Lucky You

 The following post is an old article of mine I really enjoy reading even today. It has been edited and all names and evidence have been removed to make sense to you today. And yes, it’s a true story. 🙂 
gladstone1You would have thought that in a very small country – like the one I live in –  your chances of winning in competitions, contests or any other event that promises “big prizes” to the contestants are higher than anywhere else, taking into consideration the population statistics.
If you pay attention to the signboards on the road you will be overwhelmed by the big banners of banks, companies, shopping malls, supermarkets advertising their competition rewards to their potential clientele: “Win a House”, Two Convertible Cars for our Big Winners”, “buy this and get your Brand New Ipad”. Then it’s the SMS messages that usually wake you up at one o’clock in the morning on this “Amazing Competition” or that “Answer our Question and Fly to Hawaii” alluring you to take part in a treasure hunt. And you fall for it. But you haven’t seen anyone from your close circle getting anything more than minor gifts and that is if it ever happens, usually once in a blue moon and then all the family cheers on the unexpected luck’s strike that made you win that 10 dinar coffee maker that usually breaks after a couple of uses.
Time after time that you try and try and enter competitions and with no significant wins you really wonder if your luck sucks or whether you are doing something wrong. It just can’t be that some colleague brags about how he won twice a Lexus car not to mention the cash rewards pouring in from time to time, while you haven’t seen a cent out of all these coupons you keep completing with your details… details which the companies use over and over to overflow you with SMS and email communication, sometimes even at 1 o’clock past midnight.
Well think twice. Things are not as they seem and maybe after all there is nothing wrong with your luck but rather with who you know.
I randomly chose a Bank in my city to make a little research on their super prizes winners’ list. The bank had been promoting (lets call it) the “Super” awards for a few years now, where supposedly the “Super” bank account holders automatically get 1 ticket per 50 dinars deposited in their accounts and get eligible to enter for the prize draws held weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly… In fact they advertise their monthly award as “salary for life” where one winner receives 250,000 dinars. And this is separately from the weekly draws with several winners of 25,000 dinars and 1,000 each.. And that’s a lot of money…
So here is what I discovered: The same winners over and over and over again as if they have signed a contract with the Muse of Luck or better.. they have an agreement with the Bank, or are they Donald Duck’s cousin Gladstone and I don’t know?
I was very interested in knowing who these lucky people really are and how they do it. Did a magic wand simply turned them into princes and princesses of luck? I doubt it. Thinking about it, I get the impression that the bank “owes” them or better “grants” them this kind of money.
Then you have all these VERY LUCKY PEOPLE (ironically) WINNING IN THE SAME DRAW TWICE!! WHAT A JACKPOT!
And then you find there is inconsistency between the bank’s website winners’ list and the local newspaper’s published one. Those who won twice in the same draw are only mentioned once in the newspaper. Keep quiet media.. it must have only been a “typo”. But it wasn’t.
Digging further you bump on to another draw of two persons with the same surname and initials – what seems to be brothers – winning BD 25,000 each in a single spin of “luck”. I think we made our point, no need to further prove there is something fishy in the story.
Interestingly enough, each draw which is held at the bank’s headquarters is “supervised” by a big company of external auditors and in the presence of bank officials AND state officials to certify “legitimacy”. How come no one has ever noticed that the process keeps rewarding the same people over and over and over? Strange..
“The more you save the more you win!” you will see in the Bank’s website. Utterly Wrong. It should rather be: “The more you have the more you win”. The competition scheme does not reward customer loyalty but wealth instead.
The bank will claim that the more you “save” the more raffle tickets you get, thus the more chances you have in winning their competition.
From the account holder’s point of view it looks like a good incentive to start saving money, although it makes you feel like when you were a little kid and mom and dad were preaching on the importance of economizing pushing you to drop your money pocket in the piggy bank when what you really wanted was to spend that money for a fancy toy.
However, from the bank’s point of view it’s superb! Imagine all this money in their safes… Where does it go? Does it just sit there? Money makes the world go round, and money is a bank’s major product. Banks sell money. That is YOUR money they sell. So your money is either invested or given to someone else as a loan where the bank of course will get its share from the lender. So banks use YOUR money to get THEIR money doubled or tripled and so on and so on. If a bank is able to award each month 750,000 BD in cash prizes to their customers, imagine the profits of this bank.
But wait a minute… Supposedly the bank should award all the people who entrust their fortune to them, sort of a thank you. Right? Interest rates are peanuts today and therefore here comes the “competition”.
Needless to say, the concept of the specific competition doesn’t look fair. Imagine someone having 1,000,000 BD deposited in his bank account that will bring him in each draw.. hmmmm 20,000 raffle tickets, whereas someone with 1,000 BD in the account will only get 20 tickets… Who has the more chances in winning this competition? Is this fair? Rewarding the wealthy? ?? I don’t’ think it would make any much difference if you had given the wealthy that extra 1000!
In the bank’s website there is a disclaimer: “In order to provide a balanced participation structure in the draw, maximum draw chances per customer is capped at 10,000 chances”
Let me laugh out loud here. It’s obvious you can overrule that. If I were rich would I only hold ONE account? What if I had 5 children? I would create 5 accounts and one for my wife. And let that poor Asian expat dream of winning with the 500 dinars he has saved over the last decade… (here goes the satanic laughter).
Then again, shouldn’t there be a clause like i.e. once you win an amount you are not allowed to reenter the competition for an x period of time so you could give other people the chance of winning too? That would keep all clients satisfied in one way or another if we finally get to believe that the system they have to process the draw “randomly” and “by chance” selects the winners, which certainly seems not to be the case.
It can’t get any clearer than that and companies, organizations, even governmental entities do it all the time: reserve the best for themselves and their courtyard. And while I want to believe that we live in meritocracy, while I want to believe that luck is blind and might hit me as well, while I want to dream on my little cloud that I will be spared the chance to try my luck, nepotism and cronyism seem to invade even in my DREAMLAND, destroy every dream I have, destroy my chances, demolish my luck.
Above all what I really hate more is how shamelessly and ruthlessly they just make fun of me right in front of my face. But now I know them. And this time it is me who won’t be sparing them.

