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November 2006
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December 2006

Merry Christmas from Dubai!

Belly Dancer, Dubai
Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

The Two Crabs spent Christmas day in the Al Aweer Desert, about 1 hour drive from Dubai, indulging in great Middle Eastern cuisine, shisha (hookah/hubby bubbly), a great DJ, a visit from Santa Claus and two great belly dancers!  The evening campsite was located in the middle of a sand dune, reached by 4x4 Land Cruiser driven by our crazy driver, Nijam. A MUST-SEE experience if you're ever in Dubai!  Merry Christmas, ya'll!

Merry Christmas from Dubai!

Merry Christmas from Dubai!
Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

Greetings from Dubai, the crown jewel of the Middle East. Mr. Crab has been here wasting away two days, waiting for Mrs. Crab to arrive (assuming her plane makes it out of the London fog!) I spent the day today wandering around the city and went SKIING. Yes, skiing in the desert. Click on the FLICKR icon on the top-right to see our photos from Dubai.

SURREAL is the best adjective to describe Dubai. How else can you describe a city in a Middle Eastern Islamic country with Western values and culture, celebrating Christmas and tempting tourists with ski resorts and beaches under 75 degree sun in December? What a city!

Name this country

Can you name the pink country on this map?

It's the next travel destination for the Two Crabs. We'll be spending Christmas on the beach, basking in the 75-degree sunshine. This country is located in the Persian Gulf (aka Arabian Gulf). The capital is Abu Dhabi. This country's largest and best-known city is Dubai, a glittering city on the sea that is a combination of Las Vegas, Disneyworld and the Bahamas rolled into one.  It's the home of the world's tallest building (under construction), one of the world's largest indoor ski resorts, the world's largest shopping mall, camel racing, and the Burj Al Arab -- the world's tallest and most luxurious hotel.  It's one of the most popular tourist destinations for Brits, but relatively unknown to Americans.

Guess the country yet?   

Geocup If not, you're not alone.  A recent study finds that Americans and British are seriously lacking geography skills. Only 4 out of 10 young people could find Iraq on a map.  To get people excited about geography, Brits and Americans are being challenged to put their skills to the test in the first online Geography Cup. About 18,000 people have taken the transatlantic test. So far, Americans are edging out the Brits but it's close! The quiz ends Dec. 31. Long on to to try the test.

And for those who have read this entire blog post, the answer to the pink country is the United Arab Emirates.

Masgoof: Iraq's national dish

Masgoof: Iraq's national dish
Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

This is Masgoof. It is a delicacy and considered Iraq's national dish. It's a type of fish originally from the Tigris River, but now raised on fish farms. Masgoof actually means the cooking style, not the name of the fish itself. The fish is sliced open butterfly-style, sprinkled with salt, skewered and placed next to an open fire and slowly smoked until flaky-perfect. This dish is about $15, quite pricey by Iraqi standards so it's usually only served on special occasions. Yummy!

Iraq 1; Korea 0

Iraq 1; Korea 0
Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

From USA TODAY, Dec. 15:

For a sweet few hours, underdog soccer 'heroes' unite Iraqis

BAGHDAD — Army Lt. Ali Mustafa is ready for tonight. He has two clips loaded with bullets. He hopes to have a chance to empty them.

If Iraq's soccer team wins its match against Qatar tonight, he'll join thousands of other Iraqis in celebratory gunfire.

"The formation of our national team is a big blow to terrorism and sectarianism," says Mustafa, 30, a Shiite. "The power of football can unify all honest people of this country."

In war-torn Iraq, one force has succeeded in uniting the divided population: soccer.

Iraq's national soccer team has shocked the sports world by advancing to today's championship round of the Asian Games, an Olympics-style regional event held every four years.

Iraq will play for the gold medal against Qatar, which is also hosting the tournament. "They have succeeded in unifying us in one competition where the Iraqi government has failed to do so in three years," said Mohammed Abdel-Ilah, 30, a security guard and champion swimmer who competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Iraq's national soccer team — dubbed "The Heroes" by local media — advanced to the finals by beating South Korea 1-0 on Tuesday. While the game was on, Baghdad seemed quieter than usual. There was little traffic on the road and no explosions. When the final whistle blew, Baghdad erupted in celebration with gunfire tracer rounds and fireworks lighting up the night sky.

"All Iraqis are supporting their national team, because sectarianism does not exist in football," says Ala'a Abdullah, 30, a lab technician at Baghdad's Yarmouk Hospital. Iraq's 20-man team includes Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. All the players are under 23, which makes them younger and less experienced than the teams they have beaten.

Government leaders are getting into the act. "The football games in Iraq have proven to be very unifying to our people," Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, said by e-mail. "Nobody is asking if a player is Shia or Sunni or the sectarian identity of the player who has scored a goal," he said.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman, issued a statement congratulating the team.

