Ten Food Commandments with Jay Rayner

Once I booked my flights to London, I knew what I had to do: check if there were any shows in the city I wanted to see. While on this hunt, I thankfully remembered to check if Jay Rayner had any shows on during my trip. I got lucky, there was a ‘Ten Food Commandments’ show on September 11 – the day I landed in London. I knew I’d most likely be jet-lagged that evening but there were no other shows during my trip, so I bit the bullet and bought a ticket.

Right, so I haven’t read the book on which the performance is based but I knew that whatever the show would end up being, I would be treated to a heavy dose of tongue-in-cheek and witty observations. Thankfully, I wasn’t wrong.

I headed off to The Crazy Coqs, which is located within Brasserie Zedel, just off the Piccadilly Circus station. Guests were queuing up in this basement-level foyer, which had some stunning murals and architecture. I looked it up while writing this post, and found out that the building, now restored, is a loyal retelling of its original 1930s Art Deco style. The room which houses the Crazy Coqs used to be the billiard room, and, according to the official website, has been restored faithfully.

Now – on the show! Once we were admitted to the intimate round venue, all clustered around a mini stage at one end, the show began when Rayner appeared in his Moses outfit…

The show started at 9.15pm and ended at 10.45pm, which included a 10 minute break. The first part of the show concentrated on the ten (food) commandments, peppered with interesting anecdotes that played into those commandments, as well as some brilliant jokes. After a 10-minute interval, before which he encouraged the crowd to tweet him with food commandments of their own, he returned and started reading those tweets and interacting with the tweeters and sharing his opinions. After that was an open Q&A, and then he stayed behind to sell and sign his books.

If you’re interested in the culture of food, and enjoy reading his restaurant reviews every week – this is definitely a good show to catch.

Let me leave you with one of my favourite quotes of the night: “People don’t go to restaurants to stave off rickets. People go to restaurants to collect memories.”


Literaturhaus at Nadi – an ode to literature at Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue

Literaturhaus at Nadi – an ode to literature at Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue

Earlier this month, I attended the launch of Literaturhaus at Nadi, which is a literary event that will continue to be hosted at Nadi Al Quoz every Saturday until September 30. The first Saturday was helmed by Afra Atiq, an Emirati spoken word poet. She was mesmerising, to say the least. This was my first time attending a poetry slam performance, and I really enjoyed it.

Afra used themes she identified with personally, and certainly themes a lot of people in the audience identified with as well, considering the applause she got in response! Starting off with an ode to true love (food, and its fickle nature), to schoolyard bullying, to being labelled ‘different’, to dealing with heartbreak, Afra used the power of words to really bring a sense of energy and empathy in the room… I know I was nearly in tears at some points.

I love the vibe Dubai’s culture and literary scene has right now, and Literaturhaus at Nadi seems like an amazing opportunity for people to sample what the city’s literary artists have to offer. It’s not just poetry, the programming offers up authors, historians, musicians and much more.

The events are free to attend, but there is limited space to do RSVP.

All info on the link here

Special needs event on Saturday, Feb 22, in Dubai!

Running a press release which I received about an event in Dubai this coming weekend, which aims to raise awareness about special needs kids and allows them to enjoy themselves in a relaxed setting while interacting with kids who go to mainstream schools.

Also, it’s Karan’s birthday on February 22 … so go celebrate! 😀


TRIBE WATSON to Organize 7th Annual reaching you “party in the park”
(formally known as reaching you “family fun day”)

Dubai, UAE – 16th February 2014 – Under the patronage of HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice- President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, ‘reaching you’- a programme created to increase awareness and integration of children with special needs across the UAE- will be holding its 7th annual Party In The Park (formally known as ‘Family Fun Day’), at the Mega Bowl, Zabeel Park on the 22nd of February 2014 from 12:00 until 18:00.

Invitation to Reaching You party in the park

A complimentary day full of festivities, the reaching you “party in the park” is committed to providing a relaxed environment for special needs and mainstream children to interact and enjoy a fun filled day of activities, merriment and health.

