband - In No Particular Order

1) His new motorbike.

2) He never calls or messages from work unless there's an emergency or he's looking for something & wants to ask me where I put it. Not even when he's going to be late. I have to get worried & call & ask where he is. Come to think of it. He never calls period - from work or otherwise. He's not good with this phone stuff at all. Even if he finds a missed call he doesn't call back. He just assumes am going to call him again.

3) He doesn't do flowers. Or cuddly toys. Or cards.

4) He doesn't like animals - except for horses. And we can't very well raise a horse in our apartment.

5) He can stay mad at me for ages.

6) He's a creature of habit. If I change something around the house he'll quietly change it back when am not looking. He doesn't like me touching or rearranging his things especially. If I change something about my appearance he'll rarely approve. He'll say he's not used to me like this, why did I have to change etc....That includes losing weight, blowdrying my hair straight, changing my perfume etc.... I asked him one day am going to be old & am going to look very different from now what are you going to do then?And he says he'll get used to it. Go figure.

7) If he doesn't like someone he won't bother being polite to them. A couple of good friends keep saying your husband doesn't like me much does he. I think he's managed to scare them off.

8) Despite repeated complaints whenever he uses the shower he somehow manages to cause all my shower gels, lotions, hair shampoos etc...to fall on the floor or into the bathtub. And then leaves them there. Given the fact that he doesn't like me touching his things shouldn't he leave my things alone too?

9) He gets a kick out of making me jealous.

10) He will not get into arguments.


Saturday, May 13, 2006


So I finished college in the US, had my year off which I spent travelling in North Africa visiting relatives, decided against going back to school for an MBA & came back to Abu Dhabi to start job-hunting. My first job was in a bank. They hired me as a Java programmer supposedly. It lasted about 6 months. Then I quit. There was no work for me to do. I don't know why they even hired a programmer. They outsourced everything or bought applications off the shelf. Then I tried a construction company. Same problem. Possibly even worse. They had no programming work. They essentially just wanted me to do data entry & maybe double as a Windows NT administrator. This time I quit after 3 months.

So I learnt an important lesson. If I expected to have a career in IT I had to find work in an IT company. In other organizations - where IT is just supporting the core business of the organization - you might get a job but not a career. In banks, promotions & training etc....go to people in finance or banking. In a construction company they go to civil engineers & architects. They're the stars. So I decided I had to find an organization where the core business WAS IT. Then I won't have to sit around & watch my work being outsourced & there might be room for me to grow right?

The first couple of offers I got were from big names in software. Companies that sell well-known IT products. I was concerned about facing a different sort of problem. And I was right. These organizations don't actually do any development here. It's all done in the US. Their local office just handles sales & maybe some support.

Just as I was getting ready to give up & go back to school after all, one of my best friends M. got a job working for an IT & management consultancy firm. It was my dream place to work if you will. The kind of organization I had seen projects being outsourced to in my previous jobs.

So I ask her if they have any vacancies. She says she'll give my CV to someone in recruitment but not to get my hopes up because they don't hire women in technical positions. She was the only female there other than the secretaries. And she's a translator who doubles as their PR officer.

I said I was surprised they would be so sexist because it's a multi-national with headquarters in Europe. You'd expect them to be used to women working in all fields. She gave me a funny look & asked me who told you there are no sexists in Europe? It's just that in Europe there are laws against that sort of thing & here there aren't. So what they can't get away with in Europe they'll do here.

But she managed to get me an interview. After she pestered one of the managers to death for months. On the day of the interview I was a nervous wreck. I wanted the job really badly. Hadn't found anything else like it or even close. But I knew there was prejudice against me, that he probably just agreed to go through the motions of interviewing me to get M off his back. It didn't help that the first thing M said when she saw me was you idiot that skirt is too short & you're wearing heels they'll never hire you. The skirt was well below the knees. And the heels were like the flattest you could get without actually wearing flip-flops. She was just nervous. I knew that but she still scared me to death.