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George Orwell on american fashion

You wouldn’t expect George Orwell to have written about fashion magazines. Yet, brilliant as he was,  he did. The following article originally appeared in The New Republic on December 2, 1946 and it is republished as one of the most memorable and “wackiest” articles of the newspaper’s 100 years of history.  Taking in mind that we are talking about George Orwell, I wouldn’t name his article “wacky”, but rather the writer found  a connotation behind American fashion imagery and literature. It’s simply the american “fashion”, the american “way” reflected in the magazine that landed on his hands.
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photo credit: jason ilagan via photopin cc
Someone has just sent me a copy of an American fashion magazine which shall be nameless. It consists of 325 large quarto pages, of which no less than 15 are given up to articles on world politics, literature, etc. The rest consists entirely of pictures with a little letterpress creeping round their edges: pictures of ball dresses, mink coats, step-ins, panties, brassières, silk stockings, slippers, perfumes, lipsticks, nail polish—and, of course, of the women, unrelievedly beautiful, who wear them or make use of them.
One striking thing when one looks at these pictures is the overbred, exhausted, even decadent style of beauty that now seems to be striven after. Nearly all of these women are immensely elongated. A thin-boned, ancient-Egyptian type of face seems to predominate: narrow hips are general, and slender, non-prehensile hands like those of a lizard are quite universal. Evidently it is a real physical type, for it occurs as much in the photographs as in the drawings. Another striking thing is the prose style of the advertisements, an extraordinary mixture of sheer lushness with clipped and sometimes very expensive technical jargon. Words like suave-mannered, custom-finished, contour-conforming, mitt-back, inner-sole, backdip, midriff, swoosh, swash, curvaceous, slenderize and pet-smooth are flung about with evident full expectation that the reader will understand them at a glance. Here are a few sample sentences taken at random:
“A new Shimmer Sheen color that sets your hands and his head in a whirl.” “Bared and beautifully bosomy.” “Feathery-light Milliken Fleece to keep her kitten-snug!” “Others see you through a veil of sheer beauty, and they wonder why!” “An exclamation point of a dress that depends on fluid fabric for much of its drama.” “The miracle of figure flattery!” “Molds your bosom into proud feminine lines.” “Isn’t it wonderful to know that Corsets wash and wear and whittle you down… even though they weigh only four ounces!” “The distilled witchery of one woman who was forever desirable… forever beloved… Forever Amber.” And so on and so on and so on.
A fairly diligent search through the magazine reveals two discreet allusions to gray hair, but if there is anywhere a direct mention of fatness or middle-age I have not found it. Birth and death are not mentioned either: nor is work, except that a few recipes for breakfast dishes are given. The male sex enters directly or indirectly into perhaps one advertisement in twenty, and photographs of dogs or kittens appear here and there. In only two pictures, out of about three hundred, is a child represented.
On the front cover there is a colored photograph of the usual elegant female, standing on a chair while a gray-haired, spectacled, crushed-looking man in shirtsleeves kneels at her feet, doing something to the edge of her skirt. If one looks closely one finds that actually he is about to take a measurement with a yardstick. But to a casual glance he looks as though he were kissing the hem of the woman’s garment—not a bad symbolical picture of American civilization, or at least of one important side of it.