“We see health and fitness as a key element in enhancing children’s lives and integrating them into their community,” said Nick Watson, Co-Founder of TRIBE WATSON and reaching you. “As such, we wanted to create a worthy cause, which encouraged this involvement, sharing with parents and the UAE community the wonderful joy this can bring to children of all abilities.”

“In Dubai alone there are over 6000 children with special needs, however caring for them is not always at the forefront of people’s minds, thus events like the reaching you “party in the park”, help in bringing us all together,” said Mr. Watson.

In its 7th year and expecting over 5000 visitors, the reaching you “party in the park” promises to be a fantastic day full of activities including – DJ’s, bouncy castles, obstacle courses, climbing walls, Dubai Drums, art work, puppet shows, theatrical shows, games as well as face & henna painting – delighting children in this renowned family affair.

“It is my personal belief that every individual has the right to receive the necessary support needed to live as a member of the community and benefit from experience and social relationships. reaching you and its various initiatives are a perfect way to achieve this,” concluded Mr. Watson.

Nick and Delphine Watson are parents of Rio, their beautiful boy who has special needs. Inspired by their own experiences, in 2006 they were motivated to establish the program reaching you, using their own understanding and appreciation for the cause, as the currency for their success.

Details of Reaching You Facebook page-

Swan Lake ballet in Dubai

Swan Lake ballet in Dubai

When my friend Hannah-Farah asked if I wanted to accompany her to watch Swan Lake, performed by The Russian Moscow Ballet, I said yes. I had only seen the ballet once before, in Sheffield, but I had enjoyed it very much. So we booked tickets immediately and last night, we were off to the ballet (with some awesome Vietnamese food to sate our hunger before that).

The Russian Moscow Ballet tour in Dubai is sold out now (I checked this morning) but it was a fun experience for us, especially as it was Hannah’s first time at a ballet.

The dancers wowed both of us – their pirouettes were beautiful! Also amazing was their stamina… jumping around yet looking so graceful. It helps that I love listening to classical music even though I am no expert. Good music just makes me bob around like a very happy person, and that’s what I was last night.

My only disappointment last night was the setup in terms of seating. I wish that all seats had a good view of the stage, as I think ballet/theatre venues should do. Paying AED250 for the cheapest seats, if you were at one end of the area, then you couldn’t see when the dancers moved closer to the back of the stage. Fortunately, this wasn’t a lot of the time, but even so. I can imagine people sitting in those areas were disappointed.

I would definitely recommend a ballet showing to anyone interested in wonderful music and graceful dancing … and especially if The Russian Moscow Ballet comes to town.

View some photos here:

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Autism awareness month supported by Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi

Note: I don’t normally post press releases on my blog, but I felt this one warranted a post 🙂 There’s a few activities for members of the public to get involved with, so if you’re in Abu Dhabi around that time, why not?

As part of Hyatt Hotels & Resorts’ international Global Month of Service, Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi has partnered with Abu Dhabi Cause Connect to support World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) through a full month of initiatives to raise awareness on autism.

“As part of our on-going commitment to Hyatt Thrive and our local community, hosting and organising weekly activities throughout April (World Autism Awareness Month) was undoubtedly an important yet easy decision as it is a cause all our employees are committed to,” said Ashwini Kumar, Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi general manager, in the statement.

One in every 88 children is diagnosed with autism and each year, more children are diagnosed with autism than with juvenile diabetes, AIDS or cancer, combined.

“Awareness is the first step to early detection. It is important for us to engage the community so that there is increased dialogue about how to recognise autism and how to find the proper help and support for your child,” said autism consultant Nipa Bhuptani. “Early intervention plays a large role in increasing the quality of life of children, family and their caregivers.”

“Our employees are volunteering their time towards increasing awareness and acceptance of autism families in Abu Dhabi,” added Kumar.