So that's when I met him - the boss I mean. My first impression was surprise because he looks so much like Bryan Adams!My manager is Swiss, in his late fifties by now. He looks exactly like Bryan Adams. An older version with a very different sense of style but Bryan Adams nonetheless.

The interview started out pretty well. Intensive questioning, very technical but he was being pleasant. He was tough but he didn't give me the feeling that he was trying to trip me up or anything. Then half-way through M called him about some work issue & he told her:"M what are you doing?You know me. I hire monsters not models."

I don't know if I was supposed to respond or pretend I didn't hear that. Ended up pretending to be deaf. But I pretty much gave up at that point. Was very demorlized & half-hearted through the rest of the interview. I thought if I came across as a bimbo then it was hopeless.

And I was left to stew for a whole month before I got the offer. I think that was possibly one of the happiest days of my life. I mean the relief! Just couldn't believe it. And it was such a generous offer too. Much better than I could have dreamed. Was walking on air for weeks. Until I actually started.

My first year was gruelling. I had never been punished so much for being a woman in my life. If I ask a colleague for help I get accused of using my feminine wiles to make the men do my work. In the end my manager told me I don't want you asking anyone other than me for help. But everytime I go to him with a question he gives me stuff like can't you figure it out on your own I'm so busy etc....So what it came down to was that I was on my own - unlike any other newcomer.

I would see the guys getting together to have a coffee break & smoke & feel like little orphan Annie. If such a gathering were to take place in my office or if I were to join one I'd immediately be accused of flirting & distracting the men.

I stopped wearing skirts to the office completely. I still don't. Am always in trouser suits. No make-up. I also never socialize with work colleagues because I can't afford for any of them to start acting too friendly in the office. When we go overseas that's the only time I'll go out sight-seeing & stuff with them because what choice do I have in a foreign city where I don't know anyone else & probably don't even speak the language? Tried hiding in my hotel room or wandering around alone a couple of times but too boring & lonely.

Sometimes when am out in the evenings I worry about running into people from work. I feel self-conscious about them seeing me dressed in something feminine or revealing, wearing make-up, dancing etc...I worry this will change how they perceive me at work too, cause them to lose respect & start treating me like a bimbo etc...Even after all these years I still have this fear.

The outright sexism never came from my manager though. After the initial monsters/models comment he never did anything really sexist. Except for the fact that occasionally I'll say bonjour & he'll say bonjour a toi ma fleur or something like that. Once I was on the line with K & he heard him & told me you have a manager who calls you his flower? But that only happens if he's really, really pleased with my work. Half the time am lucky to get a response at all if I say hi. He's not an easy guy to please.

The outright sexism came from higher up. But the pressure they put on my manager made him feel like he had to justify having hired a woman. So he worked me like a slave. I was constantly being held to higher standards than everyone else, always getting less credit for more, being criticized harshly for things I see others do all the time etc....Couldn't go on any long leave. Couldn't call in sick or come in late unless there was a huge emergency. This while the guys would come in & leave whenever they felt like it & no one would care so long as they got the work done. That goes on until today. Am the only one I know in the IT side of things who actually gets emails about being late even though am one of the first people to come in the morning. The assumption appears to be that they're guys so if they're late they must have a good reason.

Basically I did a lot of crying during that first year. Not in the office though. Couldn't afford that either. I would never have lived it down.

But things started to quiet down about half way through the second year. I guess they got used to having me around & I kind of grew on them. And my manager helped, first by giving me outrageous amounts of work & second by always pushing me in the limelight. He would let me demo my projects even though I was only a lowly programmer & only analysts or project managers are supposed to demo to managament.

At some point - I can't remember exactly when - it stopped being such an ordeal. I got used to the challenge. To always pushing myself. And to succeeding. I stopped thinking about how unfair it was. I got used to it. Mainly because I really enjoyed the work. So much that it made up for everything else. I loved my job. Yes I had a crazy social life etc...but nothing really distracted me from my work. It always came first because it really was what I enjoyed most. My friends couldn't compete. And neither could my ex. Everything else just filled in my free time when I wasn't working & wanted something to do.

