Slovenes abroad: Crt, Dubai (United Arab Emirates)

Crt is a nice, interesting and quite a mysterious guy. From someone who has been leading a very exciting life in Dubai for the past 2 years, doing things that most of us can only dream of, I would expect an explosion of bragging and showing off. But Crt is nothing like that. He works hard and he is very good at what he does. And he still loves coming home to Slovenia.

Hi Crt, we made it, finally!

Yeah, my schedule is quite busy, as you have already figured out. Today I am here, tomorrow … who knows 😊

What does that mean, what is it actually that you do in Dubai?

I work on different projects, but most of my time is dedicated to playing ice hockey with Dubai Mighty Camels and photography.

So, again one of those typical stories that Slovenia doesn’t appreciate or can’t afford great talents?

To be honest, I can’t comment on the ice hockey part because I gave up my professional career in Slovenia very early due to my study and work. I did however keep in shape and ice hockey has always been a big part of my life, also in Austria and Germany where I lived for a couple of years – so I had no problem with joining Dubai Mighty Camels. Emirates ice hockey league is quite strong, there are players here from NHL, Canadians, North Americans, and some great players from Europe as well. But as far as photography is concerned, the fact is that Slovenia is a small country with a small economy, so the fees are much lower compared to the countries I worked in. Of course, there are some bright exceptions but not nearly enough to make a decent living for everyone in this business. 

Did you choose Dubai or did Dubai choose you? Was it hard to move here?

It was kind of mutual, some projects, events and moments added up so I didn’t hesitate much. Actually, moving here was not a question but a logical step in my career. Dubai is a great city with big opportunities for the ones who are willing to work hard.

What was the hardest part with the moving?

Oh, the bureaucracy … getting visa, medical exams, insurance, all the way to getting my driving license. These things take a lot of time and money. Your home country can actually make it a bit easier for you, however Slovenia is still quite behind. Our neighbors from Austria, for example, don’t have to go through the driving license procedure, and they are lucky, trust me.

Do tell…

Well, for one thing, it takes time and money – especially if you don’t make it in the first round. Which happens a lot. And on the other hand, Dubai is a big city with a lot of traffic and one-way roads so you need some time to get used to it. However, the roads are in great shape and the speed limits are very reasonable so everything runs surprisingly smoothly.

What is it that you like the most in Dubai?

It’s hard to choose just one thing. First of all, Dubai is very “open” city, more than 80% of the people here are expats, so hired workforce. Which means a lot of cultures, nations, beliefs, opinions, knowledge from all over the world. There is no space for prejudice, we are all here to prove ourselves, and to do so we need to blend in, we need to cooperate, and constantly strive for more and better. So it is really easy to make contacts and new friendships – you don’t have to explain yourself where you come from, what kind of car you drive, how much you earn.

The other thing I admire here is safety. Dubai is one of the safest cities in the world. For one thing, the locals respect their rulers very much, and that gives the right and “pure” mentality to the people. It is only logical that others (expats) will follow and since the law here is quite strict, no one even thinks of messing around. So, it can easily happen that you forget your wallet in an open car and it will stay there for days.  

How about Slovenes in Dubai, have you met anyone here, do you hang out?

There are quite a few Slovenes here, we also have a Facebook group and I know some of them from back home. But unfortunately, I still haven’t had the time to go to any event or meeting. I suck in this, I know.

What about your friends from Slovenia, do they come here for a visit?

Well, Dubai is not something like you would say “let’s go there for a weekend” so they aren’t exactly knocking on my door 😊 You know yourself that the flight connections are not exactly ideal and besides my schedule is so unpredictable that I can hardly promise to be available for anything more than a coffee break.

So, you don’t miss Slovenia at all?

Sure I do, I miss the fresh air and clean water. I miss the mountains and our beautiful Bled. That’s why I fly home as often as I can. In the winter to do some skiing, during the summer to escape the heat… and well, you know, there is always something that needs to be taken care of, always some good reason to visit Slovenia.

Since you have mentioned the clean water… what about the quality of Dubai food in general, do you cook at home or rather eat out?

The food in Dubai is fantastic. The choice of supermarkets and restaurants is limitless, and there is quality on every corner. Even in the most common places you can get great sushi or a delicious steak. Dubai is a mix of all world cuisines and since the competition is enormous, there is no space for average quality. I do cook at home from time to time, but I really enjoy eating out – I take it as an event, not only “feeding”.