These are the activities Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi is working on:

Hotel Fundraising – 2 April
From WAAD until the end of the month, Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi will ‘Light it up Blue’ by switching all of its exterior building lights to blue – the recognised hero colour of Autism Speaks – to mark its commitment to the cause.
Guests visiting Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi will have the opportunity to assist children with autism by adding a ten dirham donation to the end of their bill at any food and beverage outlet, Rayana spa and at check-out.

Employee Education – 2 April
To ensure all employees of Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi are able to share informed knowledge about persons with autism, awareness and early detection, Nipa Bhuptani will provide an educational seminar to not only increase awareness amongst hotel staff, but to also allow staff to share their learning with all guests they interact with. All employees will be wearing a colourful puzzle piece ribbon on their lapel throughout April, and thus the hotel encourages all guests to please speak to its employees about this important initiative.

Art Display and Auction – 7 April
To celebrate the unique talents and skills of people with autism, from 7 – 30 April, various art pieces will be on display on level 18 of Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi, in reception, the lounge and the hotel’s signature restaurant, 18 Degrees (18˚).
Painted and drawn by children with autism, approximately 25 pieces will be displayed and showcased to all guests entering the hotel. Art pieces are available for purchase at a price dictated by the buyer as a donation. All monies received from the sales will be put towards purchasing ‘wish list’ items for autism schools and centres.

Fun Day – 20 April, 9:30am
To warmly welcome and embrace children with autism, a day for these unique individuals and their families will be hosted by Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi at the Corniche Beach. The hotel will not only be donating snack boxes for the children, but employees will also join the event to personally play and engage with, and support all that attend.

Inaugural Launch of Support Network for Parents – 24 April, 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Hyatt Capital Gate Abu Dhabi will host the launch of Abu Dhabi’s first parent support network for autism families, led by Nipa Bhuptani. Although the prevalence of persons with autism is high in the capital, no formal support network currently exists. All parents that have children with autism are invited to attend the launch.
For parents in need of additional relaxation, a complimentary coffee break and yoga/meditation session will also be hosted from 6:00pm – 7:00pm by Rayana Spa, located on level 19 of the hotel. Prior registration is required and availability is on a first come first serve basis.

For those wanting to attend the Fun Day and / or Launch of the Support Network, please contact Nipa Bhuptani at nipa@nipabhuptani.com or +97150 7929965.

A quick lesson in science fiction by Alastair Reynolds at Emirates LitFest

(Long post ahead, but I guarantee sci-fi fans will enjoy the read)


This year, I seemed to be taking all sorts of chances with the Emirates Festival of Literature…picking authors I hadn’t heard of. Whatever will I do next?

So why did I want to go for Alastair Reynold‘s session? Simply because the topic said: “Beyond Rocket Science: Exploring the fine line between science and fiction”. That’s all it took for me to go click and buy the session.


A few days before the LitFest, I mentioned to my colleague I was attending a session of an author called Alastair Reynolds, and had he heard of him? Within five minutes, I had a copy of Terminal World in my hands. By the time I attended LitFest, I’d finished roughly around 100-odd pages, but loved what I was reading so much I bought my own copy. The next day I had finished the book and in awe, looking forward even more to the session I bought on a sci-fi whim.
Here’s an account of the insanely fun hour-long session where I learned so much more about the sci-fi genre of books and more:


The first thing that got me excited is the knowledge that Reynolds is writing the new Doctor Who novel, ‘Harvest of Time’. Absolutely cannot wait for that one now!

Reynolds used to be a scientist for a space agency, and had a lot more understanding of the realism of science in novels, which helped differentiate between what’s science fiction and what’s not.

For example, he said: “Is Star Wars since fiction or science fantasy? I think it’s not science fiction; it’s more like wizards in space.” He called it science fantasy, and said realistic science can be found in TV series/movies like Star Trek.

He helps chart out the movement of science fiction novels from earth to space. “One of the ways it helps to understand science fiction is the way knowledge of the earth developed in the 20th century,” Reynolds said.