The next pivotal point came after I had been working for them for 3 years. There was a time when I was being sexually harrassed by a pretty big client. Someone who was so influential that if my parents had ever found out I'd even come into contact with him they'd have quit their jobs, made me quit mine & we'd all have packed up & gone back home.

I didn't want to deal with the guy. I was afraid of him. But my manager kept pushing me to. Like when I asked that the client should come for meetings in my office because I didn't feel safe going to his office, my manager refused saying that the policy is that we let the customer say when & where. One time I lost my temper & started yelling at my manager, telling him that the guy will probably rape me next time I go out there & if that was his daughter would he force her into that kind of situation?He blew up at me & started telling me that this is why he didn't like hiring women etc....

I was so shocked. I hadn't told him before that because I was too embarrassed not because I believed he would actually blame me if I told him!And he still wanted me to go see the guy?I thought my manager was pimping me!

I had so much contempt for him that day. He kind of had a reputation for only caring about money & business but I always defended him to others. After all I owed the guy. For hiring me & for all the support that helped me to survive. But when he did that he just made me sick. I thought what a coward. I told him I wasn't going to see that guy again & if he didn't like it he could take whatever action he wanted. And I walked out of his office feeling incredibly disillusioned.

Our relationship changed after that. It became much colder & more formal. I knew the client was calling him & asking to meet me & threatening to take his business elsewhere if I don't handle the project etc....My manager would tell him that am busy & just stall.

In the end I got out of the situation with the help of an Emarati friend. She told me that this client was influential yes but his wife was even more influential & that he was known to be scared of her. She told me she'll take me to see his wife & that if the guy knew I know his wife he'll lay off & leave me alone. So that's what happened. And he did lay off. He delegated the project to one of his staff - which is what he should have done from the beginning. And I didn't have to deal with him anymore.

The incident still soured things up between me & my manager. I used to look up to him & I was feeling so disappointed. Somehow I had expected more from him. More what?I don't know.

A few months later the second pivotal point came. My manager had a stroke in the middle of the conference room early in the morning. He was gripped by some sort of convulsion & then he was screaming in pain & then he was unconscious. We called an ambulance & he was carried out of the office on a stretcher. I'll never forget that day. I cried so much. Was so worried I made my Dad drive me to the hospital to see him in the middle of the night. Was too upset to drive & terrified that he would die during the night.

When I reached the hospital his wife & 2 daughters were there. They'd flown in from Europe after hearing the news. I remember feeling embarrassed that I was the only one who couldn't stop crying because they weren't. I know I shouldn't judge them & am sure they were very concerned about him but the time I resented it because they made me look like an overwrought fool.His wife sat me down & asked me if I was there when it happened. I said yes. So she asked me to tell her what happened. And I did. It was funny that she was the one who was trying to get me to calm down!

Thankfully he recovered. But what was even funnier was that my parents became concerned that I was becoming too attached to my manager. Imagine that!My non-Arab, non-Muslim, much older, married manager!What a disaster that would have been!

Needless to say, it was nothing like that. Am just a hypochondriac so I was distraught that it happened infront of me & I have this intense dislike of people dropping dead on me.

I think the fact that he nearly died infront of me made me forgive him for the first incident. His family told him about my concern for him & he was really touched. So we had a sort of reconciliation.

And my life in the office improved even more after those two incidents. He's much more supportive now, very sensitive to any implication that he's not. I know he fought really hard to get me my promotion. One of the directors was reported to have told him you say she already works so hard she can't work any harder so why should we pay her more to do the same amount of work?And my manager supposedly defended me like a hero. So says the office gravepine i.e. the secretaries.

When I took time off to get married, came back & he sent me for training for almost two weeks, then a couple of months later I took another two weeks off because of my miscarriage I was expecting trouble. No one takes that much time off in such a short period. But nothing happened. Not even a negative comment.