And what about the prices? I know there was a lot of fuss about the new 5% VAT, has it impacted the prices a lot?

Sure people were talking about it, this is something new, especially for the locals – they were not used to VAT before. But I didn’t get the feeling that was an issue. It depends on your income I guess. 5% is not a lot compared to European countries, however for the low paid workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh or other less developed countries it is definitely a burden.

In general, Dubai is definitely not cheap. The rents are crazy high, not to mention if you want to buy a property. The land is like gold here. That’s why a lot of people live outside of the city which reflects in heavy traffic during the rush hours. Also, the prices in stores (food, clothes, etc) and restaurants are higher compared to Slovenia. It is logical to find sky high prices in high end places, but you can also find a decent meal for 2€, like anywhere else in the world.

Well, at least oil is cheap!

That’s true, one liter of oil costs less than 50 cents, which is almost 3 times cheaper compared to Slovenia. Also the majority of cars are cheaper, not to mention the insurance and road taxes.

What do you do in your free time?

Usually we hang out on the beach or go to the cinema. It is quite an experience to see a movie here, because Dubai theaters are equipped with the latest and very impressive technology. If I have more time I also like to get out of the city – there are some very nice desert safaris, or trips to the mountains of Ras al Khaimah, one of the emirates. I miss mountains, I was born and raised surrounded by them.

A classic question for travel blog: 5 things you need to see in Dubai? And please leave the good old fashioned Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa behind.

Legoland, Miracle Garden for nature lovers, picturesque Dubai Marina, Mall of the Emirates and Ski Dubai, Madinat Jumeirah, most of the beaches … and of course seeing an ice hockey game in Dubai Mall is an attractive experience 😉

So, when is the next match, if I “happen” to be in the neighborhood? 😊

We are currently on a short break, the playoff starts in April. I think Dubai Mighty Camels has quite high chances of winning the trophy. You are more than welcome to come and see us, we can use all the support we can get! 😊

Photos: Crt Slavec (personal archive)

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Slovenci v svetu: Črt, Dubaj (Združeni arabski emirati)

Črt je zanimiv in simpatičen, a hkrati tudi zelo skrivnosten sogovornik. Od nekoga, ki že dve leti v Dubaju dela in doživlja stvari, ki si jih večina med nami ne more niti predstavljati, bi pričakovala, da ga bo kar razganjalo od samohvale – pa ni tako. Kljub temu, da si lahko z opravljanjem svojega poklica v Dubaju privošči mnogo več, kot če bi ostal v Sloveniji, ostaja na realnih tleh in se z veseljem vrača domov.

Živjo, Črt, pa sva se končno ujela!

Ja, res je, moj urnik je, kot si spoznala tudi sama, zelo nepredvidljiv. Danes tu, jutri tam, dobesedno 🙂

Kaj to pomeni, kaj vse počneš v Dubaju?

Razpet sem med različne projekte, največ časa pa posvetim igranju hokeja v lokalnem klubu Dubai Mighty Camels in fotografiji.

Torej še ena tistih zgodb, da velikih talentov doma ne cenimo, oziroma si jih ne moremo privoščiti?

Profesionalnemu hokeju sem se v Sloveniji zaradi študija in poklica žal odpovedal zelo zgodaj, tako da tega dela ne morem komentirati. Sem pa vseskozi vzdrževal formo in ga kasneje igral tudi v Nemčiji in Avstriji, tako da nisem imel težav z nadaljevanjem kariere v Dubaju. Emiratska liga je zelo močna, moji soigralci so bivši NHL-ovci, reprezentanti Češke in podobno. Vesel sem, da sem dobil priložnost igrati v tej ekipi, je res odlična izkušnja. Kar se tiče fotografije pa je dejstvo, da je Slovenija majhna in gospodarsko mnogo šibkejša kot države, v katerih sem do sedaj delal – posledično so tudi honorarji precej nižji. Seveda tudi pri nas obstajajo svetle izjeme, vendar je le-teh premalo, da bi lahko vsi kvalitetni fotografi dostojno zaslužili.
Si ti izbral Dubaj, ali je Dubaj izbral tebe? Je bila odločitev, da se preseliš sem dol, težka?

