Friday, September 19, 2008

The 3 Stages of Marriage

A recent post about the number of divorces in Egypt last year (75,000) and bloggers explanations of the reasons behind the rise in divorces inspired me to share a bit of wisdom from a psychologist’s perspective. This psychologist has a pretty exclusive practice in Dubai, is considered an expert, has published books, and charges a hefty price ($300/hour) according to my friend. My friend is receiving marriage counseling from him and I share the information with you about the stages of marriage.

Now, please note that I am not an expert on this subject, as I have still not been married (I just have not found the correct person yet). I just thought that due to the universality of marriage, it would be great to enrich people and see their viewpoints on it.

The first stage is referred to as “the honeymoon stage.” It is when the people first meet and start enjoying each other’s company. Both parties enjoy this stage tremendously as it is composed of laughter, fun and dates. They enjoy spending time together and engaging in activities that they both enjoy. When they are apart, they miss each other and look forward to their next meeting. Time is spent being silly on the phone and daydreaming of the other one. They walk around with a grin and people notice that they are happy. This can last all the way from initial dates until they are married and living together. This is the period whereas everyone hopes can last forever.

The second stage is referred to as “the serious stage.” This is where the couple has been together and has to start making serious decisions about their life. Where will they live? Do they want children and when? How many children do they want? How will they earn a living? Who will they associate with and what are their future plans? It involves serious discussions between both of them as these decisions are life-altering and the outcome will determine how they live their life. All of a sudden, reality strikes and gone are the days of the honeymoon where it was all about fun and games.

The third and final stage is “the commitment stage.” This is whereas the couple and their offspring became so attached to each other that they are one and the same. The number one priority for each is the other as it defines who they are. It takes precedence over all other things (e.g. career, work, vacation, and travel). Hereby, compromise for the good of the whole family is the most important parameter in any decision. Here routine sets in as your direction in life with your partner is defined and you are going via the motions. However, it is not necessarily bad as it is the ultimate and final stage of marriage that leaves it stable and gives it an essence of normalcy.

Apparently, all marriages/relationships go through these stages. Some stages can last a short time while others can last forever. Problems stem when one cannot make the move from one stage to the other. An example, a person who is addicted to the fun of the honeymoon stage runs away and seeks fun elsewhere when his significant other wants to move to the serious stage. The non-ability of both partners to move through the stages together spells the doom of marriages. Please note that there are times when you briefly move to another stage while your essence is in another stage. Also, there is a bit of overlap between the 3 stages and this is quite normal.

So what are your thoughts? Which stage are you in? When can I reach the honeymoon stage? When can you move from one stage to the next?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Common Sense Never Hurt Traffic

I thought that I would never see this day, but apparently, the Road & Transport Authority (RTA) has managed to pull a miracle; traffic jam at 1am. And no, it is not an unusual incident like a horrific traffic accident, but rather, the introduction of Salik Toll Road on Sheikh Zayed Road.

It started out back in July 2007 (i.e. over a year ago) when these electronic tolls were installed on Garhoud bridge and Sheikh Zayed Road by Interchange #4 which is next to Mall of the Emirates. Surprise, surprise; people avoided them by going on the parallel routes.

Well, the second phase started on September 9th (originally slated for September 1st) whereas another two tolls would be positioned; one on Al Maktoom bridge and the second on Sheikh Zayed Road between Interchange #1 (Defense Roundabout) and Interchange #2 (where the Metropolitan hotel is located). Naturally, I along many Dubai commuters decided that passing the toll late at night is not worth it and because traffic is light, we can afford the extra 5 minutes and head from Al Wasel Road.

Not surprisingly, all the commuters and regular drivers of Dubai have the same feeling, thus resulting in the traffic jam. The solution is so simple that I often wonder why the RTA does not implement it immediately. It would go a long way to prove that they are addicted to solving traffic woes in Dubai and not just earning supplemental income for the coffers of the municipality.

The tolls should be operational when they are needed; i.e. during peak traffic hours. After all, anyone who utilizes them should ensure that they really need to drive their cars during that period of time. Now, the talk shows on radio have had experts from the traffic police claim that Dubai suffers from an extended rush hour that almost lasts the whole working day. Thus, I propose that the toll is operational from 8am till 9pm every business day. That is sufficient and easily done.