Ok so that was my career history. Felt like writing it. Hope it doesn't turn out to be an obituary of my career. Still spooked about what happened on Wed. But getting over it slowly.


Thursday, May 11, 2006


This morning I made a mistake that could have cost me my career. At the very least. It was also the kind of mistake that could be easily misconstrued. An honest mistake but it would have been difficult to prove that because it involves a conflict of interest & large sums of fines & insurance money etc...And this is a country where you're guilty til proven innocent.

Except I managed to rectify the situation without anyone being the wiser. Or cover it up so to speak.

As I type now my hands are shaking. It was a freak chance that I came in early enough to save the day. My manager's usual insensitivity. He called at 5:00am & woke me up to ask me to come in an hour early. Note that we start work at 7:30am. I was not amused.

He wanted me here to do something totally different. But being here I couldn't resist going over yesterday's work again. And that's when I found it. Just sat there staring at the screen thinking how could I have missed that & how could anyone believe me if I said I missed it?What is happening to me?Why am I suddenly so incompetent?

The panic paralyzed me for seconds & then I was off. The fight or flight response. There was no way out so I had to fight. By 8:30am I was done. My manager called to ask about the status of the other task - the one he made me come in early for. What could I say?I told him I didn't feel well & needed to leave the office for an hour, that I'll give him a report when I come back.

Just sat in the car for a while. Called my husband but he was swamped at work & couldn't talk. Was paralyzed again. The hour was almost up but I wasn't ready to go back & face my manager. What would I say? Come clean about the fact that I couldn't do what he wanted me to do because I had another emergency on my hands? Keep my mouth shut? Just didn't know.

Gave up on thinking & just started praying. It worked too. The boss called to say he'd be out office for the rest of today, give me a couple more tasks to handle for him & tell me that we'll talk tomorrow.

What a relief! It gives me a chance to think about what to do, talk it over with my husband & some friends.

I've got to start sleeping. This is ridiculous. Yesterday I was too sleepy to concentrate. Was easily distracted. Spent half the working day blogging. Worked very late but accomplished very little because I just couldn't focus. Haven't slept more than 2 or 3 hrs a night in over 10 days now.

I have never, ever been in a situation like this before. Maybe because I never had this kind of responsibility before. So does this mean I can't handle it? I don't know anymore. My husband & I both stay up very late. We rarely get to sleep before 2:00am. But he seems to be managing fine. I mean he hasn't killed any of his patients or anything. Maybe his work needs less concentration? Or maybe because he gets to sleep in an extra hour & a half in the morning?

But the things is if we don't stay up late when do we ever get to spend anytime together?In the weekends?What kind of marriage would that be? I miss him so much all day & now I have to give up the nights too?And our weekends aren't even the same. Like today. I have half a day off on Thurs but he'll be working two-shifts. He has Saturdays off but I have to work full-time on Sat. So we only get Fridays. Once a week. God I can't believe this. I used to see more of him when were dating. But now when I think of it when we were dating I called in sick or took a few hrs off work or came in late in the morning a lot etc....Couldn't have kept that up indefinitely. All those hrs I spent hanging around the clinic or out with him were often borrowed from work.

Thinking of taking the rest of the day off & going home to sleep. Am so exhausted now. I think the stress of events this morning was the straw that broke the camel's back. My system is completely overloaded & ready to shut down.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Images From Human Rights Watch

Security Forces Attacking Demonstrators

More commentary from HRW:

"“Police brutality against peaceful protestors is becoming the norm again in Egypt,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division. “What we saw in Cairo on Saturday night reflected a high-level decision not just to prevent a demonstration, but also to physically punish those daring to protest President Mubarak’s candidacy.”"


Human Rights Watch Condemns Arrests

(Thanks Nelle for referring me to HRW.)

Oh my God. The number of detainees according to Human Rights Watch is 100 not 48!

Egypt: Award-Winning Blogger Among New Arrests
More Than 100 Now Held in Political Protests

(New York, May 10, 2006) – Egyptian security officials arrested 11 more political reform activists, including an award-winning blogger, Alaa Ahmed Seif al-Islam, Human Rights Watch said today. This brings to more than 100 the number of people detained over the past two weeks for exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and expression.

