The Paranormal Hotel (Dubai Panorama) - The Working Girls in Jockey's Pub
A Brief History of (a) Time
Some years ago, I found myself gainfully employed but homeless in Dubai, and in urgent need of accommodation for about six months.
My Bulgarian friend (it's a cosmopolitan city) used her influence to secure me a long-term stay in Bur Dubai Panorama Hotel. So strange was this place that I had to commit it to paper, or at least to Blogspot. To this end, I dubbed it the Paranormal and myself, Paraglider, and set to 'work', immortalising...
The Paranormal Hotel
By any standards, the Paranormal is an unprepossessing building. Six residential floors in low quality concrete, clad in pink crud. Still, the rooms are spacious and functional enough, once you get used to the idea that the cold water, in summer, is too hot to touch. But let me leave the description of the ground floor to a Professional Travel Writer. This, from a travel website:
Guests can also sip various beverages at Jockey's Pub, while enjoying various entertainments.
Jings. Quite apart from the strange 'various' fixation, in many years, possibly amounting to man-years, in Jockey's, I can honestly say I have never witnessed the ignoble perversion of 'sipping'. Gulping is the good honest norm. The same travelogue-ist observes:
During the daytime, the visitors can enjoy various (!) activities like dune bashing, camel riding and sand surfing on the sands of Dubai.
Yes, but, selfsame sands are not cheek-to-cheek with Paranormal and it is arguable that the hotel's camel stock has dwindled to less than one. In fact, our nearest sands are the car park to the right and the graveyard to the left. The graveyard is best observed from 2nd floor bedrooms and above. There are dead people there, but that's OK too. They don't make too much noise, and don't sip any more, if they ever did. Still, s/he was right about 'various entertainments'.
These comprise: a DJ with the good sense to play popular music quietly until about 9 p.m. when the volume and the bar prices go up, a few wall-mounted screens showing Sky News and Sky Sports, a dart board mounted on a pillar (think about it!), and, of course:
Helga's Chickens take the floor
around eight thirty every night.
Could anybody ask for more?
Perhaps some spotty troglodyte
would rather hide away and write
computer code, but that's a bore
and hardly likely to delight
Helga's Chickens. Take the floor
for instance - even if it wore
a carpet of a lurid white
our eyes would still be on the door
around eight thirty. Every night
the Paranormal's heaving. Quite
a crowd prepares for what's in store
and brightens as they dim the light.
Could anybody ask for more
than Helga and her brood? Before
you rush to call her 'parasite'
or breathe the appellation 'whore',
perhaps some spotty troglodyte
will rush to her defence and cite
an evening back in '94
when he succumbed, gave up the fight
and sang - O come let us adore
In other words, it's the best little whore-house in the Middle East. And as such, it's the best venue you'll ever find for people-watching. It's also a blogger's paradise. Every day, there's some new lunacy to see and describe. So much more fun than second hand commentary on local politics! Here are a few vignettes from The Paranormal - some of the girls, some of the regulars:
Breaking the Ice
Some carry a notebook with useful phrases. "You take lady? Your friend take lady?" But the phrases are written in Russian, with the English translation rendered phonetically in the Russian alphabet. This makes it hard to suggest improvements. One red-haired girl has an unusual line of patter. "Do not talk to your friend. He is going to kill you." Clairvoyant? Or perhaps someone doctored the notebook.
A Taste of the Dark
Eric's dance was a long time coming. Maybe half a dozen double whiskies and fourteen tentative approaches from all nations East of Turkey. He seemed impervious, even to the wiles of Kyrgyz Carina who retired gracefully, knowing herself rebuffed, albeit in barely comprehensible slurred County. Enter Stella from Eritrea, beaming her beam as only she can. Eric's dance began, all elbows, knees and wire-rimmed glasses. Snake-charmer par excellence, you'd almost think he didn't know he didn't have to try. From her corner stool, Carina said something like "Blyatt!"
Your Feet's Too Big
There's good posture, and there's presence. Anna has both, especially the latter. And eyes. Eyes that don't so much look as inhale. Rather like the old Superman comics: Aside - With my X-ray vision, I can see that he's carrying a ray-gun in his haversack. It turns out (since you have no option but to talk to her) that her father was in the KGB and doesn't know she's in Dubai. Which says a lot for intelligence. And that she was an aspiring ballet dancer with a wodge of potential until, sadly, her feet grew too big. Well, they're not huge, but, looking down, her story is certainly believable. Still, you might think there would be some happy medium between stardom and the Para. Maybe some modern dance troupe with progressive attitudes towards feet? Apparently not. So it's good to know that the Paranormal is there, rather like a donkey sanctuary, for ballerinas in free-fall.
Well, times change. I've left the Paranormal and Dubai behind me and am now working in Qatar. But the Paranormal Hotel blog goes on. Our moment of glory was inclusion in the literary e-zine The Chimaera who republished a number of my vignettes and the poem Helga's Chickens (a rondeau rédoublé). The flavour of the blog has changed, as Qatar provides a very different kind of inspiration, but the spirit of the Paranormal, best described as convivial surrealism, lives on. Repeat after me:
- Where you from?
- What your name?
- How long you in Dubai?
- You take lady?