With people discovering almost all there was to know about the earth, it was hard for writers to create fiction on home ground; space was the final frontier, literally.

The death knell of sorts pealed for sci-fi writers. In 1905, Einstein said nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. “Speed of sound is an engineering problem. Speed of light is more like a physical restriction on the universe, like 2+2 = 4 not 5,” explained Reynolds.

“This was terrible news for science fiction writers. How are we going to tell our stories if you can’t travel at the speed of light? The science fiction writers just said ‘We can’t hear you’ and people just decided to break the speed of light through science fiction, using wormholes and hyperdrive.”

Reynolds recounted a hilarious (well, hilarious in retrospect) situation where he’d given an interview saying nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, right after which CERN discovered neutrinos which seemingly travelled faster than light. As kids these days say: “*facepalm*”

However it’s been reported that these results could have been caused by a system error, so let’s not discredit Einstein (or Reynolds) just yet!


Another cool thread of thought he talked about was how science influences science fiction and vice versa. We return to Star Trek; as fans might know the “warp drive” was Rodenberry’s way of allowing the starships to travel faster than light. According to Reynolds, a physicist at the University of Swansea decided to think more along these lines, and created the Alcubierre Metric, which would create a warp bubble. However, a massive downside is that to use it, one would need to use more energy that’s contained in the entire universe.



Kip Thorne (can be seen in the slide in the background) is a theoretical physicist has researched into the concept of wormholes and time travelling (hands up those who thought of Farscape!).

Another idea from science fiction is the idea of ‘terraforming’. This term refers to the hypothetical process of transforming the ecology, atmosphere and everything else required to make it suitable for human beings to inhabit in Earth-like conditions.

Planets haven’t escaped this influence of science fiction either! “One of the problems is that we’re running out of names for planets, so experts responsbile for naming systems, in sheer desperation, turn to science fiction.” Earlier on in the talk, Reynolds mentioned “Dune”, the universe created in the sci-fi novels of Frank Herbert. In that, there’s a planet called Chusuk. And now, if one were to travel to Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, one may cross one of its plains, Chusuk Planitia, named after Herbert’s fictional planet. Cool, innit?


Reynolds seemed impressed with James Cameron’s Avatar – he mentioned it more than once during his talk. He said: “[There is a] clever thinking of mechanics of space flight and mechanics of the alien planet in Avatar. Cameron took the latest speculation and built it into the film. Avatar has clever thinking of alien ecology and physiology of the planet.”

Oh, and then the question/answer session. This bit is always fun, but was made so much better by the most adorable boy (he could’ve been seven? Eight? Ten?) who asked extremely intelligent questions about matter and anti-matter and the process of using these opposing forces to power a starship. With intelligent follow-up questions to boot! 

The signing session followed, and I can vouch for what a friendly person Reynolds is. I was feeling bad for the people behind me, wondering if they were cursing me for taking my time up front, but he’s so friendly! We talked for a bit and I walked off thinking I’d found a new author whose books I’d love to build a collection of.

To infinity and beyond!

[Note: There was so much more he covered during the session, with a slideshow of images, but I’ve only covered some major points that were my favourite bits]
My tweets from that day:

Writing tips & wholesome scares from Darren Shan at Emirates LitFest

I stumbled on Darren Shan quite by mistake. I was hunting around my library for books to borrow (I took home seven, yes that’s right) and I saw a little card next to a row of books that read: “Emirates LitFest author”. That piqued my interest along with the books in question being in the Young Adult (YA) section.


So I picked up an omnibus of the first three books in a series: Cirque du Freak, The Vampire’s Assistant, and Tunnels of Blood.

I was impressed. While I may not be the conventional YA target market, I do enjoy YA books a lot. These were branded as “horror”, though I didn’t get very scared. Perhaps Shan had it down pat when he said at his session that his books are a mixture of things; indeed, the Darren Shan series is more action/adventure…with characters that happen to be paranormal.

Anyway, I decided to go to his session and I’m glad I did. Shan knows how to put on a great show for his audience; with three readings, tips as well as good-naturedly answering all the questions put to him, the session was a blast.


