x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Handy advice for living a better life

When it comes to cigars, a safe way to ensure a pleasant puff is to go Cuban.

If you have just moved into an apartment and need internet, skip the queue at the Etisalat main office and find a booth in a mall. Instead of competing with 40 people who ignore the take-a- number system to harass an agent equally frustrated by the mayhem unfolding before him, enjoy friendly employees who answer your questions at the Virgin Megastore in Abu Dhabi Mall or any other satellite location. Customers also receive much faster service ? the difference between being connected in two weeks and 13 hours.

Before you decide which beach club to join in Abu Dhabi, there are many things to consider, not least, how good the beach is and what the gym is like. But you will also want to know how much it's going to cost to hang out there, eating and drinking all day. To make it easy, we have researched the price of the most basic item, a bottle of water, at the leading clubs. Here they are, in descending order: Emirates Palace: Dh32 Intercontinental: Dh28 Hiltonia: Dh21 Sheraton: Dh18 Beach Rotana: Dh14 The Club: Dh6

What we tried An "offshore concierge", which offers the services of a personal assistant online. Much buzzed about in North America, Ask Sunday offers service in Abu Dhabi, if you sign up for the gold plan, which includes 30 requests a month with email, telephone support and international calling to third parties for Dh210. Examples of what they will do for you: book a spa appointment, sort out confusion over a bill, read a bedtime story to your child over the phone when you're not there and give you a wake-up call.

What we hoped for We dreamed of having someone constantly on the line that could take care of all the mundane business of our daily lives. What we experienced It was easy enough to sign up online, although there were some difficulties registering from Abu Dhabi without a postal code (they promised to fix this hitch in the future, but in the meantime, type in six zeros). We also couldn't find a number to call from Abu Dhabi (they don't have one yet, so we had to enter our requests online). As they explain when you sign up, Ask Sunday works best when you can make specific requests - for example, "please book me an economy-sized car on Tuesday in the price range of Dh90-100", rather than "can you find me a car to rent for a month?"

Once we entered our requests, we got prompt emails back from people named "Donna Summer" and "Bob Porter", letting us know they would take care of it and follow up the same day with an answer. The site says it will spend 20 minutes on each request, but "Kevin Vincent" spent one and a half hours researching what seemed like a simple request. We asked him to find a place in Abu Dhabi that makes gold cufflinks to order. Unfortunately, he couldn't. But Bob Porter booked us a ticket to the Desert Rhythm Festival quickly and with ease.

We also asked if someone could phone a friend in Canada and sing Happy Birthday, plus read her a message. (The site makes a special feature of this service.) Our friend said someone read her the message, but forgot the song. It was the thought that counted, we suppose. The final verdict Good help is hard to find, at least offshore and online. But if you have a lot of specific requests that can be handled online - planning a wedding, for instance, or moving abroad - go ahead and Ask Sunday. At the very least, it makes for a good story to tell your friends.

What to do with that piece of bling that has lost its sparkle because of a bad relationship? As this website says: "You don't want it. He can't have it back." That doesn't mean someone else won't snap it up. The website, a disgruntled version of eBay, was started by an American woman, Marie Perry and her step-daughter, Megahn, after a pawnshop offered Megahn a pittance for jewellery given to her by an ex. To sell your own jewellery, you have to explain why you're getting rid of it. To wit, a gold garnet and diamond ring for Dh735: "My ex-boyfriend gave me this ring for Christmas 2005. Later on he broke up with me over the phone after joining the army without telling me."

English What is the price of this? Arabic Shu asar? Urdu Iska daam kya hai?

When it comes to cigars, a safe way to ensure a pleasant puff is to go Cuban. Since a cigar's quality can only be properly judged after it's lit, a buyer is left with three key considerations: strength of smoke, size and flavour. Janny Delgado from La Casa del Habano in Abu Dhabi Mall suggests new smokers begin with smaller, lighter varieties, such as a Romeo and Julieta. Cigars are measured by their length (in inches) and ring size (diameter for geometry nerds). Any cigar with a ring size less than 26 will have an easy-to-handle smoke. When you're ready for fuller flavour, experiment with medium cigars such as Montecristo, Hoyo de Monterrey and Cohiba. While Cohiba is often a default for casual smokers, Ahmed al Dhaheri, a cigar connoisseur, suggests a wider horizon. "I've smoked cigars for two years now, but if you ask how many Cohibas, I could count it on my hands." He recommends avoiding strong cigars such as Partagas and Bolivar until your palate is initiated. As for length, consider how much time you have to smoke - double coronas (the big boys) can take more than an hour to finish.

Cubans typically range in flavour from sweet (Hoyo Épicure No 2) to spicy (Partagas Serie D No 4). A cigar store employee can help select different tastes. Expect to spend between Dh35-Dh40 for the smaller robusto (perfect for a lunch break). The most expensive cigar at La Casa sells for Dh135. Limited editions cost more - such as the now out-of-stock Bolivar double corona available only in the Middle East - though the difference in quality is usually negligible.

Cubans have an infinite lifespan if stored in a humidor, so it's worth the investment. Beware, though: not all are worth saving. "Sometimes Cubans are really bad. They just have the name," Dhaheri says. Unfortunately, the only sure-fire way to tell whether a cigar is fit to smoke is to smoke it. If it feels too stiff or soft and the outside leaf is crumbling, you have a stale stogy. John Mather To ask questions or to provide your own tips, please email magazine@thenational.ae