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Tag Archives: Dubai

And the June 2013 Alices go to… these 5 international creatives

 © Iamezan | Used under license

© Iamezan |
Used under license

As subscribers to our weekly newsletter know, each week our Displaced Dispatch presents an “Alice Award” to a writer who we think has a special handle on the curious and unreal aspects of the displaced life of global residency and travel. Not only that, but this person has used their befuddlement as a spur to their own (or others’) creativity.

Today’s post honors June’s five Alice recipients, beginning with the most recent and this time including citations.

So, without further ado: The June 2013 Alices go to (drumroll…):

1) LILLIAN AFRICANO, president of the Society of American Travel Writers

Source:How to use words to cinematic effect in your travel writing.” in Matador Network
Posted on: 21 June 2013

Once a satisfying story has been told, it needs an ending, ideally, one that circles around to the beginning and gracefully achieves a satisfying sense of closure. If a good travel story is like a cinema of the mind, then whoever heard of a movie that had no ending?

Citation: Lillian, your advocacy of the cinematic style puts us in mind of Alice, who, before plunging into her adventures, expresses a similar thought:

…once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice “without pictures or

And although Alice’s creator, Lewis Carroll, died around the time the first motion picture camera was invented, he clearly believed in telling stories in clear, vivid word pictures. What’s more, the story of Alice’s wonderland adventures circles round to where it began, with Alice waking up on the lap of her sister, who is brushing stray leaves from her face. Like many of us who return from a long international journey, Alice can’t quite believe that she actually underwent such a metamorphosis. Still, she manages to persuade her sister, who after sending Alice to get her tea, dozes off while watching the sun set half-believing herself to be in Wonderland. (Hmmm…if you can persuade the kind of person who doesn’t read picture books, that’s some pretty good storytelling!)

2) ACe Callwood & the other creators of Coffitivity

Source: “How the Hum of a Coffee Shop Can Boost Creativity“— a report on Coffitivity by Anahad O’Connor in the New York Times
Posted on: 21 June 2013
Snippet: As the Times article explains, Coffitivity plays an ambient coffee shop soundtrack that, according to researchers, helps people concentrate. Co-founder ACe Callwood says that, although the site attracted only just over a hundred page views when it first started on March 4th, since then traffic has “exploded”:

Seoul, Korea, is our top user city. New York City is second, followed by London, L.A. and Chicago.

Citation: ACe, we understand that you and your partners are now developing new coffee shop soundtracks tailored to specific countries. For the sake of us creative internationals (see #4, Mike Sowden, below), we wonder if you’d also consider a “Lewis Carroll” track since many of us in that category are trying to account for topsy-turvy ideas of life we’ve obtained from living overseas. We are aware it will take some research to find the right sounds, but our hunch is that some mix of rustling grass, rippling waters, tinkling sheep-bells, a bit of Victorian singing, and Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood chatter will do the trick.

3) ANNABEL KANTARIA, Telegraph Expat blogger

Source: “Do you suffer from fake accent syndrome?” in Telegraph Expat blog
Posted on: 6 June 2013

Just like the “transatlantic twang” of those who divide their time between the UK and US, the generic global accent of the UAE takes a little from English, Arabic, Hindi and Tagalog, and spits out some sort of accent and vocabulary that we all hope everyone will be able to understand.

Citation: Hmmm… Annabel, especially given those blonde locks of yours, are you sure you’re not Alice reincarnated? Because this is the SECOND time we’ve awarded you an Alice. Either you know the works of Lewis Carroll very well and/or life in the Emirates has given you a special grasp on his canon of works. Last time you received an Alice, it was for a post that told us about the importance of playing by the rules, which reminded us of Alice’s croquet match under the Queen of Hearts’s stern command. This time, you talk about the odd, fake-sounding accents people pick up in foreign spots—which reminds us of poor Alice’s initial meeting with Mouse:

“Perhaps it doesn’t understand English,” thought Alice; “I daresay it’s a French mouse, come over with William the Conqueror.” … So she began again: “Ou est ma chatte?: which was the first sentence in her French lesson-book. The Mouse gave a sudden leap out of the water, and seemed to quiver all over with fright. “Oh, I beg your pardon!” cried Alice hastily, afraid that she had hurt the poor animal’s feelings. “I quite forgot you didn’t like cats.”

Stuff and nonsense, to be sure!

4) MIKE SOWDEN, travel writer

Source: “Why I Blog (On A Napkin)” in Fevered Mutterings—Misadventures in Travel & Storytelling blog
Posted on: 26 May, 2013
Snippet: Notably, Sowden should be a consultant for Coffitivity’s “international creative” app (see #2 above). He reports that he is writing this post

…next to a sunlit window in a Costa coffee house in Birmingham… A regular Chai latte is to the right of my laptop, and I’m fascinated by the lazy snow of cinnamon drifting to the bottom of the glass.

