Disco Dino at Dubai Mall


Looking at these pictures of dinosaurs I just cannot believe that they inhabited our planet 230 million years ago. They walked the same ground we are walking now!

Looking at the dinosaur at the Dubai Mall, I can’t believe that something from that many million years ago, is just there, next to Tiffany and Cartier – it’s so surreal. 230 million years from now, maybe our bones will be in some public arena for people (or creatures!?) to gape at.

Just to put this all into context, according to the BBC, the history of life on Earth as we know it began about 3.8 billion years ago. The bacteria that we fight everyday were the first living things (!). Evolution did its thing and starting 570 million years ago, species we are familiar with like arthropods (eg. cockroach) and fish started to develop. Mammals came to being about 200 million years ago and us Homo sapiens, only about 200,000 years ago. We’ve hardly been around!

There have been eras of mass extinction that have wiped out entire races of living things, like dinosaurs, while others have survived. When and what will cause the mass extinction of humans? Or will science help us evolve into an immortal race that will still be around 4 billion years from now? Isn’t it crazy to think about!?

So back to the dino in Dubai. She is a 155 million year old long-necked whip-tailed sauropod (translates from Greek to ‘lizard foot’). She is 80 feet long and 25 feet high, and was 25 years old when she died. Had she lived her whole life, she would be at least double the size and weigh as heavy as five elephants put together.

While looking at her, it took me a few seconds to determine which side her head was on. In the image, it’s the bit on the right. It’s a very small head, common for herbivore dinosaurs. Meat eating animals have bigger heads because they need the brains to think about how to find and kill their next prey, is what the Dubai Mall exhibit attendant told me.

They say her bones were found intact in a sleeping position in 2008 in Wyoming (USA), and she probably died after being attacked while fighting for water to drink during a drought. 90% of the bones in the exhibit are original. Her tailbones were damaged and required some fixing.

Dinosaurs first appeared during the Triassic period, 231 million years ago and became extinct about 66 million years ago. The first dinosaur fossils were recognized only in the early 19th century.

It’s so mind-boggling to have access to something that old. I cannot fathom what 155 million years old means. It’s just fascinating. Makes you really think about evolution and what sort of species living beings will turn into in the future.

There is a name the dino competition going on on Twitter #NameTDMDino. I thought I would be able to think of a name once I saw it, but I really can’t – nothing feels right. Cindy? Nicole? Anastassiarex? Natashasaurous? I hope they name her something special, not Dubai Mall Dino.

#Day10, post 7.

Emirati art in my house

Print by Emirati artist Abdul Qader Al Rais

Print by Emirati artist Abdul Qader Al Rais

I moved into a new apartment just over a year ago. Other than magazine rip-outs of crazy photography and a printed canvas of a geisha I picked up in Kyoto, my walls have been bare.

I appreciate art and always go to art museums. Goya, Picasso, Van Gogh, Dali, Monet, Botero – all have incredible work that inspires. However it has always been the history, the motivation, or the story of the artist behind the painting that has brought it to life for me, more than the painting itself.

Perhaps that explains why I’m not someone who cares to have an original painting in my house; art for me is not about that.

As long as the picture has a meaning, and works in my house, I’m happy to have it up. I now own two pieces of what I consider ‘genuine’ art and I am proud to say one of them is by the celebrated Emirati artist Abdul Qader Al Rais. It was gifted to me by my dear friend Muna who is passionate about art and understands its value.

I really needed something on my walls. After looking through various sources selling art I could afford, I couldn’t find anything that resonated, so I decided to get a master painting copied.  When I told Muna of what I thought was the best solution to having art I liked on my wall, she was horrified. “Are you mad!? I will not let you commit this sin. It’s sacrilege!” I don’t understand, but my friendship with her will never allow me to do it. Her convictions helped me look harder for something original and I picked up a stunning painting from a street artist in Hanoi.

The Emirati piece I have by Al Rais is contemporary Islamic art. His colour and calligraphy combination is striking and beautiful. And it works perfectly in my living room.

It’s cool to have an Emirati touch in my home. Once it’s up, it will feel like I have a bit of the city’s soul on my wall.

Day 2, post 2.