Shan said he has published 30 books including three for adults, but has “written lots more that have never been published.”

He also read three excerpts from his books, including one from his new zombie series that will be published this year. And as he said, they’re suitably gruesome. A friend of mine told me later her 10/11-year-old son was very excited to hear the reading and said he absolutely had to read that book when it did release.



But what I really took away from that session was his writing tips, which are really quite helpful to those young, budding writers out there (including myself!). I even highlighted at the end the tip I found most insightful: 

  • “Don’t be discouraged if you write a story you don’t like.”
  • “If you are writing for yourself and not for school, write the sort of stories you would like to read.”
  • “If you are a writer, read different types of books and watch different types of movies.”
  • “I don’t think writer’s block exists except in very few cases. I think a lot of young writers use “writer’s block” as an excuse.”
  • “Writing is hard work.”
  • “To write good stories, you have to write bad stories first.”

Thanks for coming down to Emirates LitFest, Darren Shan. I bet you’ve inspired many young kids out there to get reading and dabbling in writing.

And judging by the insanely long line of kids wanting your signature in their books…you’re doing a fine job. A fine job indeed.

Book-to-movie adaptations; what do authors think about it? An @EmiratesLitFest panel.

An author, whom I must admit I hadn’t heard of before this year’s LitFest*, said something I whole-heartedly agreed with:

“It’s almost blasphemous to say this in a panel of writers, but a bad adaptation is when the movie is literal.” – Tom Rob Smith

*I shall add, Tom Rob Smith, that I’ve since purchased your book Child 44 and hope to dive into it soon.

He was speaking amidst the film panel at the Emirates Litfest 2012, on Friday, March 9. This was also my first session this year, and I’m happy to say I felt the weekend would go well with such a cracking start.


The panel consisted of Smith, Mark Billingham, Nicholas Sparks (whose solo session I already blogged about) and Chan Koonchung, and was chaired by Paul Blezard.

Movies and TV shows are such an integral part of my life; I’ve got rows and rows of (original) DVDs lining the shelves in my living room, and I’ve been known to maniacally click on Amazon.co.uk’s Black Friday deals two years in a row now – the first year I came away with the entire boxed collection of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and the second time got Star Trek: The Original Series.

Poirot is perhaps a good starting point. Based on the books by whodunnit writer extraordinaire Agatha Christie, the TV-movies are mostly excellent adaptations of her stories. But not all movies get it right.

My friends know I quite love the Harry Potter series. But I’ve no qualms in admitting the first two movies in the franchise were, to me, absolutely awful. Why? One massive reason stood out amongst others: it was too literal. Which is what Smith said.


He went on to add that, in his opinion, the novel was the product, whereas the screenplay of the movie was the template. Sparks agreed with Smith and said as an author, one should be willing to see the movie “can be different from the novel”.

And while movies that strike a chord with people leads them to seek the inspiration behind the story, for example the book it was based on, Blezard posed a question on whether the reverse was true…whether bad movies reflected badly on the authors of the book.

Sparks said not. “No one associates the movie with the book if the movie is bad, but if the film is good you get a bump. They are like commercials for your book-writing career if they are done well.” Sparks has three of his books in various stages of movie production at present.
The problem with getting a movie to be an excellent adaptation is the essence of time. Blezard put it well; he conducted an experiment of sorts with a friend and here’s what he got out of it: “The average novel is about 120,000 words and it contains 700-800 events. The average movie is 120 minutes long and has 70-80 events and that’s why you lose so much of the essence of the book.”

Billingham had a similar point of view, I imagine, when he said short stories make better movies than novels, “because often great movies are the best of the heart of the novel than anything else.”

The authors agreed that getting to the essence of the book was important for getting a good movie; Sparks even commented on how the movie version of The Notebook was different from the book in treatment, that is, the life of the lead characters when they were young was given more air time than it was present in the book. Yet, he liked the movie because the essence of the book was captured.