Approximately half of those arrested are members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were putting up posters and distributing leaflets protesting the April 30 extension of emergency rule for another two years. The Emergency Law has been in effect since President Hosni Mubarak came to power in October 1981. The others were detained for demonstrating in support of a group of judges campaigning for greater judicial independence.

”These new arrests indicate that President Mubarak intends to silence all peaceful opposition,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division.

The latest arrests occurred on May 7 near the South Cairo Court where activists arrested on April 24 were scheduled to appear before a judge. Police released three of the 11 new detainees, but transferred the remaining eight to the Heliopolis state security prosecutor, who extended their detention for 15 days. The eight detained are: Ahmed `Abd al-Gawad, Ahmed `Abd al-Ghaffar, Alaa Ahmed Seif al-Islam, Asma’a `Ali, Fadi Iskandar, Karim al-Sha`ir, Nada al-Qassas and Rasha Azab.

On May 8, authorities extended for another 15 days the detention of a dozen activists arrested on April 24. They initially faced charges of blocking traffic, but the authorities later transferred their cases to state security prosecutors. Yesterday, authorities extended the detention of 28 activists arrested on April 26 and 27 for another 15 days. All those arrested between April 24 and May 7 for demonstrating now face charges of “insulting the president,” “spreading false rumors,” and “disturbing public order” under the parallel state security legal system set up under the Emergency Law.

According to a statement published on an activist Web site, activists detained between April 24 and 27 have begun a hunger strike to protest prison conditions, including threats of torture and ill-treatment.

“The activists detained over the past two weeks should be released immediately, unharmed,” Stork said. “The Egyptian government is responsible under international law for their safety.”

The campaign of judges for greater judicial independence has become a rallying point for political reform activists. The Judges’ Club, the quasi-official professional organization for members of the judiciary, refused to certify the results of last year’s parliamentary elections after more than 100 of the judges reported irregularities at polling stations. In February, the government-controlled Supreme Judicial Council stripped four of the most vocal judges of their judicial immunity."

Alaa is of course the award-winning blogger mentioned in HRW's headline. Together with his co-blogger & wife Manal, they won a special award from Reporters sans Frontieres in 2005.

From the RSF article:

"The wife-husband pair has become an institution among Arabic bloggers and journalists critical of the Egyptian regime. Manal and Alaa strive to promote freedom of expression and protect human rights as well as highlight the need for political reforms in Egypt. Their Weblog also offers other bloggers free storage space and practical help starting their own initiatives and has been has been crucial is developing a critical and engaged blogger scene in Egypt and the Arabic-speaking world."


Google-Bombing For Alaa

Bloggers at Free Alaa are asking those of you who would like to help to write a Google bomb on your blog for Alaa. A Google bomb raises the Google rating for a website so that it comes up higher on searches.

The target website here is of course Free Alaa. By leading more Google users to this website you can help spread the word & raise awareness of this issue worldwide.

The way to do that is very simple. Write a post that mentions the word "Egypt" as many times as you possibly can. On every mention of the word, link it to Free Alaa.

Since am not feeling very creative this morning, am going to borrow my Google bomb from Odyssey Online Egypt:

"When we think about Egypt, camels, pyramids, and mummies often come to mind! That's not surprising since much of what we know about ancient Egypt comes from the tombs of Egyptians and the objects found buried with them.
No one knows exactly what life was like in ancient Egypt, but these objects tell us a lot. Egypt fashion, religious beliefs, recreational activities, and much more can be explored through the art they created and included in their burials.