Aisar Hamid, 28, who owns a cigarette shop in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood, says he wonders why the unity is limited to the sports field. "The daily question my friends and I ask is: 'Why can't the people of Iraq unite as they have united to support our national team?' "

Life and death in Iraq

Pages from the Iraqi joke book (from

Morbid Iraqi Jokes
As the Carnage Worsens, Iraqi Humor Grimmer than Ever
The latest jokes making the rounds among Iraqis in Baghdad:

-- Talabani's (the Iraqi president's) wife calls her husband in the middle of a cabinet meeting and says, "Come home! Thieves are breaking into the house." Talabani replies that she must be mistaken, "All the thieves are right here in front of me."

-- An Iraqi guy has a new girlfriend and wants to know whether she is Sunni or Shia. But he is too shy to ask directly. Finally he asked her, "where does your family bury your corpses?"

-- A Chinese guy and an Iraqi guy are challenging each other. The Chinese guy says, "we have the longest wall in history." The Iraqi responds "and we have the longest gas queue in the history."

-- A Duleimi (Sunni tribe that supports the resistance) opened a new car fair with an advertisement: "We have car bombs."

-- Near the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) headquarters there is a sign that says "no parking for car bombs please."

You had to be there!

On a grimmer matter, the number of U.S. servicemen and women dying in Iraq is approaching 3,000. Most of the time, all you ever hear on TV news or national newspapers are statistics: 3 soldiers killed today in Baghdad; 4 Marines killed by IED in Ramadi, death toll tops 35 for the week, etc..  It doesn't make it easier that the White House has banned the press from covering the arrival of caskets to Dover Air Force Base and many military funerals.   But local newspapers have filled the void, bringing color, life and emotion to the statistics.  Take a quick read at this snippet from the New York Daily News article by TANYANIKA SAMUELS and CORKY SIEMASZKO:

>>The first blow was delivered to the fiancée of a Staten Island soldier by a man in uniform - word that her beloved was killed in combat in Iraq. The second was delivered two hours later by a FedEx truck - a package from Sgt. Yevgeniy Ryndych with an engagement ring inside.

This story of love, war and cruel fate was described by Ryndych's grieving brother last night after the military confirmed that the 24-year-old soldier was felled Wednesday by a homemade bomb while on foot patrol with his unit in Ramadi.

Fighting back tears, his face tight with grief, Ivan Ryndych said his brother's beloved was named Kim, but he couldn't bring himself to talk about her - or what their life together might have been.

But his eyes flashed with anger when he realized he lost his brother on the same day a historic report damning President Bush's failing Iraq strategy came out. "It won't change anything," said Ivan Ryndych, 20, today."<<

That is journalism at its best. Absolutely powerful. Ernie Pyle would be proud.

War hits close to home

There isn't a correspondent in Iraq who hasn't known somebody who was killed or injured by the ongoing violence here.  In 2004, I interviewed a head of a small women's political party who was vying to become the first female president of Iraq. She was assassinated a few months after I interviewed her and her daughter.  She was the first of a long line of acquaintances, sources and friends who have been killed in Iraq.

Megancu_1 On Wednesday, Maj. Megan McClung became the latest statistic. Last Wednesday, McClung was killed by an IED in Ramadi in the nasty Al Anbar province of western Iraq. Although other lower-enlisted female servicemembers have been killed in Iraq, McClung was the highest-ranking female to die in the nearly 4-year-long war.

She had a bubbly personality and was immediately stood out with her bright red hair, as pictured here.  I did not know Megan personally, but we had traded emails and calls in the past because we had a similar background. She was a public affairs officer, or PAO.

Before I became a civilian newspaper hack and she became a teacher, Mr. and Mrs. Crab were both PAOs. We both graduated from the Defense Information School, or DINFOS, at the now-defunct Fort Benjamin Harrison base in Indianapolis.  DINFOS is the military's journalism school, where servicemen and women from all branches of the military learn the basics of news writing, reporting, photograph, public relations and the art of spin-doctoring.

DINFOS graduates are a close-knit bunch, referring to themselves as "DINFOS Trained Killers" or "Chairborne Rangers," a self-deprecating description for PAO soldiers who normally do not serve on the front lines of combat.

Here in Iraq, there are no front lines. Everyone is a potential target.  On the day McClung died, 10 other U.S. soldiers lost their lives in Iraq.

McClung was buried today in Arlington National Cemetery. She was just 34. Rest in Peace.

Crabs, crotches and Jessica Simpson

One of the coolest features of TypePad is the ability to track how users arrived to this blog. Some of the visitors to this site arrived through other friends' blogs. But the majority stumbled onto this site after being pointed here from Yahoo and Google search results.  And what were they searching for? Here's a few of the examples:

--"Britney Crotch Shot" (by far the most popular search this month!)

--Jessica Simpson photos

--Crabs, STDs

--Baghdad cab fare

--Selva Val Gardena photos

--Americans in London

--How do I fly to Baghdad?

--Paris Hilton

--Who was guy fawkes?

--Bon Jovi live tapes

--TomKat wedding photos

--Dragostea Din Tei  (Romanian song that was popular in Europe last summer, better known as the "Mi-ya-hee, Ma-ya-ho" song). 

So what does this little lesson prove?  Simple: If you want to increase traffic to your site, add a lot more celebrity gossip fluff news, and a lot less about the Iraq war and politics.

Go figure.