Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Turkey 2014 - The land of the Crescent Moon

Over the past few days I have received inbox messages from a few of my ardent facebook fans asking me why have I not written or blogged about my recent trip to Turkey. The honest truth is time... I returned from my vacation a few days before Eid, so it was getting ready for Eid and sorting out business issues at month end. I also traveled extensively over an 11 day period and I could not possibly write everything in one article. It was literally a case of 11 days, 4 flights and seven hotels. I have thus decided to break down my journey into days. So over the next few weeks I will try my best to do a weekly blog write up from day 1 to day 11. Hope you enjoy the write ups as much as I enjoyed the experience.

Day 1 and 2 --- Wednesday September 17 and Thursday September 18.

Our flight was at 22:30 at night. As we were four of us with luggage, dad decided that brother Haroon from Centurion Tours should do our transfer to the airport from our home. If you looking for a professional shuttle service in Johannesburg, I definitely recommend Centurion Tours. They are extremely reliable and their prices are definitely competitive. Having arrived at the airport, there was absolute chaos at the Emirates counter. The queues were horrendous. After finally checking in our luggage we all made our way to a restaurant for a sumptuous family dinner. I must be honest I cannot tolerate plane food. The nauseating smell just gets to me.  After boarding the flight, we decided to watch a few movies and get some sleep before landing in Dubai at around 8:00am.

Naturally we were hungry when we landed, and so after freshening up we decided to have a meal at the Ocean basket at Dubai airport. It was really busy  but the staff were extremely friendly. One of the waiter’s was from Zimbabwe and he worked at many Ocean baskets in South Africa. He was then transferred to Dubai. He told us that the grass is not always greener on the other side as many people believe it to be. In his opinion Dubai is only for the rich and famous whilst the rest of the middle class people are bullied and exploited. He earns a middle class salary which is a lot for him compared to Zimbabwe, but the standard of living in Dubai is high. According to him there is a culture of the high and mighty exploiting the poor and those who are desperately in need of a job.

As we still had some time before we boarded our connecting flight, we decided to do a free makeover at the Mac store located at the Dubai duty free section. Mac has always been one of my favourite cosmetic brands. I find that the makeup blends well into the skin. I love the feel and the texture of the makeup. After browsing through the duty free shops it was time to board our connecting flight. The flight to Turkey is usually three hours from Dubai but due to the war in Syria the flight route had to change thereby increasing the flight time by an hour and half.

It was raining when we arrived at Ataturk International airport. We were all flabbergasted by the huge influx of tourists at the airport. It was absolutely chaotic. Due to the rain and the fact that many flights were all landing at the same time, we waited for over an hour for our luggage.  After receiving our baggage we exited the airport. A representative from Insight Vacations was patiently waiting for us. A big thumbs up to the Turkish people for mastering the art of the tourism and hospitality industry. Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of people walking in different directions along with the cacophony of different sounds, our representative and bus driver was there ready to welcome us to their country.

The traffic in Istanbul is horrendous, like all other major cities in the world and hence it took us a good hour to get to the hotel. Whilst we were really tired and exhausted from all the travelling, the sheer opulence and grandeur of the Conrad hotel took our breath away. The staff welcomed us with a smile on their faces trying to make us feel as comfortable as possible. After settling in, in our respective rooms we made our way to the Manzara restaurant where we were allowed to indulge in the snacks and light buffet that was prepared for us.  After dinner, we headed straight back to our rooms to call it a night. We needed to get a good night sleep as the next morning the tour began at 8am.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Once again, the Medix team saves the day

