The Landlady and the case of the missing vowels

I’m very annoyed with the Arabic language. I’ve spent the past four months learning to write beautiful Arabic (albeit probably looking as if it’s been written by a five year old) with all the correct dots, dashes and squiggles in the right places, which is no mean feat, I can tell you. However, even going over to Dubai on the plane and reading the menu I was pretty annoyed to realise that they don’t use the vowels I’ve spent so long scribbling away at. At the airport, the hotel and in the street, there are signs and sentences all over the place and all without vowels, which is very confusing and a huge handicap to a fledgling Arabic speaker like me. To give you an idea: ‘swmmng pl ths wy’ or ‘brkfst srvd btwn 6 nd 11’ is how most things are written.

“This sudden lack of vowels did not dissuade me from knocking back several pints of Belgian beer”

Unfortunately, this sudden and unexpected lack of vowels did not in any way dissuade me from knocking back several pints of Belgian beer in the Belgian Beer Bar, with my friends who live in Dubai. Belgian beer and I have had a stormy relationship in the past and even though I’ve spent many mornings-after remonstrating with myself in Jeremy Kyle fashion, telling myself that I’m going to break up with Belgian Beer and never ever see it again. I seem unable to resist its tawny glow when it’s sitting there, blonde and handsome on a bar top before me, even though I know that it’s going to break me again. The fact that Belgian Beer was inter-dispersed with an equally debilitating quantity of Jagermeister shots, rendered me even incapable of self-remonstration the following morning. Fortunately, the following morning was my sightseeing day, although the only sight I saw before 5pm was the ceiling of my hotel room; (that is when it stopped spinning for long enough for me to open my eyes). At least I didn’t spend any money!

The morning after that would have been a much worse day to have a hangover as I had an early morning flight to the Maldives. When I reached the boarding gate, feeling bright eyed and bushy-tailed due to my previous day staring at the ceiling, I realised that I’d been upgraded to business, which would have been completely wasted on someone who was, well, completely wasted.

I sat next to a very nice Russian chap on the plane, who was a terrible influence and we made vast inroads into the complimentary Moet and Pouilly Fuisse, which made four hours pass in what seemed like half an hour. As I staggered off the plane, I couldn’t help feeling rather relieved that Male – the Island upon which I was staying – was totally alcohol free. Later that evening however, once I realised how noisy my hotel room was, I was wishing for Belgian beer to come and knock me out again.

Illustration: Jake McDonald

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