Lazy I know. And not nearly enough "Egypt" in that paragraph. So here goes:

Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt, Egypt

Technorati Tag:


Free Alaa

A group of bloggers have created a Free Alaa blog to help coordinate efforts to secure his release & the release of all the other detainees.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Bloggers In Trouble

The Sandmonkey reports:

"Alaa, blogger, co-founder of the egyptian blog aggregator Manalaa and democracy activist, got arrested today during a protest to support the Judiciary's branch fight for independence. He, and about 10 others, were rounded up in the street, beaten up and thrown in a police car. Amongst those who got arrested were at least 3 girls, and the police beat up at least another 2 girls as well.

The way it worked, the police made sure to press the demonstartors close to the egyptian musem, where they cordoned them and wouldn't let them leave, while continiously hurling insults at them. The demonstartors tried to get the police to let them go for half an hour, but no avail. The Police cordon then opend where a group of plainly dressed police officers and thugs rushed in and started beating up the demonstartors and dragging them on the asphalt till they threw them in the police vehicles. The Police also made sure that none of the satalite news channels would be able to get video footage of what they did by not allowing the press to come close and keeping them away the entire time.

Now, I don't know that this will be just a one night arrest thing or if they will try to make an example out of him and keep him arrested for a while. I am still waiting on that piece of news. But by all the gods in heaven, if they keep him more than another day I will start my own campaign and will not rest till we free him like we did AbdelKarim. I will be damned if we let the regime get away with this. So, readers, if things come to that, we will need your help. The Committe to protect bloggers is no more , we are on our own and the regime is getting more desperate, paranoid and brutal by the minute. We will most certainly need your support to get him out, but let's just hope it doesn't come to that.

For now, all we can do, is wait and see.

Rabena yostor!

Update: They've taken alaa to the state secuirty building in Heliopolis. Rumors I am hearing are not good, at all."

According to another Egyptian blogger Mostafa Hossein:

"Alaa is one of the most active people working to support the blogosphere in Egypt. Coupled with his wife manal, thier "Bit Bucket", is the aggregator collecting almost all Egyptian bloggers. He is one of the people that the Egyptian blogosphere success and latest wide spreading is indebted to."

Sandmonkey thinks you may be able to help Alaa, Malek & the other(nearly 60 activists including girls & minors) who are currently incarcerated over these events.

It seems that the Egyptian police have a record of not treating detainees very well & there are serious concerns about their safety.

This is very bad news. Everytime I read of similar events in the Middle East am filled with depression & self-pity not just for the victims - for all of us. That in the year 2006, we still have to live with this sort of threat hanging over our heads, that we have no culture of human rights & that the government which is supposed to protect its citizens should instead be abusing them.


Saturday, May 06, 2006


Reading Leilouta's post about celebrating her first wedding anniversary (Congrats Leilouta!) brought me to a sudden & not entirely welcome realization about my own marriage. For ages I've been going around saying oh we've only been married a couple of months & feeling like a honeymoon couple. But actually we're in our 6th month now. 6 months! That's like half a year.

I feel cheated! Seriously. I feel like saying no wait a minute I didn't see that. Can I rewind?

He was surprised too.

Time is a funny thing. Am scared that one day I'll wake up & it will be our 50th anniversary & I'll still feel robbed!

If we make it to our 50th that is. Now excuse me while I start stressing about all the things that could go wrong & prevent us from making it to our 50th. Or our 25th. Or our 10th for that matter.

Thinking about tomorrow still scares me. And I still ask myself sometimes where I got the guts to commit to someone or something for good.

So instead I think I'll just concentrate on the fact that my dear beloved husband of 6 months is currently in Carrefour where I sent him with a shopping list that I made sure was no longer than 4 items. That was at 10:30pm. Now it's a quarter past midnight. Carrefour closes at midnight. So what does this mean?Another woman?


Friday, May 05, 2006


I have to admit that when I wrote Lipstick In My Hair I was just letting off steam. I didn't put a lot of very deep thought about the Condition of Man or the Meaning of Life into it.

But then I read the comments(Thanks guys). And a couple of commentators had more to add on their blogs:

1) Nora asks To Judge or Not to Judge. Like Hamlet, I find myself adding:"That is the question."

We're all judgemental. Even as we demand that others don't judge us, we judge them. We can all dish it out but we can't take it.

