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Royal Mirage
A holiday to remember

Siamack Salari
March 23, 2005

Dubai may not seem an obvious choice for a holiday destination but trust me, it is the best place on earth if you want to get as close as possible to Iran. Not that I don’t want to go, I would kill to go to Iran. Perhaps the Consulate in London will help me...

Anyway, our holiday in Dubai was wonderful. Flying into a cold and grey London after two weeks was not >>> Our Dubai photos

So where do I begin? I’ll begin with Kourosh - my 17 month twin boy’s - back side. He suffers from occasional constipation. And when he suffers from constipation, my entire world feels constipated too. I become obsessed with things I could have fed him (we have tried everything) which might have prevented his constipation. I become absorbed in exploring baby constipation websites. Even phone calls to my mum which take place twice daily...

Mum: “Kourosh reed?”

Me: “Na.”

Mum: “Ey khoda... hanooz nareedeh?”

Me: “Na.”

So between us, my mum and I re-christened my little boy ‘Nareed’.

Against this background of severe constipation, we embarked on our journey to the airport. Varinder, my wife, drove. I sat in the passenger seat absent mindedly picking my nose. I could vaguely hear V speaking to me.

“Are you listening?”


“Stop picking your nose!”

What she should have asked me was to stop picking my nose, rolling the contents into a ball and flicking them off my thumb into her open handbag between my legs in the foot well.

Siavash, my oldest twin boy (by 2 mins) has already discovered the delights of nose picking. At the Royal Mirage, his Thai nanny would keep saying to him, “take your finger out! You are dialling the wrong number!” He would grin and insert his finger ever deeper. I am afraid I might have taught him this awful habit.

The flight was uneventful and drive to the Royal Mirage painless. It was interesting to see how excited the boys were. All they seemed to want to do in the limousine was untangle themselves from our arms and run up and down the length of it. Once we (V and I) had wrapped our minds around the fact that baby seats in cars were impossible to come by we did let them run loose.

On subsequent car journeys we again tried to pin them down but were forced to give up. On one particular taxi journey I found myself sitting with one twin on each knee in the front seat while travelling at 70mph. Occasionally and much to the alarm of whoever was driving, Siavash would decide to kick the gear stick too... I shudder now to think about the risks I exposed my little boys to.

Our routine at the Royal Mirage meant the boys were in bed by 7pm (with a babysitter in our room) and V and I would begin our evenings on the Shisha Terrace under the stars leaning against sumptuous cushions on the floor. I would order my apple flavoured ‘ghalyoon’ and take long and deep drags to make sure the fragrant mist enveloped me as I exhaled. Varinder would whisper:

“Can you stop massaging your nuts please -- why are you rubbing your balls?!”

The reason was I felt so relaxed and removed from my surroundings that I had not realised I was scratching my balls softly through my chinos.

Apart from my ball-scratching, the only other embarrassing occurrence was when I decided to change Siavash’s full nappy on my sun-lounger by the palm-tree-shaded pool. To be fair to V, she did beg me to take him the short distance to our room and change him inside. Instead I undid his nappy wondering what could possibly go wrong.

Within seconds I realised why I should have been indoors.

We were suddenly surrounded by a swarm of ‘magass’ who collectively tried to sit on the inside of his nappy. From where they came and to where they disappeared remains a mystery. Perhaps the most embarrassing thing was the astonished look of nearby sunbathers as I fanned them away with one hand and tried to pin a screaming Siavash down with the other.

Each morning at about 7:30 V would pick him up and place him between us in the hope that he would nap for a further hour or so like his brother. Instead he would crawl around the top of the bed with his full nappy before using my head as a seat and placing his filled to bursting nappy on my head. I was describing the experience to a friend a few days ago.

“Forget espresso, double espresso and filter coffee.” I explained. “Let Siavash sit on your head and see how fast you wake up. You go from deep sleep to DEFCON 3 in about half a second. And he never once sat on his mum’s head...”

The most exciting thing which happened to me in Dubai occurred when the boys, V and I walked into a carpet shop a few hundred meters from the Intercontinental hotel. The owner was busy serving another couple. A long haired young man was sitting at the desk on the phone and two other assistants were laying out carpets for the couple to compare. After scanning the carpets, taking the boys out of their buggy’s so they could run loose and leaving V to her mobile phone call, I sat down to wait for the owner. I couldn’t understand why the long-haired guy couldn’t help me.

I began to wonder who he was. He looked slick. He wore a Ferrari T-Shirt, tailored jeans and flip-flops. He wouldn’t smile and he wouldn’t look up. Eventually he rose and left the showroom. That’s when I noticed the excited questions from the couple who were being served. The owner gave an answer to which the husband doubled over, gasping with excitement. I was trying to make sense of what was happening when I heard a name I had never heard before.

“Ali Karimi!”

“Who?” I asked, wide-eyed.

Even the boys had momentarily stopped trying to climb a large pile of silk rugs.

“That was Ali Karimi.” The owner, a middle aged man called Ahmad, told me.

“Is he a singer?” I asked hopefully, trying to hide my ignorance.

“He is a footballer -- Asian footballer of the year.”

The other couple were beside themselves with excitement. It was contagious.

“Will he come back?” I asked hopefully.

As if by magic he walked back into the showroom. He had stepped outside to finish his call because the twins were making so much noise. As soon as he stepped inside we all pointedly looked away. I even remember thinking that I would probably score more hits than him if we Googled ourselves (he scored 49,000 to my 316). At the time I couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Now I can.

It was Varinder who asked me why I hadn’t asked him to pose for a picture with the boys. I don’t know why. He seemed way too serious and absorbed in his own thoughts to be interrupted.

Exciting moments occurred often. There was the evening I saw a Mercedes McLaren SLR outside the lobby. I made V walk around it with me 3 times. She still doesn’t believe it costs £300,000. It belonged to a sheikh who we sometimes saw in the Shisha terrace. He was no older than me (40 yrs) and he had a falcon permanently by his side. I am told that bird cost in excess of £20,000.

There was also the time we saw Boris Becker walk past us in one of the restaurants in the Arabian Court. He was accompanied, I am told, by other top seeds but I couldn’t recognise a tennis champion if he or she danced naked in front of me with their Wimbledon cup and a name badge.

What, in the end, made our holiday so wonderful was how child-friendly everyone in Dubai was. Even when the twins hijacked a luggage trolley laden with expensive-looking leather suitcases -- it looked like it was moving by itself until I noticed the tops of two tiny heads -- concierge picked them up and gave each one a kiss on the cheek.

Will we return? Unlikely. We have done Dubai now. Perhaps next year we will holiday in Oman. My dream, however, is to holiday in Iran >>> Our Dubai photos

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Siamack Salari



Book of the day

Three volume box set of the Persian Book of Kings
Translated by Dick Davis

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