After all, the toll on Al Maktoum bridge is operational between 6am till 10 pm every day (since the Floating Bridge which does not have a toll on it) is closed during that time. So, why can't it be done for Sheikh Zayed Road instead of having the traffic jam on the parallel road Al Wasel which is not a main highway, but rather made for residential traffic. Who has the common sense to implement it at the RTA? Or is that not a skill not required?!?!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Conspiracy Theories about Susan Tamim’s Death

On July 28th, Suzanne Tamim, a famous Lebanese singer, was found killed in her Jumeirah Beach Residence Apartment. In Dubai, the story became headline news due to many factors (her beauty, her celebrity status, murders being rare over here, and the fact that she was apparently in hiding over here from her estranged husband in Lebanon). As the days unfolded, the plot thickened with links to other parts of the world (Lebanon where her ex-husband and business manager lived, Egypt where she had first fled too from Lebanon, and the UK where there were claims that she married a British-Iraqi before coming to Dubai).

Well, the latest on the case after around 6 weeks expiring, was that an influential Egyptian businessman, Hashim Talaat Mustapha, was arrested for ordering the murder and paying an ex-cop, who was his head of security $2 million to kill her. This is an interesting plot which would be suited for a “cloak and dagger story.” The businessman was a member of parliament and they had to have his immunity from prosecution lifted before they commenced to arrest her. Just today, it has been reported that he offered Suzanne’s father over $20 million as blood money (although it is widely known that accidental death and not premeditated murder qualify for blood money in some Arab countries).

Over the weekend, during a Ramadan tent gathering, one of my friends started mentioning the following conspiracy theories about this murder. Upon investigation with another knowledgeable local friend of mine, it turned out that one theory is being circulated which I thought to share with you. Why is that? I never understood why a multi-billionaire would be so distressed over his mistress leaving him to order her killing instead of satisfying his sexual appetite with a dozen other trophy ladies. Maybe it is because I still have not experienced love, due to my rational and practical nature, but that is another subject.

So there are two conspiracy theories circulating around; with the foremost being a power play between the business community of Egypt and the business team of Dubai. The second one, being a weak theory in my opinion is a simple mafia-style revenge. Hisham Talaat was utilizing Suzanne to launder money and she stole it from him, so she had to be taught a lesson. However, the first theory is more interesting.

Apparently, Emaar wanted to invest in the Egyptian real estate development called Madinaty. Under lobbying by the business community in Egypt, Emaar needed to find an Egyptian partner to have a controlling stake, which they received. However, Hisham Talaat utilized his influence- being closely linked to the Egyptian ruling party especially Gamal Mubarak, the son of the Egyptian president- muscled in and became a partner with the Egyptian partner. Hisham then broke up the partnership and claimed compensation for his share in the dissolved company although he had not invested a single dollar. It was sorted out with Emaar paying some compensation to Hisham. Thus, he had hoodwinked Emaar and its chairman. Hisham had to be taught a lesson.

Hisham was apparently obsessed with Suzanne, having been her protector in Egypt from her ex-husband. He had paid over millions of dollars in her protection and for making unlawful activities by her family disappear. Thus, by getting back at him, it was via Suzanne who had come to Dubai under the protection of an influential person here. Hisham apparently took it up a notch by threatening the influential community here in their own back yard. That is why he had to be imprisoned.

Although I know that the conspiracy theory has some loose and weak strings, it is interesting nonetheless. After all, one of the main problems of the Arab world is that there are people with influence who are above the law. Just last week, a person married to the royal family of Morocco shot a police officer just because he asked him for his car papers. These stories do exist within the Arab world. So was it a clash of titans which led to the murder of Susan Tamim? Time might tell us and it might not with rumors circulating around.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Religious Outrage at a Video Game

I am conflicted about writing this post. The reason is that it would give credence to something that I absolutely do not want to promote or allude too. It is a video game that is insulting to all people of religious backgrounds. Although the direct attack is on Muslims, its content is blasphemous to anybody who believes in a higher deity; the All Powerful God.

It is a simple video game available for downloading whereas you blast away at so-called Muslim turbaned terrorists. As you reach higher levels, you get to kill Osama Bin Laden, and then, (may Allah forgive the insane amongst humanity), The All Powerful.

The creator is a simpleton who is a hate-monger and imbecile. They attempt to antagonize everyone who believes in God at an insane attempt at black, heartless comedy. They should be charged by the international community as a criminal within the ranks of Hitler, Stalin, and every other dictator. His actions are inexcusable. He attempts to gain his 15 minutes of fame, by being even more procatitive than the Danish cartoonist.

You would have noticed than I did not mention the title of this video game. No doubt that with a little bit of internet searches, the entripising amongst you would be able to find out about it. However, I do not want to give it credibility by mentioning it, thus making more aware of this obscure person and his ridiculous message.