Bilo je obojestransko, poklopilo se je več projektov in dogodkov, tako da nisem dolgo razmišljal. Selitev v bistvu sploh ni bila vprašanje, ampak logičen korak v moji karieri. Dubaj je mesto presežkov in vedno odpira nove priložnosti.

Kaj ti je bilo pri selitvi najtežje?

Ah, birokracija – od vize, zdravniških pregledov, pa vse do pridobitve vozniškega dovoljenja. Gre za časovno in tudi finančno zelo potratne postopke. Pri tem lahko veliko pomaga tudi matična država, a Slovenija tu še precej šepa. Srbi in Avstrijci, recimo, ne rabijo opravljati vozniškega izpita in verjemi mi, da so lahko srečni.

Je sam postopek tako zapleten ali je promet tako kaotičen?

Sam postopek je predvsem časovno obremenjujoč, stane kar precej denarja – še posebej, če izpita ne narediš v prvem poskusu, kar sploh ni redkost. Dubaj je veliko mesto in posledično je v njem tudi veliko prometa, a je ta mnogo bolj tekoč kot pri nas. Kot prvo, so ceste resnično brezhibne in široke, kot drugo pa imajo zelo razumne omejitve, tudi znotraj samega mesta, zaradi česar vse lepo teče.

Kaj pa ti je v Dubaju najbolj všeč?

Težko bi izpostavil samo eno stvar. Dubaj je, za razliko od ostalih emiratov, zelo odprt, več kot 80% prebivalcev je priseljencev, torej najeta delovna sila. Kar pomeni, da gre za splet različnih kultur, znanj, prepričanj… ni prostora za predsodke, vsi smo tu, da se dokažemo, sodelujemo, nadgradimo svoje znanje iz izkušnje. Zelo lahko je navezati stike in nikomur ne rabiš razlagati, kak avto voziš, koliko zaslužiš, s kom se družiš. Druga stvar je varnost – Dubaj je eno izmed najbolj varnih mest na svetu. Že sama mentaliteta je takšna, da ljudje niti ne pomislijo, da bi kršili zakone. Domačini zelo spoštujejo svoje vladarje, saj so jim omogočili več kot dostojno življenje. Se je že zgodilo, da sem pustil avto odklenjen čez noč, notri pa denarnico, in se nisem kaj dosti sekiral.

Praviš, da ni težko navezati stikov. Kako pa je s slovensko skupnostjo v Dubaju, se družite med sabo?

Iskreno, še nisem imel časa, da bi se udeležil kakšnega srečanja, pa vem, da se dogajajo. V Dubaju je kar nekaj Slovencev, obstaja tudi Facebook skupina in nekaj jih poznam, vsaj na videz. Tu malce šepam, priznam.

Kaj pa prijatelji iz Slovenije, te kaj obiščejo?

Dubaj ni ravno »skok do Krka«, tako da nimam prav velikega povpraševanja 🙂 Povezave s Slovenijo niso ravno idealne, kot veš tudi sama, poleg tega pa je moj urnik tako pester in nestanoviten, da se težko zmenim kaj več kot za kavo ali kosilo.

Torej Slovenije čisto nič ne pogrešaš? Se pogosto vračaš domov?

Pogrešam čist zrak in čisto vodo. Pogrešam gore in Bled. Zato se tudi večkrat vrnem, če imam le čas. Pozimi »skok« na smučišča, poleti umik iz tukajšnje peklenske vročine, vmes pa še kakšne administrativne zadeve – vedno se najde razlog za obisk.

Omenjaš čisto vodo… kako je pa sicer s prehrano v Dubaju, kuhaš doma ali se prehranjuješ zunaj?

Hrana v Dubaju je fantastična. Tako izbira v supermarketih, kot v restavracijah. Tudi v običajnih restavracijah dobiš odličen suši in res kvalitetno pripravljen zrezek. Tu so kuhinje vsega sveta, konkurenca je ogromna, zato je kvaliteta res vrhunska. Čeprav tudi kdaj sam skuham in s tem res nimam težav, resnično uživam v restavracijah in to jemljem kot dogodek, ne kot »prehranjevanje«.

Greva še malo na cene. Najnovejša »pridobitev«, o kateri se veliko govori, je uvedba 5% davka, mar ne?

