As mentioned before, things in the UAE do not quite work on the same timescale as in other parts of the world - bar perhaps Africa-proper. Our rental contract said we can move in on Saturday, and even though we had no furniture, we decided to move in. Our stuff will be leaving Cape Town Harbour on the good ship HMS Zambia - or something to that effect - on the 5th of October and we’re expecting it somewhere to the middle of November. I found a darling looking little table and chairs on Dubizzle for only AED 500 in Sharjah and we eventually also bought a lovely 12 piece dinner set from Amal. We had to stop ourselves from buying more things from her. Things we have space for – lots of space - but really don’t need right now. (E.g. four silk paintings in midnight blue – which she’s keeping for me)
We expected to arrive finding a clean villa, with all the little snags sorted out – the agency had two weeks in which to do it – silly us. Huge piles of dust had collected in each corner – possibly a desert soul dust collector lurking somewhere. We counted to five (we can’t count any further in Arabic) and went to Ace hardware, where we bought four camp beds, a tent (‘cos it was really nicely priced) and lots and lots of cleaning materials, amongst others a brilliant red broom with black bristles and an Ace hardware label on the handle.
Back home (did you hear: home!) we started cleaning. Skye and I started on the kitchen while the boys went upstairs to start on the bedrooms. Now I first have to give you an idea of scale: On the lower level of the villa, as you enter, you have the foyer; from here you have two sets of double doors on either side and a single door directly ahead, leading to the kitchen. The kitchen is disappointingly small, but nicely done in fake wood and marble. We were looking for a villa that has – firstly – a kitchen inside the house, and secondly, a kitchen door leading outside – which this one has.
On the left of the foyer you have what is known around here as the majlis, which is traditionally the visiting area for males, a washroom leading out of it with two basins and out of that a full bathroom. (Black and white marble) Between the majlis and kitchen is another room connecting to the kitchen. Dining room – once the table is here. Both these rooms are roughly 6m x 6m. On the left of the entrance hall you have another set of double doors leading to another lounge connected to the lower bedroom, with a full en-suite bathroom and separate dressing room – no BICs.
Upstairs you have the lovely area overlooking the (very dry at present) garden and mosque, and four bedrooms, each approximately 6mx5m with en-suite bathroom and dressing room with BIC. There is also an outside maid’s room – which was another requirement – for our puppies! We wanted a five bedroom villa, three bedrooms for us, one for visitors and another one to be used as a study. Hence the many many rooms.
And so we cleaned – and cleaned – and cleaned, and when the evening prayer call came (from across the street) we have finished two bedrooms and the kitchen. And it was night and it was morning - the first day of the week (here on a Sunday) – we carried on cleaning, and went on extensive shopping trips to buy appliances and somewhere in the afternoon of Monday (after numerous phone calls from Tinus to the agency) the cleaning crew arrived: Two scrawny sub-continentals with big smiles, a very old (as in flat-bristled-bleached-bone-white-with-age old) plastic broom and a bottle of disinfectant. They left around an hour later. Initially I though nothing much had changed; Closer inspection revealed that the dust piles were now spread in sticky streaks, all over the floors. The owner of the agency said it costs him AED 3000 to have the villa cleaned – these must be the two highest paid individuals in the UAE, at around AED 1500 per hour – and they left with my red broom!
Tuesday went by and eventually on Wednesday the agent called to tell us that the maintenance crew will arrive in half an hour. Two hours later: The same two smiling faces arrived – now bearing tools – maintenance crew! They ran up and down the outside staircase, but with very little command of the English language (three words used interchangeably; hah, uh, and water) not much was done. The lower bedroom’s bathroom had water running out of the roof – like a torrential rainstorm! They eventually disconnected the right tap and left, promising to be back later, leaving me to clean the soggy bathroom. And it was night and it was morning - Thursday;
Around ten o’clock Thursday morning one of the two cleaner/maintenance men arrived carrying a huge bag of grout. “Fix” he says, and proceeds to re-grout (not remove old grout, clean and put new ones in. No no, that would be way too effective – grout over existing grout) in upper bathroom floor - the one above the lower, leaky one. “This fix the leak?” I ask. “No.” he said with a wide smile, and placidly carried on applying grout to the bathroom floor with his fingers.
It is Thursday evening and I have the worst headache I’ve had in my life. Tinus figures it’s because I have not had enough water to drink (4.5litre so far.) I need to sweep the floors, but I have no broom.