Print by Emirati artist Abdul Qader Al Rais

Radio interview: Nightline Dubai

nightlineA few days ago, I had the privilege to be on Nightline Dubai with James Piecowye. For those of you who are not familiar with the show, it’s a talk show that airs Sunday – Wednesday 8-10pm (103.8FM), and covers a variety of subjects. James is a great host and also happens to be one of the guys who organised TEDxDubai.

The show I was on was dedicated to Adwomen, an organization that brings together women in the marketing and communications industry.  If you’ve been reading here for a bit, you would have seen that I spoke at an Adwomen event a few months ago.

On the show there were four of us from different sectors of the industry, including the founder of Adwomen — Preethi Mariappan. Other than Adwomen, we talked about the communications industry in the region, how it functions, what we do, and as women in a male dominated industry, how we feel. Check it out here if you fancy a listen. Open to thoughts!

Overwhelmed by TEDxDubai

IMG00054-20091010-1626TED is the best thing that has happened to the planet. When TED went online about 2 years ago, it became the best thing that the internet has given the world. TED reminds us that we all have the power to change the world, and gives us the inspiration to do something with that thought.

So when TEDx was coming to Dubai, I was thrilled. However, as hype for it started building ferociously, I was afraid that it would turn into a large commercial gambit where corporations would banter about their success and people would hob-nob for the sake of it.

To be brutally honest: I went expecting the worst, but hoping for the best.

I stayed for all the 20 speakers (10am-6pm), yawned perhaps only once, and left feeling motivated and truly inspired. TEDxDubai truly over delivered.

There was a standing ovation at the end, which is when I lost the little black book I was taking notes in the entire day. I was going to share all my learnings from the day and some of the fabulous quotes from speakers that really stuck. But, unfortunately I don’t have them anymore. Luckily, the TEDx bloggers have posted their notes from the event, do check them out to get a speaker by speaker summary of key points.

All the speakers were fantastic. Really fantastic. They included a 13 year old film-maker; the creator of Freej and THE 99; the catalyst of the Arabic stand-up comedy revolution; the founder of Independent Thinking (inventor of  the concept of “thunk“); the founder of the 8-Day-Academy, and the CD at IDEO.

The production quality was almost on par with the real TED (global). Well, it’s Dubai, not a surprise I suppose. Well-organized, good food, enough supply of coffee, and not a penny spent by us attendees. It couldn’t have been better.

Those who didn’t come, you really missed out.

The only thing lacking was, in a room where 500 odd people  got together for the whole day to listen to some great ideas worth spreading, there was no way to interact with other members of the audience, unless of course you went up to them randomly and introduced yourself. Which perhaps I should’ve done (but it’s so not what you do in Dubai!) :).  In previous events such as BarCampUAE, you left knowing new and interesting people. Perhaps because they were much smaller groups with interactive sessions. Anyhoo.

All in all, thank you TEDxDubai. Look forward to it again next year!

Dubai Twestival is back!

Us post Dubai Twestival meeting

Us post Dubai Twestival organisation meeting

Those of you who missed the first Dubai Twestival (@dubaitwestival) that happened earlier this year, make sure you don’t miss the next one!

The Twestival is a global event that unites people on Twitter for  good cause. Local editions of this concept will be held in over 200 countries from September 10-13.

Here are Dubai event details:

Date: September 12, 2009

Time: 8pm-11pm

Venue: Jam Jar @thejamjar (map)

The first one attracted over 150 people; we raised some good cash for Charity Water and had a blast as well!

If you’re  not on Twitter, well, urrr, you should be (!), so register and then come along to meet other Tweeters.

The charity we are supporting this time is the Dubai Autism Centre, a non-profit organisation set-up to integrate autistic children into the community and raise social awarness for autism. Expect a fun time that will make a difference — all you have to do is show up!

Register for the event here too please, it will just take a minute and will help us get an idea of numbers. There is limited space, so register fast!

Come, tweet, meet and give!

Feedback on BarCampUAE

What a great day at the UAE’s first BarCamp. I went grumping because it was early Saturday morning and I just wanted to sleep — but I’m so glad I made the effort.