But the passages we really love refer to his napkin diagram:

  • “[Potential blog] [s]ponsors hover in the middle reaches of napkin-space.”
  • “Let’s soar into the upper napkinsphere. … It’s the ideal audience of your blog: anyone with a brain and a pulse.”
  • “This is what the fold in the napkin is all about, just under that line/curve. It’s a mountain you have to climb. A mountain made of enormous amounts of hard work, business planning, Art, applied psychology, smart, non-spammy marketing and all sorts of heart-on-sleeve public-facing transparency and vulnerability. It’s a process of learning how to make something those people will genuinely find meaningful. In business, this is the hardest thing in the world. It’s a mountain littered with the remains of failed expeditions, and it’ll probably end up littered with some of your own.”

Citation: Wow, Mike, you are certainly drinking the coffee if you can see a mountain in the folds of a Costa napkin, and use that image to tell a story about the thru-the-looking-glass challenges most bloggers face. Say, no wonder they pay you (or should be paying you) the big bucks for travel writing! I think other expat and travel bloggers will agree with us that it’s a fantasy feat worthy of Carroll.

5) PATRICIA WINTON, crime writer, food guru and American expat in Rome

Source: “The Tiramisù Is Out of This World” in Italian Intrigues blog
Posted on: 23 May 2013
Snippet: In this post, Winton reports that Chef Davide Scabin, whose restaurant (near Turin) ranks as one of the world’s 50 best, was chosen to prepare a new menu of Italian foods for the astronauts who took off in the European supply spacecraft Albert Einstein ATV [automated transfer vehicle], on June 5th (note: it successfully docked with the International Space Station on June 15th):

Each meal must also have a 36-month shelf life and be prepared without salt. Against this rigorous backdrop, Chef Scabin discovered another challenge. “The olfactory system doesn’t function at 100 percent in space. The astronauts eat with the sensation of having a cold,” he said…

Thanks to Chef Scabin’s efforts, the crew—who include one Italian, Luca Parmitano—are now feasting not on food from NASA or Roskosmoson (its Russian counterpart), but on lasagna, risotto, caponata, eggplant Parmesan, and for dessert—tiramisù.
Citation: To be honest, we weren’t sure whether to award the Alice to Chef Scabin, for spending two years thinking about how to translate Italian food for outer space without turning it into a Mad Hatter’s tea party; Luca Parmitano, for blogging(!) about his “out of this displaced world” experience from the spacecraft; or to Patricia Winton, for making this strange tale known to the expat and travel community. But we decided to go with Winton. Given her penchant for mystery and deceit, could it even be that she fabricated this story just because she fancied a world where astronauts could feast on tiramisù instead of the freeze-dried ice cream served by NASA on the Apollo missions? Stranger things have happened! 🙂

* * *

So, readers, do you have a favorite from the above, and do you have any posts you’d like to see among July’s Alice Awards? We’d love to hear your suggestions! And don’t miss out on these weekly sources of inspiration. Get on our subscription list now!

Speaking of creative chefs, STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, by Global Food Gossip Joanna Masters-Maggs.

Writers and other international creatives: If you want to know in advance whether you’re one of our Alice Award winners, sign up to receive The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with news of book giveaways, future posts, and of course, our weekly Alice Award!. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Catching up with this year’s Random Nomads over the holidays (1/3)

RandomNomadXmasPassportThe holiday season is here — the perfect time for the Displaced Nation to catch up with the expats and other global voyagers who washed up on our shores in 2012. Remember all those Random Nomads who proposed to make us exotic meals based on their far-ranging meanderings? Not to mention their suitcases full of treasures they’d collected and their vocabularies full of strange words… How are they doing these days, and do they have any exciting plans for the holidays? First in a three-part series.

In the first part of 2012, quite an array of Random Nomads arrived at the Displaced Nation’s gates, including:

  • Toni Hargis, a Brit married to an American and living in Chicago (she goes by the moniker “Expat Mum”);
  • Megan Farrell, an American married to a Brazilian and living in São Paulo;
  • Liv Hambrett, an Australian moving cities in Germany to be with her SG (Significant German);
  • Lei Lei Clavey, an Australian working in New York City’s fashion industry; and
  • Annabel Kantaria, an Englishwoman living in Dubai (one of the Telegraph Expat bloggers).

Unfortunately, Liv and Lei Lei cannot be with us today as they’ve both headed back to their native Australia. Lei Lei is living in Perth with her boyfriend — and still feeling somewhat displaced as she’s from Melbourne. (Still, her mum, one of our featured authors, Gabrielle Wang, is glad she’s a little closer.)

Liv — who has moved her blog, A Big Life, over to her portfolio site — says she is “now hopelessly pulled in opposing directions by my home country and adopted home, Germany.” Back with her family in Sydney, she is planning a return to Germany in early 2013. Between now and then, SG will have completed his maiden voyage to Oz to pay her a visit.

But now let’s start the party with the three Random Nomads who still qualify as expats. What have they been up to since nearly a year ago, and are they cooking up anything special for the holidays?

ToniHargis_Xmas1) TONI HARGIS

Have there been any big changes in your life since we last spoke?
Yes, I got a new gig writing for BBC America’s “Mind the Gap” column, which is very exciting. I have also just completed a 55,000-word manuscript for a new expat book which should be coming out late Spring 2013. Can’t give any more details at the moment I’m afraid.