But is that the problem?Or does the problem start when you force your judgement or opinion of others on them & start expecting them to conform?

2) halalhippie wanted me to try to see a woman in hijab from Behind Blue Eyes.

Well I tried. And I kind of see where he's coming from. Human beings are subjective creatures because of our social conditioning. We're all so similar but so different because yes we're all human but the social conditioning varies so much from time to time & from place to place.

I am reminded of two verses from the Quran:

"And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors; verily in that are Signs for those who know."[30:22]

"O mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him..."[49:13]

Basically it's a fact. We're different & we'll always be. But we still have to share one planet. Furthermore, the world is becoming smaller & smaller. We have the internet, we have satellite TV. So now you see people in obscure(to you) parts of the world & you feel shocked that in their corner of the world they've developed a different culture than yours or different values, that they don't dress like you or eat like you etc....You feel shocked because you thought your way was the way, that you knew it all. It was all very clear to you. And now you're being introduced to the concept that something totally different maybe very clear to someone else.

And it goes further than that. You don't just get to see these aliens from other planets. It's not just information that has become more mobile. Everything is on the move. Labor is on the move. And capital is on the move. We're all becoming more & more interdependent. So not only do you get to see these Others. Sometimes you have to live with them. You have to walk in the same street. You have to live next door.

And it's still that one planet.

So what do we do?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Lipstick In My Hair

Last Friday I managed to make the prayers at the mosque. I'm always happy when that happens for a variety of reasons. One of which is that I can remember complaining for years about the fact that mosques in UAE have no place for female worshippers. Always saw that as blatant discrimination against women. Very annoying to see when even the most conservative sheikh will tell you that men & women are equal in spiritual matters. Isn't prayer a spiritual matter? If we're equal to men in spiritual matters then at the very least we should have equal access to houses of God.

Now that this has changed I feel I would be a real hypocrite if I don't pray at the mosque every chance I get. Just couldn't live with myself.

Of course the discrimination hasn't completely disappeared. Mosques with a seperate division for women are still in the minority. So we usually need to drive to get to one while men rarely do. Of course if the mosque doesn't have an entirely seperate room with seperate washing areas etc...for women, then we're not allowed in at all. This seems unfair to me. We only get to hear the Imam through a TV screen in the women's section. During sermons or religion classes only men get to ask questions. We can't obviously because he couldn't hear us. I've seen some women writing their questions on a piece of paper & handing them to their husbands or sometimes to a kindly looking male stranger before going into the mosque.

I thought that in the Prophet's day men & women all prayed in the same congregation?

My other gripe is about those sermons. A by-product of Sept.11 has been that all mosques in UAE now have to preach exactly the same sermon. And I mean exactly. As in word for word. It comes typed-up on a piece of paper from the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Any Imam who says a word outside the script gets immediately deported if he's an expatriate or fired if he's a local. All said scripts are strictly apolitical. They talk about things like Islamic dining table etiquette, or the Islamic way to knock on doors before going into people's houses etc....And they don't answer questions outside the designated topic.

I have mixed feelings about that really. On one hand it's nice that one no longer hears calls for hatred & violence coming out of the loudspeakers in the mosques. Some of them used to be quite distasteful. On the other hand, in the old days if you didn't enjoy one Imam's sermons at least you could change mosques & listen to something more inspiring. There was a lot of variety. That's no longer an option. They all have the same sermon & you're stuck with it.

The quote that keeps springing to my mind is "You have not converted a man because you have silenced him". In my humble opinion we need more discussion about fanaticism within Islam, its disregard for the value of human life, the viciousness it displays against women, disbelievers & even other Muslims. We need to talk about it more, analyze it & eradicate it. Simply silencing those who call for this fanaticism is just burying our heads in the sand, failing to confront them, failing to subtantiate our claim that they are distorting Islam. And what better place to fight this battle than the mosque?