Govorilo se je veliko, nisem pa dobil občutka, da bi se ljudje pretirano razburjali. Odvisno, kak dohodek imaš in od kod prihajaš. Za lokalno prebivalstvo je to zagotovo nekaj novega, saj davka na dodano vrednost sploh niso poznali. Čeprav 5% ni veliko, se dvig cen vseeno pozna – predvsem za delavce iz Pakistana, Bangladeša in ostalih revnejših držav, katerih plače so tu res nizke. Pa tudi sicer Dubaj ni poceni. Najprej so tu res visoke najemnine, da o nakupu nepremičnin sploh ne govorim, saj je zemlja zelo draga. Zato veliko ljudi živi izven mesta in posledično je na cestah ogromna gneča. Tudi cene v trgovinah so višje, kot pri nas. Boljše restavracije so precej dražje. Lahko pa seveda tudi tu najdeš obrok za 2 evra, tako kot povsod po svetu.

No, je pa vsaj gorivo poceni!

Res je, liter goriva stanje manj kot 50 centov. Tudi večina avtomobilov je cenejših kot pri nas, da o stroških registracije in letnih prispevkih za ceste sploh ne govorim.

Kaj počneš ob prostem času?

Večinoma gremo na plažo ali pogledat kak dober film. V Dubaju je to posebno doživetje, saj tukajšnji kinematografi ponujajo najmodernejšo tehnologijo. Če imam malce več časa, pa grem najraje na izlet izven mesta – zelo lepi so lahko kakšni safariji v puščavi, ali pa obisk hribovja v sosednjem emiratu Ras al Khaimah. Sem pač z Gorenjske in pogrešam gore.

In še klasično vprašanje: 5 stvari, ki si jih v Dubaju moraš ogledati? Če pustiva ob strani »zlato klasiko« Burj Al Arab in Burj Khalifo.

Grem kar po vrsti: Legoland, Miracle Garden za ljubitelje narave, slikovita Dubai Marina, Mall of the Emirates s smučiščem, Madinat Jumeirah, vse plaže so zelo lepe … No, tudi ogled hokejske tekme v Dubai Mallu je svojevrstno doživetje!

Kdaj bo naslednja tekma, če bom šla »slučajno« mimo?

Trenutno imamo malce počitka, aprila pa se začne playoff.

Mislim, da ima naš klub letos kar dobre možnosti za zmago. Kar pridi, vsak navijač je dobrodošel! 😊

Fotografije: Črt Slavec, osebni arhiv

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Visiting the iconic Burj Al Arab (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

If I asked you to name 3 most famous hotels in the world, which ones would you pick? And if I mention Dubai, what comes to your mind first? I believe it goes without saying that even if not the tallest, the biggest or the most expensive in the world, Burj Al Arab is definitely the icon among the hotels. But is it worth paying over 100$ for visiting Burj Al Arab – just to say “I’ve been there”?

Honestly, I never thought I would visit Burj Al Arab because I am not prepared to pay so much money (or any money for that matter) to see where rich people do whatever it is they do. Nor was I ever even close to book a room there (they start from around 1300$ if you run into a “genius” opportunity at booking.com ), although I have to admit the temptation has always been present because I am usually in Dubai on business, so our company would pay the bill. And fire me instantly after coming home, may I add.

Until one day when I was in Dubai, waiting for a meeting confirmation when I got this message on WhatsApp:  “We will meet in Burj al Arab. Bring your passport.” My heart stopped for a second and my first thought was “OMG what should I wear!?” After that a lot of other questions came into my mind, but it was too late to search for the answers on the internet. So I improvised. And survived 😉

How to access and visit Burj Al Arab

You have 2 options to enter Burj Al Arab if you are not a guest of the hotel: first, you can stay at one of the nearby Jumeirah group owned hotels (like Jumeirah Beach Hotel) and take a free guided tour. Or, you can make a dining reservation – starting from around 100$ per person for an “afternoon tea” and up to… well, a lot, considering that Burj Al Arab hosts some of the finest world class restaurants.

When you reach the main gate in front of the bridge, which leads to the hotel, you need to have a receipt of something pre-booked. You show it to the security staff and the taxi or Uber can take you straight to the hotel. Or I guess you can walk there as well.

What does the afternoon tea include?