I’m really glad the authors had to say this, because I’ve often had to deal with loyalists of books like Harry Potter, for example, who rant and rail about how the movie took liberty with the story, but from the third movie onwards, I’m so glad they did because clearly making it literal was just plain bad (an exception to this is in the last movie when I was actually really upset about how Voldemort was killed, but a minor quiffle after eight movies is not too bad, innit?).

When asked to pick their favourite book-to-movie adaptations, here’s what we got:
  • Smith – Jurassic Park
  • Billingham – Jaws and the Godfather series
  • Koonchung: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Sparks: Forrest Gump

There was a bit of a hilarious discussion on how important an author on a movie set really is. Billingham said the writer probably comes below the caterer in the grand scheme of things. He added that most movie production teams ask if the writer wants to get involved and secretly hope they won’t get involved at all.

Even another session with YA horror author Darren Shan, later in the day, brought up the topic of movies. I haven’t seen the film myself, but Shan seemed surprised he was happy with it. He said: “I didn’t think I would like it (the movie), but I did. It wasn’t perfect but it was a nice freaky film. But I really liked the manga adaptation.”

Going back to the film panel, I really enjoyed the discussion that morning – along with discussing what the authors think of their books being brought to life, there was a lot of insight on how the film industry works and the lack of 100% control these authors have over the screenplay.

A lively session, which I’m glad, as a movie-buff and bookworm, I attended.

A Day to Remember, with Nicholas Sparks


Ridiculously enough, I can’t remember when I first saw the movie, A Walk to Remember. But I can recall how much I bawled when I saw it.

And when I saw it was based on a book…well I had to read it, didn’t I?


I’d never heard of Nicholas Sparks before this. A Walk to Remember is the first book I read, which, oddly enough, made me cry some more, even though I already knew the story.

And every book of his since has left me clutching at the tissue box like it was my best friend. He’s one of those authors who manages to make you feel like you’ve been hurt, in love, happy, sad, and every gamut of emotion there is … he makes you go through exactly what the characters go through.

So when I heard he was carrying out not one, but two sessions at the Emirates Festival of Literature 2012, I squealed and booked my tickets.

The first session was a film panel, which I plan to cover on this blog soon. The second was a solo interaction with him, in conversation with Paul Blezard.

The line to get into the hall that was hosting his event snaked back all through to the other end. And unpredictably enough, it wasn’t just women that were queueing up, but a whole host of men as well. Who knew…romance still lives!

It was packed inside, with attendees scrambling after seats upfront like they were gold dust, and when the session was about to begin, the enthusiasm in the air was thick.

We learned a lot about Sparks’ life, and certainly, he delivered hilarious, painful, emotional and happy anecdotes.


Little, random nuggets I noted from the Q&A session:

  • Before hitting the publishing jackpot, he had a job selling pharmaceuticals.
  • The Notebook is the story inspired by his wife’s maternal grandparents.
  • He used a self-help book on how to find an agent for his first book.
  • After sending his manuscript of The Notebook to 25 agents, only one said yes.
  • Though born in different years, he shared a birthday with his younger sister, who unfortunately passed away due to cancer in 2000.

But now I’ll go back to A Walk to Remember. Here’s something he revealed during the audience Q&A that shocked the socks off everyone:

A Walk to Remember was written in eight days, where he wrote for 16 hours every day.


After learning most of his books were inspired from real life (friends and family), I was curious to know where this book came from. Someone beat me to asking this question.