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Tip-Toe walking in style and comfort

shoesI hear a lot of women opposing the idea of wearing high heels especially when they have a long day ahead filled with work, chores, driving or running after the kids… But none of them argues the fact that high heels are the ultra elegant accessory that gives you a magical – on the spot – feminine posture and movement, elongates the legs, tones your figure and tops up your fashion stakes and confidence.

It surely takes some practice to walk on them confidently and some women have certainly mastered the art of tip-toe walking more than others, however for those who by just looking at a pair of high heels feel that comfort is sacrificed over gracefulness, fashion made it easy for them this year and provided the perfect solution:
Wedges!!

Wedges provide a much better support so you can practice your “catwalk”, they come in all heights so you can wear them from morning to night, plus you won’t have to be afraid of destroying your perfect high heels while walking on a bad maintained road.

This summer’s top trends:

Espadrilles, the casual staple is back (actually never left the scene for some summers now). Cork wedges in patent leather preferably in nude color, snake skin and python details, canvas pumps in mute and bold colors, luxe  sneakers and METALLICS all over!  And let me not forget the color of the season which is no other than bright orange!

We have few suggestions for you on the spot, from left to right: Jimmy Choo nude cork wedges, Christian Louboutin, Tory Burch snakeskin embossed wedges, Tory Burch orange low wedges, Prada metallic silk wedges, Jimmy Choo metallic wedges, Giuseppe Zanotti  metallic wedge sneakers, Michael Kors canvas wedges and you can find them all at Saks Fifth Avenue or the respective boutiques.

Now, don’t go to the other side of the fence where you wouldn’t take them off even if you’d go on a safari in the desert, unless your name is Carrie Bradshaw…

*Fashion – Safety Tip: Always have a pair of flats in your car !! Simply store them under the passenger’s seat and wear them for driving, this way you won’t have to sacrifice your style or damage your precious high heels while stepping on the accelerator. And you drive safely too!

Still not sure what is best for you or need tips on where to find amazing deals? Contact us and arrange for your appointment with a Personal Shopper! It will save you time and money.

Lilliputians vs Giants

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Families lined up in front of the check-in counters, waiting – not so patiently – for their tickets; it seems that the flight will be full… of kids. “Here are your boarding passes sir” says the lady behind the desk, in the Emirates uniform; “you may now proceed to the security control”. -“Dad, can I hold mine?” a little boy asks… Yes, we are on our way for a trip unlike any others; a trip to a place where children’s creativity is about to unfold and tested in real life situations.