The cheapest tour option is to book an afternoon tea in one of the three bars – the most popular is Skyview bar which offers spectacular views of the beach, Palm Jumeirah, the World islands and the city. The “Sky tea” costs around 150$ (add 25$ for a window seat) and it includes a selection of teas and coffee, sandwiches, pastries, cakes and some other sweets. So let’s be honest: it’s not just tea – you can actually have a decent snack for your money. Other 2 restaurants are a bit cheaper but don’t have that awesome views. Which can also be a good thing, since they are not full of selfie sticks and cheesy smiles… Keep in mind there are only 2 seatings per day: at 1 pm and 4 pm; and you have to be 21 to enter the Skyview bar.

The interior

I must admit I was a bit disappointed about what I saw in the lobby. The carpets and furniture reminded me a lot of Las Vegas hotels & casinos – very kitschy, colorful and a bit oldish. What is impressive is the 180 meters tall atrium which is quite photogenic, especially if you look up. There is also a nice waterfall, leading all the way to the 1st floor with bars and shops. I didn’t see any of the suites but I was told first hand that they are huge and colored in blue, red and yellow like the lobby. There are 18 lifts and despite its height, the hotel only offers 28 double-story floors (which means that the suites are double-story as well, oh my).

I will not bore you with other details (you can easily find them in the official hotel description), but you can check some of them in my very short photo-video clip:

The outside of Burj Al Arab

For my taste, Burj Al Arab is much nicer from the outside than from the inside. It lies on an artificial island, around 280 meters offshore. The funny part is that the closer you get to the hotel, the fatter and stranger it gets – you can hardly even notice its sail-shaped construction from its front yard. But you do get a fabulous view of the beach (which is actually across the bridge on the mainland) and some nice hotels around it. Not to mention the car fleet in front of the lobby – which is actually something very common in Dubai and you can see it for free on the streets, or around any other classy hotel and shopping mall.

How to take the best photo of Burj Al Arab

If you want to take a good photo of Burj Al Arab, the best way to do it is from a distance. There are quite a few spots for making awesome photos of this architectural icon. First one is the nearby Jumeirah public beach, which offers a very nice scenery especially during sunsets. Second is Madinat Jumeirah complex, where you can only see the “sail” partly, but still well enough to make nice compositions. Third is from the opposite Jumeirah Beach hotel rooftop bar – my favorite one.

 

Is Burj Al Arab a 7-star hotel? And more importantly, is it worth seeing?

It depends on how you look at it. Officially, Burj Al Arab is a high end 5-star hotel. Unofficially the media and people rated it a 7-star hotel, resting on its own island, being really classy, offering lavish rooms, owning high class underwater and sky view restaurants… I’d say it definitely deserves a special place among the luxury hotels – if nothing else, for its truly iconic image which has become a symbol of modern Dubai.

Whether you want to visit it or not is really up to your desire to feel the touch of luxury and of course the size of your wallet. I must say it did feel special to be on “the other side” (thanks again to you know who), however my feelings about whether it is worth the money you pay for the “afternoon tea” are mixed. But don’t mind me – I am that type of person who would rather pay for the view of Burj Al Arab than its lobby.

p.s. If by any chance the Burj Al Arab PR team is reading this: you know what to do to change my mind 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AirPod Sleeping Pod Ambassador

Whether I am traveling on business or for pleasure, my biggest challenge is to find the perfect combination of the price and time to reach my final destination. Because time is money and wasted time is the most expensive. Therefore, I always carefully check the details of my connecting flights and I am ready to pay some extra money to make the layover shorter. Unfortunately, that is not always possible – either there are no alternative options or the price for the shorter transfer time is ridiculously high. So, there I am, stuck at the airport, sitting in that uncomfortable chair, drinking that awful coffee and counting the minutes that I have left until my free Wi-Fi session expires …

And then one day I meet a guy who starts talking about something that looks like an airport capsule. He shows me a photo of a private space that you can rent while waiting for your connecting flight. A space where you can enjoy limitless Wi-Fi or watch TV in a comfortable chair which even stretches into a bed so you can take a nap. A space where you are isolated from the airport noise, allowing you to fall asleep. A space which wakes you up when your flight is ready to board. A space which is called AirPod Sleeping Pod. Hell yeah, this is exactly what I need!

Somehow one thing led to another and now I am really proud to announce that I have become the Ambassador of the AirPod Sleeping Pod project. You can see my opening statement in the video below 😉 This is actually just the beginning because the project is now set to launch. There will be a lot of interesting things going on in the next few days, so make sure you follow their Facebook account and let me know how you like the idea! 😉

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