2 October 2014

This country is gone to the F****** dogs. Excuse my French but I am extremely furious. Earlier this afternoon, a young woman was riding with her colleagues down Goldman street when suddenly she passed out from an asthmatic attack. She was unable to breathe.. gasping for each breath. Desperately looking for help they stopped at the pharmacy. My colleagues and I carried her out of the vehicle on a stretcher and we quickly nebulized her and connected her to some oxygen. After about an hour she started coming around. She started responding to treatment. At the pharmacy we have a minimal emergency supply of oxygen and thus we knew that even if she came around she still needed to be hospitalized. We called Netcare 911. We were refused help point blank as the lady did not have any medical aid. When we called for a government ambulance firstly no one answered the phone. When we finally got through to someone we were told that there are no ambulances available. Make your own plan to get the patient to the hospital. We then called the Florida park fire department. The operator on duty told us that there are no ambulances available. By now I was damn furious. I was worried that the woman must not have another attack in the pharmacy.My colleague and I got into the car and drove to the Florida Park fire department. Guess what. We counted 12 ambulances parked off. There was a gentleman on duty who realized the seriousness of the situation and was quite appalled at what we were told on the phone. When we returned to the pharmacy the ambulance arrived.. but one hour later from when then the initial call was made. Take note that the Florida park fire department is literally a 4 minute drive from the pharmacy.Another patient who was purchasing his medication during the whole ordeal informed us that his colleague at work died from a heart attack only because the ambulance arrived 2 hours later. The idiot driving the vehicle did not know how the GPS system worked and so they were driving around in circles trying to find the address. Welcome to South Africa folks.......

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

An Expats guide to residing in the Kingdom

Over the past few weeks now I have been inundated with emails and inbox messages enquiring about residing in the Kingdom in terms of pros and cons. Most of the messages are from females who have acquired opportunities to work in Saudi Arabia. Some of the concerns raised included:
- Women being unable to drive in the Kingdom
- The extreme weather conditions
- Kids education
- Arabs are mean and will treat you like slaves
- Do you get Indian spices

I did not have the time to respond to each and every email and inbox message and so I decided to do a post on the above concerns raised. This is my advice to anyone deciding to make a home abroad outside South Africa.
1. Firstly if you contemplating taking up a job opportunity in the Kingdom, please do not read about other people’s experiences especially experiences from western expats who have no idea about Arab or Islamic culture. Most Saudi blogs written by western expats are negative and portray Arabs and the Kingdom in general in a bad light.

2. Do not listen to extended family member comments. – When I broke the news to my extended family on Eid day years ago I was bombarded with all sort of comments. Whilst my immediate family were over the moon and supportive of my decision my extended family were sceptical about my journey to the magical Kingdom. Here are some of the comments that were thrown at me.  “How can you be so silly to leave a good job behind only to become a slave to the Arabs?”
“Arabs are bad people. You will run away from Saudi within a month after arrival” I resided in the Kingdom for 5 years . Listen to your heart and follow you dreams.  Everyone has their own experiences and you need to make your own journey and experience a memorable one. In every country you get the good, the bad and the ugly. Do not generalise and paint everyone with the same paint brush.

3. As an expat you need to forget your South African ways and habits and get in touch with the local culture and people. After all when you in Rome do as the Romans do.

4. Make an effort to learn Arabic. There are many private tutors and schools in the Kingdom that teach Arabic to expats. As soon as you speak the local lingo you start breaking the ice, you start breaking cultural barriers and you will find the locals responding towards you in a more positive light. (http://www.expatriates.com/classifieds/riy/)

5. Don’t  isolate yourself and mix only with the expat community. Become friends with the locals. Most Saudis are very hospitable. They are eager to share their culture and their traditions with expats.

6. In the Kingdom, women are not allowed to drive which was actually a blessing in disguise for me. I enjoyed the luxury of being chauffeur driven. After all the queen of England doesn’t drive around by herself, does she.

7. We reside in a global community where all types of products are available everywhere. In Saudi Indian groceries and vegetables are readily available considering that the country is home to a large Indian expat community. Food and spices should be your least of worries.

8. Education in the Kingdom is expensive. This needs to be discussed with your sponsor at the time of signing your job contract. Most companies will pay for the education of two kids only.