Where will you be spending the holidays this year?
We have been going to Copper Mountain, Colorado for the last few years and this year will be the same.

What do you most look forward to eating?
My husband goes mad cooking “skier’s dinners” as he calls them — gumbo, lasagna, chili etc. He will also probably take care of most of the Xmas dinner. Unfortunately, I usually suffer from mild altitude sickness so food isn’t always at the top of my list!

Can you recommend any books you read in 2012 that speak to the displaced life? 
Yes, I read three great books this year on that theme, all from Summertime Publishers:

  1. Expat Life Slice by Slice, by Apple Gidley, which is memoir style and chronicles her (so far) amazing expat adventures.
  2. Finding Your Feet in Chicago, which is a great book for newly arrived expats to the Windy City, by Veronique Martin-Place.
  3. Sunshine Soup: Nourishing the Global Soul, by Jo Parfitt, which came out in 2011 and is a lovely novel set in Dubai about expat women there. (Jo is the founder of Summertime Publishers.)

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2013?
Hmmm…. I try not to make resolutions because it can just be a set up for failure and bitterness (just kidding). There will be a lot of background work to do on my upcoming book, so I suppose my resolution should be to keep my energy levels up and work hard while not ignoring my children for too long!

Last but not least, do you have any upcoming travel plans?
Other than Colorado, I have no definite plans but there will be the annual summer trip to England and perhaps a trip somewhere else in Europe if we can fit it in.

meganfarrell_xmas2) MEGAN FARRELL

Hi there, Megan. Have you had any big changes since we last spoke?
I am currently writing a book, titled American Exbrat in São Paulo: Advice, Stories, Tips and Tricks to Surviving South America’s Largest City, which will be available via Amazon in the next few weeks. And we moved from Jardim Paulista to Higienópolis. The Higienópolis neighborhood feels much more family friendly to me, without losing options for great restaurants and activities.

How will you be spending the holidays this year?
For the holidays, we will be visiting Petrópolis (Brazil’s “City of Emperors” and a lovely mountain resort) and Búzios (known for its magnificent beaches and crystal-clear water), both towns in the state of Rio de Janeiro. I am looking forward to the beach and mountain time.

What’s the thing you most look forward to eating?
Churrasco (Brazilian style barbecue)!

Can you recommend any books you came across in 2012 that speak to the displaced life?
Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown, by Paul Theroux. I’m also reading Eat, Pray, Love again, but this time in Portuguese (Comer Rezar Amar).

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2013?
I do. My resolutions are to spend more time working on my writing projects and further develop my business. I currently guide executives and managers in their business communications to help them gain advantages in the global market, but I really need to expand my marketing strategy. I also have a large list of São Paulo experiences I have yet to enjoy.

Do you have any upcoming travel plans?
I’m hoping to get back to the States early this year and hit not only Chicago but also Los Angeles and New York City.

AnnabelKantaria_Xmas3) ANNABEL KANTARIA

Have there been any big changes in your life since we last spoke?
None to speak of.

Where will you be spending the holidays this year?
We love to spend Christmas in Dubai as the weather is exactly how a British summer day should be: clear, sunny, blue sky and temperatures of about 28°C (around 82°F).

What’s the thing you most look forward to eating?
We always have a big Christmas lunch in the garden with friends. This year another friend is playing host to us. I feel very lucky as she is practically the “Martha Stewart” of Dubai and I just know the food, decor and company will be divine. I’m vegetarian, so I won’t be eating turkey — I think we’re barbecuing this year.

Can you recommend any books you came across in 2012 that speak to the displaced life?
I read a new book called The Expats, by Chris Pavone, but I was more inspired to revisit old favorites such as White Mischief, by James Fox.

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions for 2013?
To finish writing my book, find an agent and/or publisher and get it published!

Any upcoming travel plans?
We usually go away in the February half-term holidays. Last year we visited family in Kenya before taking a few days in the Seychelles. This year I’m looking East — maybe Thailand, Malaysia (I’ve always wanted to go to Langkawi) or perhaps Bali.

* * *

Readers, before we lose these three Random Nomads to their various holiday (and half-term) adventures, do you have any more questions? Perhaps some of you are wondering, like I am, how they manage to be so productive — each of them has children but also a book to publish in 2013!

STAY TUNED for another episode in the life of our fictional expat heroine, Libby. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Images: Passport photo from Morguefile; portrait photos are from the nomads.

Oblivious to controversy, this expat author stirs up tales of violence, romance and tragedy in the Middle East

Alexander McNabb isn’t afraid of ghoulies, ghosties, long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night — which, as Kate Allison announced the week before last, is this month’s theme at the Displaced Nation.

How do I know he isn’t afraid? Because he is too busy tuning into other sources of thrills, chills and excitement for his books — namely, Middle Eastern politics and intrigue.

Though he doesn’t seek controversy, he doesn’t shy away from it either. His books are violent, explosive, and deadly. One has actually been banned in Jordan.