We were about 30 people I’d say. Presentations were planned for the whole day and topics ranged from social media (social media for social change, social translation, social media ethics) to entrepreneurship, to cloud-computing, to ultra-light start-ups. It was all live-casted using Ustream.tv; we even had a live webcast from Slywia Presley, blogger and social media consultant.

DIC provided the venue, Emirates Computers the laptops, Du the wifi; there was a coffee machine, donuts, and lunch. Attendees paid nothing and I’m sure left satisfied and inspired, I certainly did.

The highlight for me at BarCampUAE was the team Lego Serious Play session done by @disruptiveplay. We were told to build our passion with Lego bricks, then what we built was psycho-analysed.

I built a hippy-caravan. The words I associated with it were: freedom, peace, and world. I made it so badly that it just wouldn’t stand right. I was told to add a piece to it so that it would not keep falling; I just couldn’t make it stand right. Then one of the team members offered to help and fixed it by adding a support ladder. Apparently that was a lesson for me in that I need to let people help me and be find a person in my life that will help stabilize it. Heavy, eh? Lot’s more was discussed too, making it a rewarding and fascinating session.

All in all, a great day with lots of really cool people. I really look forward to the next one.

Thanks to Twitter handles @floatr, @pkgulati, @disruptiveplay to have made it possible.

BarCamp in the UAE


Those of you who complain that in Dubai people do not get together to have meaningful conversations, stop complaining and make sure you go to BarCamp.

Yes, one’s happening in the UAE! For those who are not familiar with the concept, it’s an informal gathering of people at an event where the substance of the event is created by the participants.  It’s the definition of “open-source”  in practice and anyone can initiate one by using the BarCamp Wiki.

The idea to do this is Dubai came up when some of us Tweeters were eating cheese manaeesh at Souk Al Baher. Two of the key organisers of Dubai’s first BarCamp are Twitter handles @floater @floatr, @disruptiveplay — well done guys and thanks for pushing this forward.

Being Dubai, the discussion topics need to be watched a bit,  so a free to all online topic list was created at: http://discuss.barcampuae.org/

Some of the topics are:

Social media for social change

Story telling in a digitally connected world

-The open education project

Here you can read descriptions of the ideas, vote for them, and if none of them tickles your ribs, suggest your own!

So, event details are:

When: Saturday, May 9.

Where: DELL building at DIC

What time: 10am onwards; 9:30 am if you want brekky 🙂

Follow the guys on Twitter for updates at @BarCampUAE.

I think it’s going be a great morning. I will be there, come!

Dubai WordPress geek meet

Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, I was informed that Matthew Mullenweg, founding developer of WordPress is in Dubai, and somebody (Fouad?) has thrown together an opportunity to meet him this Friday.

That’s pretty cool. I’m going to pass by to say hi and hopefully connect with some local bloggers and people working in Social Media.

It’s an open event, to if you want to come, here are the details:

When: Friday, 2nd January, 2009

Where: Montgomery Golf Club, Dubai


You can RSVP on the Facebook page.

Dubai New Media Event – Day 1

Today was the first day of IIR‘s New Media Conference in Dubai, and I must say, for how new the industry is, and for how little information there is about online trends and demographics for the EMEA region, the gathering was certainly insightful.

There was an interesting mix of people: communication agencies, MEPRA, known local portals (Maktoob.com, MBC, MediaME, Zawya), interesting service providers (Effective Measures – can’t find link, Muxlim.com, Newsmakers), and corporate blogging expert Debbie Weil, to name a few. Most of the presentations spurred interesting comments and questions, many of which there were no answers to though.

This element of communication for brands is in its nascent stages, so we in the ME market have a lot to experiment before we can learn and get it right. This is mainly because of the lack of audited data, the fact that conventional advertising channels still dominate this market, and that the consumers in each of the 22 markets across the ME, Levant, and N.Africa are so different! So lots to explore, and I was happy to be part of a smart group of people that are going to try to make it happen here.

Anyway, will wrap here because I’m tired and want some ice-cream. I will leave you with notes from Robin at Cybersoc who diligently typed them all up during the conference and posted them; and here is a link to Debbie Weils presentation as well.

I’m going to be live-Tweeting what I can tomorrow AM, so follow me at @abhamalpani, if you want.