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Mixed Oddfellows

Though not in the same class as the Paranormal, the Admiral Plaza merits a visit, if only for a change of scene. To get there, leave the Para before closing time (it only takes will-power), turn left and walk towards Bank Street. As you'll be heading down Bank Street, towards Customs House, you can cut the corner if you like, by crossing the desert car park, but beware of sand and pigeons. Once on Bank Street, be on the lookout for the Ascot Hotel, on your left. On no account enter this dismal establishment, but take it as a signal to cross the main road. Once over, you'll see, a little way along the first turning on the right, a big but easily missable white and blue neon sign heralding the Admiral Plaza, possibly Dubai's least celebrated hotel.

The bar entrance is diagonally across the entrance hall, hidden behind screens, as if (because?) the present Management are embarrassed by their seedy inheritance. Unlike Paranormal, you can play darts here without impaling anyone. And there's even a pretty tolerable live band (after Ramadan, of course). The place is darker than it needs to be, but is otherwise OK and, with the right company, which is readily available if you haven't brought your own(!), the seating arrangements (cozy booths) are remarkably comfortable.

On the other hand, Paraglider has never met anyone else who has been there, so it's just possible that it doesn't exist. Who knows?

50:50

The days of Ramadan tick by, quietly, and we watch the night sky. In a couple of nights, the full moon will mark the halfway point. The No Locals sign on Chalky's door has fallen once or twice, is showing dog-ears, but will probably last the fortnight. It scarcely matters; it's there only to placate the outrageable and be ignored by the regulars. Ringlets, on her corner stool, manages a wan smile, but still pines for Mahmoud. Back in two weeks, he'd said. On a brighter note, this full moon is also the Chinese mid-autumn festival of zhong qiu jie. Fasting is not a requirement. It's another excuse to eat moon cakes and be very happy. Nothing wrong with that.

With Deep Foreboding

As the Holy Month of Ramadan approaches there is the usual rumourmongering among the regulars. This year they're going to clamp down. All the bars will be closed. Or, This year they're going to relax. The bars will be open as normal. This year, of course will be just like last year, in the Paranormal. Closed through the daylight hours, open at seven, background music only and a table placed in the middle of the dance floor as a token bastion against frivolity. Perish the thought. Three pints of Stella and a deep and meaningful conversation with Helga. It's not such a hard life. In Qatar, every bar is closed for the whole month. There, the rumour is They're going to refurbish the Stufital during Ramadan. This is worrying. Not that it doesn't need an overhaul, but Ramadan is no time for project work. Nothing gets done. Still less in Qatar.

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