I admit it, I was really nervous before getting on board and not because I have aerophobia, my “fear” had to do with our destination. Being a mother of two who loves her kids and enjoys spending time with them but at the same time hates in-door kids’ play parks where children shout and make a fuss, I thought that entering this kids’ paradise and staying with them for a couple of hours, would be living my hell… Well this time it wasn’t the case.

Kidzania, a kids’ indoor role-playing park, situated in Dubai mall is a two-storey micrograph of a town, a city designed and built on a small scale, which has nothing to envy from a grown-ups town. Its residents, the Kidzanians, have their own government, their own facilities, their own shopping outlets and of course their own currency.

Passing the security control off we get in. Our first stop: HSBC bank where kids can cash in their cheques in the town’s official currency: the kidzos. Adults can escort the younger children but are not supposed to enter the little shops and organizations, which left me and my husband like many other parents drooling outside the glass windows of the toy-size premises trying to sneak on the kids’ facial expressions to feel the same level of excitement that they did while they were engaged in the activities.

Since we got our money (or was it their money?), it was time for some earning or spending! Whereas boys are putting up their sleeves to get their hands busy on their first jobs (for which they are paid for), the girls are much more prone into spending their money in the Beauty Salon, buying groceries from Waitrose or making their own bracelets in the Jewellery Shop (typical women’s behavior a man could admit).

Being dragged by my kids towards the Flight Simulator Center we stop and stand aside on the pavement hearing the sound of sirens: the fire truck full of fire(little)men are on their mission to put off a fire close to town’s main square. Next to us a little fellow holding a TNT package is looking at his watch worrying he might be late for the package delivery.

After successfully completing his flight simulator course and being assigned his first flight, my son moves on to his new adventure: He wants to participate in a car race at Kidzania’s racing track, but to do so, first he needs to go to the Ministry of Transportation to issue his driving license and complete his driving skills’ test.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the town, my daughter is hired as a fashion model and after all the dress and make up she’s ready to strike a pose on camera. As for the fashion show that is scheduled for later in the day, she will have to learn how to walk as a model on the catwalk.

The clock strikes twelve and happy songs are heard from the Theater’s auditorium – balcony: Young performers freshly graduated from the Acting Academy are singing and dancing in front of the Kidzania’s Eternal Spirit Monument. The show is broadcasted live on the Kidzania television station and reporters are after the spectators for a statement on their impressions. The show was the lead story on Kidzania’s newspaper too as a major event.

Up and down, in and out we spent more than four hours in the amazing little town until the kids started feeling exhausted. Eventually they worked really hard: in these four hours they became pilots, television presenters, radio broadcasters, doctors, policemen, firemen, fashion models, construction workers, teachers, shoppers, cooks and still they hadn’t visited all of the places in the town. But the best part was that even we, their parents, despite the fact that we weren’t actively participating, we had an amazing time with our kids so that we didn’t feel the time fly by.

With the no-kids-zone movement on the rise in many parts of the world, Kidzania might the answer to all those who encourage the “brat ban”. Malaysia Airlines has banned babies from many of their first class cabins urging other major airlines to do the same. Restaurants, hotel resorts, movie theaters, and even outdoor areas in compounds are turning into child-free zones. Whereas I don’t believe kids should necessarily follow their parents everywhere, this new type of racism towards the Lilliputian citizens of the world if given bigger dimensions, could actually point straight to their parents isolating them and classifying them as lower class citizens.

I will never forget my experience at Tilly’s (not a pub, not a first class restaurant, but a simple coffee-shop in the Jawad Dome Bahrain) one very hot summer noon few years ago, when having to wait in the area for an hour with my then two and a half years old, I stopped by for us to get a refreshment. Even if the coffee shop was completely empty and my daughter is a sweet well-behaved little girl, we were kicked out by the waitress who claimed their no-kids-zone policy. Needless to say I never visited the shop ever since as a matter of principle. But I admit, it was a huge relief for me when, as a retaliation, I threw a coin in the Kidzania’s Independence Fountain….

Dubai: “What do you want to be today”?