May this person come back to their senses and repent. There is no value-added from this attempt. His skills and imagination can be utilized without antagonizing all religious people. After all, Allah is just the Arabic word for God. Muslims believe in the same God as Christians and Jews.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Need to Tone Down my Outspokeness

For those that know me, I am a person who is outspoken and speaks his mind. It is a part of my personality and people in time come to appreciate my ethics and integrity. However, I should be careful with my outspokenness as it also has gotten me in trouble several times.

One example happened yesterday. A colleague came to enquire about a previous member of my team. She wanted to know my perception of her. Well, this team member was the weakest link in our department. She was a person who was argumentative, would not admit any mistakes, and thought the whole world was out to get her. She had left the company over 5 months ago and nobody misses her as she singlehandedly managed to alienate everybody.

From the above, her biggest downfall is her negative attitude. That is something that destroys people and their careers. It haunts them and will continue to do so. The single best advice to people is to enhance their attitude. It can go a long way to furthering their careers and making them achieve success. But that is a long topic which I will tackle in another post.

Anyway, she (as we all do) spiced up her CV apparently taking credit for a lot of projects done within the company. Based upon that, she was hired by another company and has just started with them. However, it seems that her line manager is surprised by her inability to handle simple assignments based upon her claims. Thus, her management at the company are worried about her (and since she is still on probation) have started to closely examine the details of her CV. Thus, her line manager contacted her friend at our company and that person came to ask me about her.

Well, I told the truth and did not attempt to blemish it. Although I did state that I would not want to cut a person's livelihood, but that this lady is a hopeless case. This was not my personal opinion, although I did suffer tremendously with her under my tutelage, but a consensus of all those that interacted with her. After all, she received a dismal performance rating from me after the year under my supervision. After that, she was transfered to be managed by another person who also had trouble with her where it reached an ultimatimum; either the manager stays or this lady but not both.

The morale of this story is the following:
1) Try and leave a company on good terms no matter what the circumstances are. After all, you never know when you will need the support of people.
2) Utilize the mistakes to learn from them and never repeat them.
3) When people request information from you, better to stay neutral and let them handle it themselves. After all, they are the ones who hired her and thus, they need to make the final decision of whether to retain her or not.
4) I will need to tone down my outspokeness. After all, who am I to judge others?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Can I get a Word In?

Yesterday, I was invited to a friend’s house to break Iftar. I have known this friend for over 10 years now ever since he interviewed me and subsequently, I was hired with an American multinational in Beirut. As he was the main sales person within the Consumer Division and I was the marketing person, we have had our fair share of conflicts within the scope of work. Our boss suffered greatly as he tried to facilitate our differences. Subsequently, I came to Dubai and he followed one year later and we have stayed in touch.

Mohamed is one of those guys whom I get annoyed with especially when we are debating a certain topic. I would always try to reason with him, as well as some of his other friends, but to no avail. He would get easily peeved, his tone of voice rising and rising, until it reaches the point whereby you either keep your silence or risk alienating your friendship altogether.

What is his red line? Well, it is whenever Arab politics are debated, especially the PLO and his beloved leader, Yasser Arafat. You see, Mohamed is a Palestinian refugee whose family are vehemently pro-Fatah supporters whom witnessed the Fedayeen movement within Lebanon during the 80s and 90s. Although he is the only one of his nuclear family to speak with a Lebanese (even Beiruti accent) due to him growing up amongst Lebanese friends in his formative years, he places himself as the voice/soul of the Palestinian people and their consciousness. To him, and this is my main criticism, there are only two viewpoints; the correct one (which is his) and the incorrect one (which is any other countervailing argument). Similar to George W. Bush’s mantra: You are with us or against us, it leaves no room for compromise or a basis for reaching a mutual solution.

My sister, during one of her visits to Dubai, at last made me understand where he is coming from which I never understood. It was a personal belief and nobody could make him see it differently. Blind faith in Yasser Arafat was Mohamed’s prerogative and his reason for being. My sister stated: If someone was to try and convince you that your religion, Islam, is incorrect, then how would your reaction be? At last, it dawned upon me.

Thus, these days, I stopped attempting to try and convince Mohamed of the wrong in his arguments. Rather, I just sit back and enjoy the show. Why get worked up and annoyed about something that I cannot influence. In addition, I see that my little sister (she is younger than me by 9 years) has matured from the little kid into a young adult woman and our relationship should be based upon mutual respect and not my imposition of right and wrong on her.

Are my actions correct? What do you think?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Practising Rather Than Preaching

I am ashamed by a simple email at work that was sent by "The admin. dept." Firstly, never trust emails that refer to a department rather than a person. Secondly, it did more harm than good. The email was informing all the employees of the company that in RESPECT for Ramadan no one is allowed to eat or drink on company premises, not even in the pantry area of our offices. Imagine the irony!