Anyway I guess that is too much to ask of a country like UAE with a clearly stated policy of staying out of all regional conflicts - not getting on anyone's bad side. This is the Switzerland of the ME. You can't expect Emaratis to fight battles of any type. They're too busy trying to find a cool new ringtone for their mobile phones to bother. I swear this country is sometimes like an island in a turbulent sea. Except the islanders have very little awareness of the turbulent sea.

It was such a shock for me when I first saw the Boycott Danish signs in Carrefour. I mean this was so unEmarati!

So yeah I guess simply silencing the mosques is the patented, Emarati way of handling controversy.

Walking out of the mosque on Friday I had a strange encounter. My car was parked about 20 minutes walk away from the mosque because it's simply impossible to find parking space around a major mosque on Friday. Not unless you're there very early & everyone knows very early is just not me. Am more like very late.

I don't wear hijab but I do cover for prayer. On that particular day I was wearing a silk sheila & abaya on top of my jeans & t-shirt. Normally I would wait until am in my car before I take it off rather than start undressing in the middle of the street. But the weather was horrible & the walk in the sun was making me so sticky I felt I was suffocating in all that silk. So I stopped, took it off, stuffed it in my backpack & was about to move on when I heard someone say: "That's better."

I turned around & it was a British guy. About the same age as me. In shorts & sleeveless t-shirt. Clearly out walking the dog.

I said :"Excuse me, were you talking to me?" He said yes he just thought I looked really hot & bothered in the hijab & that I looked much better without it.

I didn't know what to say. So I just turned around & walked off. I heard him saying :"Sorry" but I never looked back.

Am so sick of the hijab debate. Sick of both sides. Those who think it's what defines a good Muslima. And those who refuse to accept that a woman has a right to veil if she wants. I find both sides intrinsically hostile to women because they treat us like idiots who shouldn't be trusted to choose what we want to wear today. And because of both sides life as a Muslim woman is becoming extremely stressful. If you wear it you face harrassment & discrimination from one group. If you don't wear it you face harrassment & discrimination from the other group. It's like both sides are forcing you to take sides in a conflict you think should not exist & have no interest in. Why is a woman's clothing such a polarizing issue? Why isn't it that way for men?

On a personal level, it always makes me livid when people think they can tell me what to wear. It's something I consider completely personal. And it's particularly infuriating coming from total strangers in the street. Normally I would have said something very rude. He was just lucky that I'm so overdosed on the hijab debate. I couldn't face it. So I ignored him.

And went home in a very bad mood. The traffic didn't help either.

When I got home my husband was in the living room, watching TV, having arrived home AGES before me since he, being male, just attended the mosque next door. And being male, he didn't have to cope with Friday noon traffic. And of course being male, he didn't have to deal with any hijab issues.

I stared at him resentfully for a second then without a word, I went & threw myself on the couch next to him, waiting for the air-conditioning to cool me off. I was thinking given the fact that we only have one couch big enough for a human adult to stretch out on the least he could do was get up & let me have it to myself. Couldn't he see how hot & tired & annoyed I was?

Apparently he could because he did get up & move into an armchair. I mumbled thanks & lay on the couch. A second later I felt his fingers in my hair. He said: "You have lipstick in your hair."

Let me explain. When your hair is impossible to control like mine & it's always getting in your face, sometimes it will touch your lips & stick in your lipstick. You pull it away of course but then the wind blows it back in your face. And ok I'll admit that I will sometimes chew on a strand of hair when am particularly stressed about something. The end result is that sometimes I look in the mirror & find lipstick smears all over my hair.

I tell him that it's MY hair & am tired of people telling me what to do with it. That I can show it or cover it if & when I choose. And that if it pleases me to wear lipstick in my hair then am well within my rights as a human being to do so.

He didn't say anything. Just kept on wiping lipsick from my hair, strand by strand.

Then I remembered you're not supposed to wear lipstick to the prayers & felt I should explain myself. So I told him I did try to wipe off my lipstick before I washed for prayer but I guess not all of it came off.

Again he didn't say anything. I guess he wasn't in the mood to talk.