I now have the pleasure of giving Mr McNabb the floor to tell us more about his affinity for such dastardly topics. Don’t worry, he doesn’t have fangs but is a gentle sort with a great sense of humo(u)r… He is also a lively conversationalist, with his own radio show in Dubai, and a cook.

Welcome, Alexander. Shall we start out with what should be a basic question (though it rarely is for us displaced types): where are you from?
I was born in London, in Edgware General Hospital, which they have since knocked down, presumably to stop lightning striking twice. I grew up in various countryside areas north of London and was unwillingly educated at The Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in Elstree.

When did you first go to the Middle East?
In 1986. I was selling an insanely visionary software package put together by a directory publisher that had the wonderful idea of selling its information as an integrated database. I presented this to a number of puzzled Saudis who lost no time in introducing me to their most junior members of staff and leaving me there. It taught me an important lesson — Gulf Arabs never say “no,” it’s considered rude. And “not no” doesn’t mean “yes”!

How did you end up living in Dubai?
When that project and, ultimately, the company failed I got involved in the publishing side of things. And so in 1993 I moved out to Dubai to start a subsidiary of the publishing company I worked for. And got myself shut down by the Ministry of Information. But that’s another story…

We will talk about your trio of books set in the Middle East shortly. But first: do you have any other published works?
The first book I wrote was a spoof of international spy thrillers, called just Space. I re-read the manuscript a couple of months ago and it made me laugh a lot, so I published that as a $2.99 Kindle-only book. I worked for ten years as an editor and publisher and for longer than that as a writer and journalist, so there are millions of my words out there — lost and crying out plaintively…

No need for them to mourn as you’ve just now published Beirut — An Explosive Thriller, which is the second in three books you are writing that are set in the Middle East, called The Levant Cycle. The first was Olives — A Violent Romance and the third will be Shemlan — A Deadly Tragedy. Could you say a little more about the Levant Cycle?
The Levant Cycle was never meant to be — the three books just happen to be set in the same region, contain some of the same characters and be roughly contiguous. But they are very different. Olives is really a novel — the story follows young British journalist, Paul Stokes as he arrives in Jordan and quickly falls afoul of the law — while Beirut is a hardcore international spy thriller. And they’re independent works in themselves. I had always thought of a book that would form an interlinear to Olives, a telling of that story from another perspective, possibly that of Gerald Lynch, the British Secret Intelligence Service officer that Paul encounters. Beirut wasn’t meant to follow on from Olives and then it just did, sort of taking up from when Paul moves to Beirut. And of course Beirut shows a very different Gerald Lynch, because in Olives you only see Lynch from Paul’s somewhat jaundiced perspective. So the books can be grouped, but I didn’t want a trilogy — a cycle seemed more appropriate.

Are you now working on the third book?
Yes, I’m about halfway through Shemlan and loving it. It’s a great deal darker than the other two books. It’s about a retired diplomat who’s dying of cancer going back to his past and finding that past is likely to kill him before the disease does.

What does “shemlan” mean?
Shemlan is a tiny village high in the hills above Beirut. It’s a little-known fact that Shemlan was for many years home to the Middle East Centre for Arabic Studies, where the British government taught its diplomats — and its spies — Arabic. A lot of my research for the book has consisted of taking friends and colleagues up there for lunch at Al Sakhra (The Cliff House), the lovely Arabic restaurant in the village. I know, it’s hard…

What made you decide to center the action of your books around the politics of the Middle East?
No one else was writing fiction centered on this region. There hasn’t been an interesting Middle Eastern spy thriller since Eric Ambler’s The Levanter. Olives was intended to introduce a Western audience that doesn’t care very much to some of the more complicated aspects of life in that part of the world — to some of the human issues that lie behind the glib headlines.

I presume you aren’t afraid of controversy?
Bring it on! Actually, I was amazed at the “controversy” that Olives provoked because of my having depicted Muslims drinking alcohol and Arab women having sex with foreigners. These things never happen in the Arab World! And then the Great Naming Scandal, when my use of a real Palestinian name (Dajani, for the Palestinian family Paul gets involved with) was deemed by distributors in Jordan to make the book too hot for them to handle. It still can’t be sold there!

How about Beirut?
I was truly blown away when the UAE’s National Media Council granted the necessary “Permission to Print” for Beirut. I’m sure someone, somewhere will find some aspect of the book controversial, but I think that’s more a product of the lack of narrative literature in the region than it is any quest for controversy on my part. And yes, you do actually have to get permission to print a book here — and government clearance to import books into any country in the region.

What audience did you have in mind for Olives?
Olives was written for a British audience but has appealed broadly across Europe and the US as well as in the Arab World. I’ve been more than pleased at Western readers who have enjoyed Olives and said, “I didn’t know about all that stuff.” And, because I thought I might lose Arab friends, I have been truly overjoyed that so many Palestinian and Arab readers have loved it.

At one point in Olives, Paul, the British journalist, becomes romantically involved with his Palestinian coworker, Aisha Dajani. Do you think Westerners can have successful relationships with Arabs and live happily ever after?
I really don’t see it as a “Westerner/Arab” thing at all – it’s an awful cliché, but love transcends nationality, culture and, yes, religion. I have seen relationships founder on that particular rock, where the partners can’t clear the hurdle of converting to or from Islam, but I have also seen couples deal with that. And, of course, there are still a great number of Christians in the Arab world and Muslims in the West. East and West doesn’t have to be about Islam, even if it often is.