9. Most hospitals have a social club. It is highly recommended that you join the social club to be in touch with the latest fun happenings within the hospital. Activities include sporting events, weekend camping trips and touring the Gulf region in the company of knowledgeable tour guides.

10. On the subject of weather, yes in peak summer which is around June July, the temperature can soar to as high as 55 degrees. Do not despair, there are air conditioning systems in place wherever you go.

11. Last but not least, embrace local culture, cuisine and traditions. Respect and abide to  the laws of the country. Remember that it is not your country and you are simply a guest in the country. Do not bitch and moan about rules, laws and regulations. Most western expats do this and it is just totally disrespectful and uncalled for.
And in the words of Mark Twain, ““Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Monday, August 25, 2014

Maan Hamadeh - A musical maestro

The first thing I do when I get to the pharmacy in the morning is of course turn on my laptop and surf the internet for the latest events and news  across the globe. A few days ago I was browsing through the Emirates 24/7 website when I came across a caption that captivated me. " Pianist stuns airport with take on Beethoven". The piano has always been my favourite instrument and I do regret not learning how to play as a child, so naturally I clicked on the Youtube video and oh boy wasn't I left speechless. I was totally taken aback by the way in which Maan Hamadeh played the piano with absolute grace and finesse. At first I thought it was a normal Beethoven track that he was playing but he kept on changing the tempo and the style of the masterpiece taking everyone at the airport by surprise and leaving me bewildered. I thought to myself, who is this man, why hasn't anyone recognized such a talented artist.I really need to know more about him. I then decided to contact him and I must say I feel quite honoured that he willingly accepted my invitation to be interviewed for my blog.

1. Firstly Maan, thank you so much for taking time out to be interviewed by me on such short notice.I am curious to know, who is Maan Hamadeh? Tell me a little more about your family background and life from childhood until present? 
Sumayya, thank you for the great introduction you did. It is a pleasure to be interviewed on your blog as well.Maan Hamadeh from Lebanon, El Shouf grew up in a mountainous village called Baaqline within a small family where he was the youngest among his siblings. He did his high school emphasis in General Sciences and then went to Beirut to continue the Computer Science studies in college.He worked for two years in Lebanon within the field of Computer Science and then moved to Dubai to continue working within his area of expertise. Throughout his life and starting at the age of 4 he started playing the Keyboard which he had the greatest passion for.
2.Do you belong to a musically inclined family?Where did you learn how to play the piano so melodiously?
   No one in our family plays any musical instrument. When i was a kid, my siblings used to have a private music teacher however they did not continue with it. At the age of 4 i requested a keyboard as a gift. When my parents got me one, i started playing it by trial and error and by ear. They decided to get me a private teacher as well and then i learned the basics for one year. I continued afterwards practicing alone until the age of 12 where i also took some private lessons with a teacher. I always did not like to read the scores. I was always passionate about playing a piece of music the way i like and not by reading the scores (notes). So i asked my parents to stop the private lessons and i continued practicing alone and playing any song i hear just "by ear".

3. Do you play for an orchestra? Besides the piano, do you play any other instruments?
   When i was in Lebanon i used to play with a band but not an Orchestra. Besides piano i like the rhythmic instruments but i do not play them as good as the piano or the keyboard.
4. What has been your most memorable performance thus far?
    I don't think any piece I played before can be more memorable than the one i played in Prague Airport.

5. If you could be granted one wish and have any skill or talent in the world, what would it be?
    I am thankful for the talent i have and my wish is to make my talent the only source of living.

6. What are your favourite websites? 
    Whatever website that answers my questions when i need answers from the web! And, thank you for   Youtube :)

7. Where do you see yourself  five years from now? What are your plans for the future?
    This is a great opportunity for me to be sponsored and excel in the music domain to be on higher levels.      There are many ideas in mind, such as recording musical albums and touring the world for concerts.