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Written on the Kidzania’s (a children’s role-play park in Dubai Mall) map and leaflet, this simple question “What do you want to be today?” reflecting hospitality could be asked not only to the minor guests of the specific kids’ place but to all who visit Dubai. Well, Dubai is actually a big play park for adults.
Every time, in every visit, Dubai looks and feels different, the result of an allegro paced growth that seems untouched by the financial crisis that hit the Emirate not that long ago. They might have appeared losers in the short run and they might have been accused by their adversaries for being foolishly pride or taking hasty steps; but it seems that they are now cashing in their well developed plans: tourists from all over the world pour in to experience this blend of European cosmopolitan air with Middle Eastern exotic scent; a man-made paradise which smells like the interior of a brand new luxury car. Visitors can find literally everything and “play” according to their moods or tastes changing from one day to the other, as Dubai offers a variety of activities that satisfy even the most demanding guests.
Turning a “dry” land into a touristic “oasis”
Glazing Dubai from high above, while the airplane is about to land, it is amazing how beautiful it looks, with the imposing Burj Khalifa, the world’ s tallest building in its center, so tall one might fear the aircraft’s belly will scratch its top during descend. This unique panoramic view is the result of a simple vision.

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Dubai’s ruler had a vision and a vision is just a bet. Actually it is even worse than a bet, as quite often visions are against winning odds, something which in the eyes of the common mortal makes the visionary look like a big gambler. So where did this gamble lead the once upon a time dry place? To the creation of not just a superficial show-off city but to the foundation and settlement of an infrastructure to support the glowing image, thus the amazing airport (one of the busiest in the world), the introduction of a complete scheme of public transportation including the new metro rail, road and water buses and taxis, the establishment of Media City, amazing hotels and huge shopping malls (among them the world’s 7th biggest Dubai Mall), all making the experience of visiting Dubai very pleasant. It is not called “Paris of the Middle East” for nothing.
On the other side, the elevated Jumeirah Palm monorail, reportedly the first of its kind in the Middle East, connect Dubai’s Gate towers to Atlantis hotel resort and Aquaventure Park, another architectural wonderland for adults and kids. With guestrooms literally submerged in the huge aquarium situated in the center, and a reception hall where people are delighted in the view of a simulation of the ocean, the resort is an example of a great antithesis: the serenity of the deep sea contrary to the excitement offered in the aqua-park.

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But the aquatic experience doesn’t stop in Atlantis. One of the world’s largest aquarium tanks is situated in the heart of Dubai Mall featuring the world’s largest viewing panel. The visitors line up to get tickets in between their shopping frenzy breaks to see up close more than 85 species in the underwater zoo.
Dubai’s marvels include the first in-door ski resort in the Middle East: Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates is yet another proof that nothing is impossible for a visionary: a snow park in the heart of a desert.
Opposed to such up growth of a “futuristic” nature goes the speculation that Emirati nationals might lose their identity. With more foreigners visiting and living in Dubai the mixing of cultures might threat the core elements that synthesize the Emirati’s values and beliefs system. The initiative by Ali Alsaloom, an Emirati entrepreneur and communicator tends to bridge the gap between the Middle East and the wider world. His website www.askali.com is a valuable source of information both for visitors and expats living in the UAE.

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Ali had realized there was not sufficient or accurate information on the web about Emirati culture when he envisioned his now successful website. He initially drew on a piece of paper his action plan. Today he’s thought to act as a cultural ambassador; he’s celebrity starring in a television series, hosting radio shows, publishing his Ask-Ali Guide books that disappear from the bookstore shelves, with the only aim to educate people of the customs and ethics of the UAE tradition.
Ali’s vision came into light the same way that Dubai’s vision did: with strategic planning and years of hard work to achieve and complete the picture that only started as an idea in a visionary’s mind. Dubai conception for the future might have been a one night’s dream but turning this dream into a reality was nor easy or quick, even if since the 1990’s I was hearing stories of family and friends who had visited the all sandy place that would turn into miles of concrete by the very next morning, to their amazement.
“Hellooo! Bahrain, wake-up, I’m calling you, What do you want to be tomorrow?”