Did you base the hero, Paul, on anyone in particular?
Paul Stokes is modeled on a number of callow Brits I have encountered arriving in the Middle East over the years, most of them journalists. You get a lot of credit in the Arab World for having tried to understand things, for actually bothering to learn something about the region and its people before you go leaping in blindly, as Paul does. I have often been highly amused at the way Arab friends have reacted to the behavior of British people new to the region — funny little things like different approaches to generosity, family, children and manners. I remember once walking into the office to be met by horrified glares from the girls, all trying to catch my attention and draw it to the new Brit who was happily — and loudly — clipping his nails at his desk. Or the British staffer who labelled her things in the office fridge. To the Arabs, you just share and if we’re out of something, you get it — someone labeling a bottle of milk was a source of appalled amusement.

Paul becomes “localized,” even becomes a smoker, which is why he is so torn between “home,” represented by his girlfriend Anne, and “away,” which of course is Aisha. And she, of course, is the hero of the book. You’re not actually supposed to like Paul, really. Perhaps sympathize with him…

You characterize Olives as a “violent romance.” What does that mean exactly?
The book’s working title for years was just “Olives.” The problem with that is that when you google “Olives,” you get Crespo, cookbooks or restaurants. So I decided on a defining subtitle — and nothing else seemed to suit other than “violent romance.” Olives is both a romance and a spy thriller. Thriller readers would find it too slow or romantic, romance readers would find it a little rough was the general concern. I hate how publishing brackets and pigeonholes us like that. The love story part of it has been popular, for sure — but a lot of people didn’t know about the region’s water crisis and learned about it from Olives, which has been cool.

Will Beirut attract the same readers?
Beirut is a totally different book and I was perhaps a little gleeful at how Olives readers would react to its much more hardcore spy thriller nature, particularly female readers. I was also a little scared, because I was setting out to kill what little fan base Olives has won for me. Readers, including females, have loved Beirut so far, which has me slack-jawed to be honest. But then it shows how wrong those traditional publishing preconceptions are — women actually reading a thriller? Oh, the shock of it all!

Is that why you are self-publishing The Levant Cycle — because the books do not fit in traditional publishing categories? I ask because quite a few expat authors we’ve featured on The Displaced Nation have self-published their works.
Let’s start with 250 rejections from agents for, respectively, Space, Olives and Beirut. When London agent Robin Wade signed me, it was for Beirut. I thought I was made, I really did. 250 rejections — and then an agent comes along and makes like a scrooch owl! Robin shopped Beirut around to 14 top publishers (there’s an image of the list I had of them, one after another struck off as the news came in, posted up on the Beirut site) and they, to a man, rejected it.

Why do you think that happened?
The ignorance about the Middle East from agents and editors alike has been shocking: “We have terrorism here at home, I don’t think people want to read about that” and “This novel, set in war-torn city Beirut” were two low points. But the worst was the editor who praised Beirut’s pace, setting, style and dialogue, compared it to Le Carré — but said he didn’t think it would fly in supermarkets. After that, I decided to see what readers thought without waiting for the gatekeepers. I am so glad I did.

Funnily enough, I discovered your books last month, when the Displaced Nation was dedicating itself to a series of food posts and I happened upon your collective blog about food, The Fat Expat.
Blogging became an outlet for me between frustrated bouts of writing. My partner in foodie crime, Simon “HalfManHalfBeer” McCrum, and I tried bringing others on board — but in the end The Fat Expat was doomed to tempus fugit failure. Still, I loved it while it lasted. I used to run a food magazine so am quite experienced in food preparation, photography and so on — and I love cooking.

Last month we were asking all of our interviewees: would you travel for food?
Damn right I would! Sweden this year, stunning food at stunningly high prices but you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten sour cream and crayfish on toast for breakfast. Estonia last year, a gorgeous holiday of art, museums and culture interspersed with the world’s largest, cheapest Martinis and top class cuisine — pelmeni in chicken stock, venison in red wine! But you want to really eat? There are stunning restaurants in Jordan — puffed up flatbreads fresh from the brick oven, potato pan-fried with egg and Mediterranean herbs. And, of course, Beirut — French food that makes Parisians blush alongside mountains of mezze, splashes of Armenian spice and of course Lebanese wines. I had to edit out my descriptions of Château Musar from Beirut because they crossed that threshold between what matters in a book and what readers need to know. But Musar is one of the world’s great wines. And the rosé from Château Ksara? Barmy, quite barmy. Do not, if you have the chance, neglect Massaya — a lovely wine from the achingly beautiful Bekaa Valley.

Next month’s Displaced Nation theme will be expats and politics — in honor of the U.S. elections. Do you have a horse in that particular race?
Obama. I don’t think anyone should forget that the people behind Romney are the people who took America to war against Iraq for no reason other than profit and dominance. There were never any WMDs and there was no link whatever between the murderously secular Saddam and the New Caliphate of Al Qaeda. Over a million people have died, the Middle East is lurching from crisis to crisis — and those old men are still doing three-martini lunches and planning their next move to make the world a safer place. At least Obama represents a hope of inclusion and reason.