8. Define success. What does success mean to you?
In the music domain, success is when people talk NOW about a music work you have done 20 years ago and still love it.In general, success for me is when you reach continuous happiness from things you are passionate about and achieve money and time balance ! 

9. You have become an overnight web sensation after the Youtube video of you playing at Prague airport went viral. How does it make you feel as an artist?
Since music is my passion, and i have always wished that i could do something with music that reaches peoples' hearts, i think that this is every artist's dream.

10. Do you teach music? Would you consider teaching music in the future?
   I can teach music, but this is not in my plans yet.

11. They say practice makes perfect. How often do you play the piano? Do you rehearse everyday or do you play as a form of relaxation
    "Practice makes perfect" yes it does! I don't play the piano just to practice, no, piano is my best friend where i translate every thing i feel to music. And therefore it is a great form of relaxation and also a form of relief. 

12.What advise would you give to young aspiring musicians out there?
    Play music and feel happy and when you do, spread the happiness to those around who need it. 

Once again, thank you Maan for agreeing to be interviewed by me . Desert Moon wishes you all the best in your future endeavours!!! This is definitely one of the most inspiring interviews that I have ever done. I am so honoured and proud to have interviewed a man who has made a positive impact globally through his music whilst the world is engulfed in political turmoil and war. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

Friday, August 22, 2014

No unity, No success

After hearing about the plight of employees working at many Muslim owned companies, I think we should be boycotting these companies first before we decide to tackle Israel..We such a bunch of hypocrites... Many Muslim owned companies function with interest. Whilst the owners of these companies are earning mega bucks the poor employees at ground level are earning meagre non market related salaries. Bribery and corruption is the order of the day in terms of acquiring deals and tenders. I sometimes sit back and sigh with a smile on my face.There are Muslims out there supporting the protests to boycott Israel and boycott Israeli products etc but these same culprits are exploiting their employees. Boycotting this and that makes no difference. The truth of the matter is that the Jews rule and run the global economy. We might as well stop putting our patients at Netcare hospitals as well. After all ain't the major share holders Jewish. The Muslims will always fail because we have no unity. We have thousands of educated graduates but we are too selfish to start up our own hospitals, clinics etc...We too selfish to start up more factories and businesses to create employment. Its all got to stay within the family. The Jews beat us. They have unity. They have organizations in place caring for the elderly, they make sure that every child gets a proper tertiary education. Their elderly is being cared for in specialized old age homes funded by the community...
Muslim communities have no unity. Its all about I want to be better than you. I want to be wealthier than you. I want to have a better car than you.......And then we ask ourselves why are the Muslims being punished all across the globe. We do wrong, we lead our lives contrary to the Quraan and the sunnah and yet we expect Allahs mercy and blessings to fall upon us. We still expect the Muslims to be victorious in the global onslaught we are currently faced with. It ain't happening. Muslims can never and will never attain victory until and unless our own internal affairs are in order. Treat your staff in the same manner as you would treat your family. Win people over into Islam by displaying the character of a Muslim. When you walking in a public space smile. Smiling is a form of sadaqa. Through smiling you can break down the image that the global zionist media has created of Muslims and Islam. I was never a fan of branded clothing especially after visiting the factories where these clothes are manufactured. Some of these factories located in India, Thailand and China utilize child labour. The employees are paid less than one dollar a day. When the clothes return to the USA or France etc a stamp or a logo is attached to the clothing and of course, we , the dumb consumer will pay an exorbitant amount for the garment. I know of Muslim women out there who attended the protest marches in support of Palestine and yet these same women are brand conscious.... We only wear guess, Chanel...etc etc etc. Almost all of the major global brands we have today are linked to Israel.. That is the reality. As Muslims we have failed in creating our own international brands and even when Muslim owned companies do emerge, Muslims will never support that company. We would rather choose to undermine the quality of the product and choose to still buy the same product manufactured by a non Muslim company. We have this warped idea that anything branded or manufactured by a western company is the best and of a far superior quality. That folks is the sad reality of our community....