Certain aspects of life in the Gulf are highly entertaining, providing, of course, that you have a slightly off-the-wall sense of humor. One of the things I have always greatly enjoyed is the mangled English you see. No doubt this is partially because I happen to be an English teacher, but teacher or not, virtually all native speakers have seen something that tickles their funny bones. What follows is a series of photographs I have done of some of the signs I have noticed along the way. But beyond signs, I have also included other odd sights that are unusual in most of the rest of the world.More will be added as I track them down, scan them in, and plop them in the page. Have fun!
Where's the ocean???
This shot was taken just inside the UAE (United Arab Emirates)
on the way to Dubai. It refers, of course, to the wadi -- a wadi is a
dry river bed -- behind it. After a rain, these can become raging
torrents. Each year several people drown because they failed to
heed the warnings.
This sign at a shopping center in Qurum, a well-off suburb
of Muscat, has caused many passers-by a few moments of
quizzical astonishment. I once asked an Egyptian friend if it made
any more sense in Arabic.. apparently not. 'Tis a mystery where
these extraordinary names come from. On thing though: The
Generous Tourism Coffee Shop must certainly be unique.
This sign was taped up on the inside of the door to a small
hole-in-the-wall restaurant that caters to Indian, Pakistani, and
Sri Lankan laborers in the back streets of Muttruh. "Mess" here
is used in the military sense. Indian English uses any number
of rather quaint expressions long obsolete in more standard varieties
of the language.
World's Largest Table Lamp
Not only are signs amusing. Architecture and interior
design sometimes reach extraordinary pinnacles of
kitch. This crystal "table lamp", for wont of a better
description, is in a coffee shop in the lobby of a major
5-star hotel in Doha, Qatar. The woman at the table
is my wife, Myra.
Sign in Doha souq
At times, signs don't make a lot of sense, as this one
certainly proves. Too bad about the word-order, however. It could
have been even funnier.... I have just recently discovered that
in this case the mistake was inadvertant. It seems the Arabic
for "wedding" is "arous", so the goof came when they did not
put a space between "s" and "a". In Arabic the sign quite
properly reads "Arab Wedding"
Sometimes adjectives are used in
fresh and wondrous ways as this sign
in the Seeb Suq clearly demonstrates.
Interestingly, "fresh" is actually trans-
literated in the Arabic above, though
"shoes" is not.
You rent what???
This shop in Seebwill rent you almost anything you need
for a party, a wedding reception, or whatever kind
of "entertainment" you wish to arrange.
Seeb Shoemaker Shop
This shoemaker is set up near the beach in Seeb.
I noticed the sign, "Shoes stitching and repairing" a few
weeks ago and decided it deserved a place on this page.
This is quite typical "Indian English".
We sell 'em, we fix 'em???
This shop in Bur Dubai (UAE), not far from The Creek,
is just one of many with a cock-eyed English name.
The Guys in Plaid
Sometimes the local sense of style is at odds with
that of the unsuspecting Wester n expatriate in
the Gulf. These two boys --though they didn't
know it, of course -- caused me and others
much mirth both at the time and later.
Mock Wedding Procession
I shot this at a charity event put on recently at
the univerisity for the benefit of acutely ill children.
The girl with the covered tray on her head is
bringing the dowry to the bride.
An Omani Mailbox
This is another indication of the wonderful whimsicality
of the Sultanate. The design is based on the handle and
scabard of the khanjar, the ceremonial dagger still worn
by Omani men on formal occasions.
Public Suggestion Box
I can think of few places in the world where one would ever find
something like this placed strategically in front of the
the local police station. This is but one example of the
whimsy that is such a charming part of Oman.
Gold, Gold, Gold!
An ancient Arab and S. Asian tradition, it still remains a favorite means of storing wealth and is an integral part of the dowry system. All women, no matter how poor, own at least a few pieces. By law nothing less than 18k may be sold. It is also relatively cheap: you pay the current London spot price plus not much more than 10% for workmanship. This treasure house was in the window in a shop window in Ruwi.
Back to Top