Do you think expats should stay in touch with their home country’s politics? Do you?
Living in the Middle East, US politics are something you tend to follow because it pretty much shapes the region. I follow British politics to a degree, but it’s hard to be passionate about a system that has become so centrist and messaged. It’s something of a sitcom really.

What’s next, after the Cycle is finished?
I can’t even begin to think about what’s next, but there are plenty of contenders for next project, including a book set in Ireland and one about a traumatized teacher coming back from Iraq. Neither feature Mr. Lynch.

Readers, why not give those witches, ghosts, zombies, werewolves and vampires of yours a break and try Alexander McNabb’s wonderful cocktails of romance, intrigue, and high-stakes international politics instead?

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s episode in the life of our fictional expat heroine, Libby. (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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Images: Alexander McNabb author image and book covers.

Displace Yourself…to Dubai

Welcome to the first in a new occasional series, “Displace Yourself”, where we look at different countries popular among expats, and find background reading for those who might be contemplating a move.

This month: Dubai, UAE.

Dubai: Facts and figures

Population : 2.2 million and rising fast
Area : 3,900 square kilometers
Official Language : Arabic
Major Religion : Islam
Government Type: Constitutional Monarchy
Legal System : Federal court system
Main Exports : Crude oil, natural gas, dried fish, and dates
Working week (public sector) : Sunday through Thursday
Time Zone : + 4GMT
Local Currency : UAE Dirham

Inside Scoop  —  on practicalities

@home in Dubai – getting connected online and on the ground
by Anne O’Connell
Published December 2011

About the author:
A native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Anne has been an expat since 1993, when she swapped central heating in Canada for air-conditioning in Florida, Dubai and Thailand.

Cyber coordinates:
Twitter: @annethewriter
Facebook: or

Overview of book:
“From getting a work permit to finding a WiFi hotspot… or even connecting with a fun sport or social group, @Home in Dubai has the inside scoop on how to get it done. Knowing the drill is half the battle and O’Connell, and other expats who weigh in with their advice and experiences, are happy to share a few ‘how tos’. ” (Amazon product description)

One reader’s review:
“It was Anne’s wealth of information that let me slip into life in Dubai with relative ease. How thoughtful of her to have put it all down in writing so that others can benefit from her experience and avoid some of the pitfalls of not exact or missing information or the ever present uninterested, ill-informed clerk.” (Katie Foster, at Arabian Tales And Other Amazing Adventures.)

Inside Scoop — from one who returned

One Year in Wonderland: A True Tale of Expat Life in Dubai
by Christopher Combe
Published July 2011

About the author:
Christopher Combe lives near York, England, and through his work has traveled to the USA, the Middle East, Far East, and much of Europe. “One Year in Wonderland” was his first book, published in July 2011. His second, “You Are My Boro: The Unlikely Adventures of a Small Town in Europe” was released in December 2011.

Cyber coordinates:
Blogs: and
Twitter: @BigHippyChris

Overview of book:
“Based on the popular blog “Beer And Bloating in Dubai“, this is the story of one British family’s year in Dubai, presenting a forthright, funny and poignant outlook on their experiences. Written between the summers of 2006 and 2007, it offers a peek at what the city is like through the eyes of one mad fool who took the plunge.” (Goodreads)

One reader’s review:
‘It is accurate and straight talking, and very amusing in parts too, and it does paint a very realistic picture of the good and bad of expat life, or rather, what life is like for some expats in DXB. As a book, it still reads very much like a blog and perhaps a bit more content and context could have been added to fill it out some to make a better book, but as it is, it makes for a succinct and funny report on Dubai life.” ( review)

Inside Scoop — the good, the bad, and the not so pretty

City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism
(Published in UK as Dubai: The Story of the World’s Fastest City)
by Jim Krane
Published September 2009

About the author:
Journalist Jim Krane has had a long and varied career as reporter for the Associated Press in Dubai, Baghdad, and Afghanistan, and as an AP business writer in New York, focusing on technology news. He is the winner of several journalism awards, including the 2003 AP Managing Editors Deadline Reporting Award, for coverage of Saddam Hussein’s capture in Iraq. Jim Krane lives in Cambridge, England.

Cyber coordinates:

Overview of book:
“Jim Krane charts the history of Dubai from its earliest days, considers the influence of the Maktoum family which has ruled since the early nineteenth century, and looks at the effect of the global economic downturn on a place that many tout as a blueprint for a more stable Middle East.” (Author’s website)

One reader’s review:
“Krane rightly highlights Dubai’s dark side. Indeed, local UAE bookstores are not selling it because there is sensitivity to what he writes. He doesn’t pull punches–either about human rights and labor abuses, prostitution, or Dubai’s difficult balancing act between the US and Iran, or about the short-sighted Arab-bashing in the US Congress that characterized the Dubai World ports deal. Krane calls ’em like he sees ’em. “City of Gold” is an enjoyable and eye-opening read.” ( review)

Inside Scoop — behind closed doors

Dubai Wives (Fiction)
by Zvezdana Rashkovich
Published January 2011

About the author:
Born in Croatia and raised in Sudan, Zvezdana Rashkovich has since lived in Egypt, Iraq, USA, and Qatar. She currently lives in Dubai, where she is writing a novel based on her life in the Sudan.