Here’s what he said (yes, word-for-word as I was taking notes in shorthand):

“A Walk to Remember was inspired by my family. Jamie Sullivan, the character in the book, is my little sister. Just like Jamie, my sister wore the ugly brown cardigan [to school] every day and bought the Bible with her to school every day. Like her, my sister didn’t care about that [people taunting her]. And she had a really simple dream … her dream in life was to get married. And I was like, “That’s it?” Anyway, my little sister got cancer, and like what happened with Jamie Sullivan, there was a boy and like Landon Carter, this boy knew he could never, ever fall in love with a girl like her, but like Landon Carter he did. And like Landon Carter, he too knew what her dream was and so even when my little sister got sicker and sicker and we all knew that she wasn’t going to make it, he got down on his knees and asked her to marry him. I remember thinking that’s just the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for anybody. And I remember after I wrote A Walk to Remember, I sent it to my little sister. A few months later I was talking to her, and asked, “did you read it yet?”, and she said, “no.” I asked why not, and she said, “Because I don’t want to know how it ends.””

And as Sparks often said through the one hour: “That’s a good story.”

I must say though, the line after that one-hour event to get books signed by Sparks was immensely long:


Which is why I was glad I got his signature on my dog-eared copy of A Walk to Remember earlier in the day after the film panel.


He was really great at the signing; he took the time to speak to everyone queued up, even said my name was a beautiful one (I nearly squee’d out loud), and then got up (yes, really) to take photos with everyone who asked…including me.


…that’s a good story, isn’t it?

Event roundup: One Night Standup

The doors shut in our face. “You can’t enter right now,” the waitress said.

A posh voice said: “Let them in.” And the gateway into the new local comedy night: One Night Standup, was opened to us.

The posh voice belonged to Hisham Wyne, whose accent, most of us thought, escalated to a grand scale of I’m-Really-From-Blighty from a lower scale of Obviously-a-Fake-Brit, through the night (you know I’m not being mean, right Hisham?). He’s also someone I’ve known for nearly 8 years now, and the organiser of the monthly free event meant to foster the local comedy scene.

When I got the event invite, I wasn’t sure if I would attend. But I needed a good laugh, quite desperately, and I felt I should go to support the community, and a friend. Off I went, wondering whether I would enjoy it. The knowledge of never having been to a live standup show before was also daunting…what if it wasn’t my thing?

We crowded into the inner room of 1Up at the Boutique 7 Hotel and Suites, TECOM (the way to get to the bar is quite interestingly a staircase that looks like the Dubai Metro entrance), and waited. True to Dubai fashion (or desi fashion imported to the country, some might argue), the event started a half-hour after it was scheduled to. But I was glad I got there early; some who landed up late had to be content with perching themselves outside the room and watching the acts on a TV screen.

The room quickly filled up, bursting to the seams – I had to move my high bar chair a few times to prevent brushing against the fellow standing in front of me. The air was rife with the smell of chips, ciggies and booze. We waited.

And then it began. Hisham opened the night, poking fun at himself and more. Then after pulling chits out of a fishbowl, the comedians moved on the stage to make us laugh. After a few acts, there was a 15-minute break with an excellent live acoustic performance (what was the singer’s name? He was so good. Plus later on the band said they were from north of England, which is my home ground…or…err…study ground), and then back to comedy it was.

It’s hard to do that you know – comedy. Making your friends laugh is one thing, but standing in front of a crowd – a hard-to-please crowd – is another. There were, quite honestly, varying degrees of success. Some comedians had me laughing so much, I was worried I’d topple off my high seat in pure mirth (Hisham, put up some pics from the night and tag the comedians; I want to know which performers were my favourites!).

A mutual consensus was reached between me and my friends: the Emirati comedians were insanely and excruciatingly good. Perhaps the cultural relevance helped, but they knew how to play the audience, knew how to get our stomachs knotted up in laughter. Well done. We even loved the opening act: a Pakistani (was his name Salman Qureshi?) whose Superhero-in-Dubai jokes were pretty hilarious. I know I’ve missed a lot of you, but I was too busy balancing myself on my chair trying not to fall off in doubled up laughter to take notes or photos. Overall, an excellent night out and time well spent.

Now to scrub away the reek of cigarette smoke from my hair.

Muchos gracias to my fellow tweeps – @VonSkunk, @Lenaro, @DaddyBird, @Azabith and @DerrickPereira – for the company.

For more information, check out One Night Standup on Facebook.