This simple email memo does Muslims a lot more harm than good and goes directly against the spirit of Ramadan. We expect non-Muslims to respect our religion by observing it!!! That is horrific and unacceptable. And we wonder why other nationals criticize Muslims as being fanatics and having spread the message via the sword.

As long as non-Muslims are discreet and considerate during Ramadan (e.g. closing the pantry door and quitely eating during lunch over there), then it shows that they respect the Muslim practice of fasting during Ramadan. Obviously someone who violates these rules should be given a private stern warning by The Admin Dept. However, to impose this stupid rule upon all employees makes non-Muslims frown upon the Muslim practice of Ramadan.

We have been led by demagouges for way too long. We should concentrate on practicing our religion in a private manner rather than paint our religions on our sleeves. That is more consistent with the spirit of our religion.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Arab TV Series During Ramadan

Today while fasting on the first day of this year’s Ramadan, I noticed a female colleague of mine who was enquiring about the timing of the TV Arab serials, Bab il Hara 3 and Freej. This is what Ramadan is about for a lot of people. Most of the time, it takes me a couple of days before I settle on my own TV series to regularly watch and sometimes it is vastly different than the most common one.

For my non-Arab audience, I need to give a little bit of background. Besides the spiritual element of Ramadan, it is a time for the Arab TV channels and producers to showcase themselves. The family gathering around the TV after breaking their fast and staying up late in the night is a common phenomenon. Thus, many channels and media houses salivate over the opportunity to target all Arabs from the ages of 15 to 60 male and female at the same time.

During the initial beginning, it was Noor El Shareef’s Al Haj Mutwali that grabbed the spotlight. In it, he married 4 times with each different wife having a different personality and they lived in the same building, thus making their interaction lively and interesting. Other social themes were expressed within it and its ramifications were tremendous (talk shows, family discussions, etc…).

Last year, it was the Syrian series Bab Il Hara which received the kudos. It glamorized the traditional conservative theme of masculinity and honor. I wonder which TV series will emerge as the champion of Ramadan 2008 especially as Bab Il Hara will have the 3rd edition while there will be a historical series about the tribe of the Prophet Mohamed (Peace Be Upon Him); Bani Hashim.

I can understand why a lot of TV channels try and purchase the top Ramadan series and have exclusive rights to it. However, I do believe that it has been taken a little bit too far. There are so many choices for people now that it would take a person staying up 18 hours per day just to stay on top of all of the series. It has been taken a step too far. Each Arab TV channel tries to compete in all the segments including cartoon animation (after the success of Freej in the UAE), general entertainment (similar to Bab il Hara), historical serials, and Bedouin series.

Two problems emerge; 1) there are way too many choices for a person to choose so they either have to spend Ramadan watching TV and forgetting about the spiritual meaning of getting closer to God via worship, and 2) when a format works, then it get blindly replicated by TV channels. For example, The first Freej was excellent, but Freej 2 was OK. Will Freej 3 boom or bust? Bab il Hara won hands down last year, but there are other competitors now who have just changed the setting from middle-class shop owners in a Damascus neighborhood to fishermen on a coastal city. Is this really innovation or imitation? Will it work or not?

Time will only tell. Have a good time viewing!

A Perspective on Fasting

Well, Ramadan has come around again whereby Muslims across the world refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset for a whole lunar month. It is projected to start on 1st of September this year, but could be on the 2nd according to the sighting of the new moon. Ramadan is a special occasion for Muslims as the holy month replenishes their spiritual side, makes them more reflective, and is a time for meeting of friends and families, especially as they break their fast together. More importantly, it is a distinguishing mark of a devout Muslim who is performing the 4th pillar of his religion.

However, I would like to point out that fasting is not about refraining from food and drink, but rather, it is much deeper and symbolic than that. Fasting is about discipline, it is about resisting temptation, and it is about “turning the other cheek.” After all, the hardest part of fasting is not the sustenance/nourishment aspect although that is the aspect most widely discussed, especially with non-Muslims. The hardest part of fasting, and one that I am especially attracted too, is the ability to forgive and not answer back those that have attacked you.

What does that mean? It means refraining from cursing, shouting or showing belligerence towards others. It means not waving your hands when someone cuts you off on the road. It means not responding to a verbal assault, but stating: “God be my witness, but I am fasting!” It means having the discipline and the self-consciousness to elevate yourself and self-worth to a higher moral ground than others. And you do that as further evidence of your devotion to God. It means holding your temper in check, and not justifying those around you that are not sure of themselves. That is the essence of fasting, but how many people actually think of it in this way?!?!

May the Almighty grant you the health and prosperity to enjoy many more Ramadans!