Cyber coordinates:
Blog: Sleepless in Dubai
Twitter: @SleeplesinDubai

Overview of book:
“A stirring tale encompassing tradition, identity, and faith, Dubai Wives takes the reader into a hidden world behind the walls of lavish mansions and into the desperate back alleys of Dubai; from the hills of Morocco to the gloomy English countryside and from the slums of India to the glittering lights of the Burj Al Arab.”
(From author’s website)

One reader’s review:
“The author’s greatest strength lies in showcasing the ethnic and cultural diversity of the city. There is Jewel in her Swarovski embroidered abaya, humiliated by her husband’s infidelity, the Romanian Liliana dancing in a seedy nightclub, Cora the Filipino maid desperate to rid herself of an unwanted pregnancy and plain English Jane whose Dubai make-over includes plastic surgery and belly dancing lessons as she relentlessly pursues a transformation into glamour.” ( review)

STAY TUNED for Wednesday’s post, another in our new series where we investigate if you really can “go home again.”

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to subscribe for email delivery of The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of the week’s posts from The Displaced Nation. Sign up for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

Image: MorgueFile

Dear Mary-Sue: The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee — not the most sparkling of times

Mary-Sue Wallace, The Displaced Nation’s agony aunt, is back. Her thoughtful advice eases and soothes any cross-cultural quandary or travel-related confusion you may have. Submit your questions and comments here, or else by emailing her at

Another month passes us by, Mary-Suers. It seems only moments ago that I was penning my New Year post and yet here we are at the beginning of summer. Really, where does the time fly (and how many air miles does it have)?

Anyhoo, let’s get on with the show. We were running low on submissions this month, but this week’s jubilee celebration in Ye Olde Englande seems to have got The Displaced Nation readers all a-fluster.


Dear Mary-Sue,

I don’t understand all the palaver about Queen Elizabeth II and her 60 years on the throne. Why is it such a big deal when the Britain she presides over now is much reduced in prestige from the one she inherited? I mean, it’s not as though her reign has heralded a second Elizabethan Age!

Curious from California

p.s. Yes, I am an American, just like you, but that’s not the reason I hold these opinions. Most of our fellow Yanks worship the British monarchy (don’t ask me why).

Dear Curious,

Do you have any travel-related queries or are you in need of any relationship advice? That’s kind of the point of the column, honey!

Did you send this to Tina Brown first and get no response? She’s always good for some royal chit-chat.

Write back when you have some juicy sexual problem for me to pontificate on. If it involves Tina Brown all the better. Although in fairness, a lot of the relationship letters I receive seems to involve Tina “man-eater” Brown.



Dear Mary-Sue,

I’m an American expat in England, and the Diamond Jubilee celebrations that just took place were my first big exposure to how the Brits treat their royal family. Frankly, I think they could have done better. I mean, put most of the Royal Family on a boat in the middle of the river? It’s almost as though they were setting them up as a target for anyone who would like to dispose of them in one go. And I also kept thinking that the boat could easily capsize (what in heavens name were all those other boats doing there?).

Finally, I found it disrespectful of the Brits to expose their elderly monarch to the cold and wet river conditions. What if she contracts a nasty cold and chest infection?

Lorrie from Lancaster

Not only that Lorri, but they made her sit through a concert featuring (or however you spell it) and Grace Jones. What 83-year-old wants to sit through all that? They should have got her whoever the British equivalent of Lawrence Welk is. My dear departed mother loved Lawrence Welk – and who can blame her? The man was a natural entertainer. They didn’t call him the Elvis of North Dakota for nothing.



Dear Mary-Sue,

I’m a British expat in Dubai, and I am now suffering a case of acute homesickness owing to not being at home for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. It’s not the same to watch it on TV, and the parties held by British expats here — well, I attempted to join in but just couldn’t get into watching people dressed up like Mary Poppins or Knights of the Realm. Many of the latter were parading around in a drunken stupor bellowing out “God save the Queen!”

Do you think I’m crazy to feel this way? Wouldn’t you feel odd trying to celebrate 4th of July in Britain, for instance? I expect you’d be longing for a barbecue, just as I was for an old-fashioned street party.

Debbie from Dubai

Honey, July 4th is a holiday for the whole world.



Anyhoo, that’s all from me readers. I’m so keen to hear about your cultural issues and all your juicy problems (no doubt all about Tina Brown) then drop me a line.

