Thursday, 23 October 2014

Dubai World Trade Centre Hosts A Very Literary Lunch

This is a photo of Dubai World Trade Centre on...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Back in the days when men were men, women were interested and dinosaurs roamed the earth, the Dubai World Trade Club sat atop the tallest building in the whole Middle East. It was an invitation-only members gaffe limited to CIPs (commercially important people) and they kept a tie in a drawer at reception in case you, for some inexplicable reason, had forgotten to wear your own.

If you got lost in Dubai (a frequent occurrence for me in those days), you just used the Trade Centre tower as a landmark. It was instantly visible from anywhere in the city.

Of course nowadays the Dubai World Trade Centre tower is tiny, a 33-floor dwarf nestled amongst giants. It's made of good old fashioned poured concrete, none of yer modern high tech skyscraper construction techniques here. If you flew a plane into this trade centre, it'd just splat on the outside - a parabellum fired at a Chobham armoured tank - before sliding down like Wile E. Coyote hitting a canyon wall.

Even the lobby reminds me of Dubai in the 1980s, staying at the Dubai Hilton* and going to bloody GITEX. Meeting the girl who was to become my wife. All that sort of stuff. This is a building that has always had tremendous resonance for me.

So it's going to be interesting (for me if nobody else) to go there on the 8th November and discuss the sense of place and its role in novels. This is a place, one of only a few in Dubai, I'd argue, that truly reflects the synthesis of place and time. This is where Rashid started the march to a global city. If you were to ask me to name three key monuments to Dubai's remarkable recent history, I'd show you a tiny treadmill crane on the Bur Dubai creekside, the World Trade Centre and Port Rashid. I'll cheat - I'd probably take you for a walk around Shindaga and Ghubeiba too.

Although the 33rd at the Trade Centre no longer keeps a tie behind reception, it's just as swanky today as it ever was. The private dining rooms are still there, the old prints on the walls and lavish furnishings remain. It's been dickied up and modernised. And the kitchen still whisks together culinary marvels - the food here has always been stunning.

Dubai's Sheikh Zayed road photographed from the Dubai World Trade Centre in 1991. 
Yeah, tell me about it...

Why the 8th? Together with writer of Cornish romance novels Liz Fenwick, I'm joining moderator Lara Matossian for a 'Literary Lunch' event at DWTC. You're more than welcome to come - a three course lunch and 'beverages' can be yours for Dhs175, as well as the joy of listening to the lovely Lara trying to get me to talk some sort of sense. The idea is to discuss, as I said earlier, the concept of place in novels, Liz with her Cornish fascination and me with a clear link to a rather murderous Levant (which I'll soon blow nicely by finishing a novel set in Ireland, but that's a worry for the marketing team, right?), what with Olives and Beirut and Shemlan and all that.

The gig starts at 12.30pm. To book, you just pop an email to or call 04 309 7979.

On the same day, from 10.30am to about 4pm, I'll be at the ExpatWoman Festive Family Fair over at Arabian Ranches together with scatalogically challenged kids' author Rachel Hamilton (she wot got a contract as a result of the Montegrappa First Fiction competition at the Emirates LitFest) and we'll be signing - and selling (natch) books there all day. How I intend to clone myself is the subject of another post.

They asked me for my preferences when they were composing the menu. I don't know what they've done with the resulting feedback, but I can't wait to see. A chef of genius led by a dolt will sometimes create something different and entertaining.

See you there!

*The Hilton Dubai used to be a four-story building linked to the DWTC tower and was more '70s than Pink Floyd. It was demolished in 2007.

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