Mary-Sue is a retired travel agent who lives in Tulsa with her husband Jake. She is the best-selling author of Traveling Made Easy, Low-Fat Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul, The Art of War: The Authorized Biography of Samantha Brown, and William Shatner’s TekWar: An Unofficial Guide. If you have any questions that you would like Mary-Sue to answer, you can contact her at, or by adding to the comments below.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post. Mary-Sue has heard it’s going to be great.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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RANDOM NOMAD: Annabel Kantaria, British Expat in Dubai

Place of birth: London, UK
Passport: UK
Overseas travel history: United Arab Emirates (Dubai): 1998 – present.
Occupation: Former journalist and one of four official expat bloggers for The Weekly Telegraph
Cyberspace coordinates: Telegraph Expat blog (Annabel Kantaria) and @BellaKay (Twitter handle)

What made you leave your homeland in the first place?
Despite being 100 percent British, I never felt at home in England. As young as six years old I used to wake up feeling “displaced.” I was unable to identify that feeling until I moved to Dubai and realized that the feeling had gone. To be honest, I think “home” could be anywhere that has a positive attitude, hot sun, blue sky and a glittering sea.

Was anyone else in your family “displaced”?
My father grew up in India as the child of expat parents and so my own childhood in England was full of stories of hill retreats, jungles, hot sun, ayas and curries. My mother was born to expat parents in Romania. My aunt emigrated from the UK to Canada.

My husband, whom I met at university in the UK, is also displaced — I don’t think it’s a coincidence we ended up together. Of Indian origin, he grew up largely in Kenya and did his secondary schooling and university in the UK. We were married in Nairobi and then lived in the UK for one year. My husband went to Dubai on business, brought me back a book about Dubai and said “Let’s move there!” I didn’t need any convincing. We sold our house and cars, and shipped all our possessions over and have, so far, never looked back. 🙂

So you’ve felt the most displaced in your homeland?
Yes. Growing up in England, I felt like an alien. Throughout my teenage years I plotted my escape. I knew I would leave as soon as I could. It was just a matter of when, where and with whom. Even now, when I go back, I feel like a foreigner.

Is there any particular moment in Dubai that stands out as your “least displaced”?
Probably the first weekend after my husband and I moved to Dubai — when we sitting on the public beach watching the sun go down and the sand turn from white to pink and listening to the azaan (call to prayer) echo across the beach. I had that first flutter of “This is home! We’re not on holiday!” excitement, which still continues, even after 14 years.

You may bring one curiosity you’ve collected from your adopted country into The Displaced Nation. What’s in your suitcase?
A plastic mosque alarm clock that wakes you with the azaan [see photo inset].

You are invited to prepare one meal based on your travels for other members of The Displaced Nation. What’s on your menu?

Emirati food revolves largely around meat and I am a vegetarian, so I would have to broaden it to include other Middle Eastern cuisines. Rather than three courses, I’d offer you a selection of mezze (small dishes):

We’d wash it down with a rich red wine from Lebanon’s Château Musar, Ksara or Kefraya.

For dessert I would offer you a delicious Umm Ali — an Egyptian version of hot, bread pudding, served with a little vanilla sauce. And, of course, a cardamom-laced Arabic coffee to finish.

And now you may add a word or expression from the country where you live in to The Displaced Nation argot. What will you loan us?
Inshallah (If it’s God’s will) — it’s the word you hear the most when you want to get something done and you’re begging for a commitment that it will be. It’s also a word that UAE expats use, in their transient lives, to acknowledge that they aren’t entirely sure of what may happen next. “We’ll be staying here for two years, Inshallah.”

This month we are looking into beauty and fashion. What are the best Emirati beauty secrets you’ve discovered?
From observing highly groomed Arab ladies, I’ve learned the value of the perfectly shaped eyebrow – something to which I’d barely paid any attention in England. I’ve also discovered the joys of a good scrub in the hammam. It’s not Emirati per se, but does have a long history here. And although you don’t often see a UAE national lady without her shayla (rectangular headscarf), the beauty salons are full of Emirati ladies having their hair blow-dried — I’ve learned to get my hair professionally “blown” before any major social event. It gives you an instant polish that makes all the difference.

What about fashion — any beloved outfits, jewelry, or other accessories you’ve collected in the UAE?
Emirati ladies put a lot of thought into accessories such as sunglasses, handbags and shoes, given that the rest of them is covered by the abaya (robe-like dress or cloak) when out in public. I’ve picked up their habit of using a great handbag to pull a look together. I also have a beautiful, jewelled black thobe (ankle-length garment traditionally worn by Arab men) that doubles up as a great evening dress.

Editor’s note: Annabel Kantaria was awarded one of The Displaced Nation’s “Alices” for a post she composed about the need for “behavior lessons” before working in the UAE.

Readers — yay or nay for letting Annabel Kantaria into The Displaced Nation? Tell us your reasons. (Note: It’s fine to vote “nay” as long as you couch your reasoning in terms we all — including Annabel — find amusing.)

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s installment from our displaced fictional heroine, Libby, who is once again on her own while her feckless husband clocks up more hotel points and air miles — perhaps he intends to be present at the birth of their twins via Skype? (What, not keeping up with Libby? Read the first three episodes of her expat adventures.)

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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img: Annabel Kantaria at a polo match in Dubai; inset: her plastic mosque alarm clock, which she proposes to bring into The Displaced Nation.

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