x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

A marathon - not a sprint - to the top of the Hot 100

You're either hot or you're not. And this year, inexplicably, I am. If I'm an "Up and Comer" then 40 really is the new 30.

You're either hot or you're not. And this year, inexplicably, I am. It started, like most things, with an e-mail. I had been nominated for the Ahlan Hot 100. There was a questionnaire to fill in and I was told a photograph would be taken of me. Then a panel of judges including Katie Heskett, the Ahlan senior group editor, and Louise Foster, the editor in chief of Harper's Bazaar Arabia, decide whether you're hot enough to make it to the final 100.

The best thing to do is not to tell anyone about it until you're sure that you're hot. Otherwise you look like a total flop. Of course I had no idea so I merrily went around proclaiming my hotness to anyone who would listen. Then I had major panic attacks when I heard I might not have made it. Finally a text from a friend in Dubai who had been monitoring the website saw my hotness and confirmed I had made the list.

This was a few weeks ago. Here I am now, surrounded by the other 99 hotties of the year and their hangers-on, at the Ahlan! Hot 100 Party. I have no hangers on. My husband refused to come, preferring to have dinner with some unknown politician at the British Embassy. He clearly cannot tell what's hot or not. But what actually is hot and what does it mean to be an Ahlan Hot 100? I look around me for answers.

Everyone looks very glittery. Especially some of the men. But then this is Dubai. The Hot 100 are gathered at The Address Montgomerie. There are waitresses serving drinks and little eats such as truffle and cream cheese tarts and smoked salmon and caviar on blinis. There is music playing and the lighting is dim. People stand around tall drinks tables overlooking the water, chatting and eyeing up the passing hotties. There are food stalls serving shwarma, salads and grilled-to-order burgers. Try looking hot eating a chicken kebab.

Everyone has clearly made an effort to look good, which is not surprising when you consider there is Dh15,000 up for grabs in various "best-dressed" competitions. I hear snippets of conversations: "Your hair looks lovely," gushes one woman dressed in fuschia pink to another dressed in an outfit made of feathers, which I swear I saw last at the Dubai Marathon with a sign which read "sponsored by KFC".

"Well done for making it," says an acquaintance, kissing me. "Thank you," I say. "But what does it actually mean?" "It means you're hot and fabulous." Sounds good to me. "What are you in it for?" asks one of her friends. "Isn't it obvious?" I say. She looks slightly taken aback. "Only joking," I add. "I've no idea." "I mean what category are you in?" she asks. "Unsung heroes?" Does she mean I'm not trendy enough to be a "Trendsetter", stylish enough to be a "Style Icon" or too old to be "Up and Coming"? I knew I didn't like the look of her.

Actually I have no idea what category I am in, but now I need to know. I walk over to the life-size picture of me and see if there are any clues. None, but they have rather sweetly airbrushed out most of my wrinkles. Who needs Botox when you're a Hot 100? Time for the "best-dressed awards": the men all look more or less the same apart from one who is wearing a kilt. Among the women is the KFC-sponsored marathon runner. Someone who is dressed a little like a spaceship wins. Not that I'm bitter. Now that I'm an Ahlan Hot 100 I have no need for Dhs15,000. It is only a matter of time before the sponsorship deals flood in.

Someone pokes me in the back. I must be blocking their view of the "fashion" parade. I turn to find three elegantly-dressed Indian ladies. "You should be up there," says one. "We've been watching you for a while, you're much better dressed than all of them. They clearly didn't spot you." I explain to my new best friends (did I mention how much I admire Indian ladies?) that the "best-dressed scout" did in fact spot me.

"She took down all the details of the woman I was standing next to," I tell them. I looked at her expectantly, already debating whether to lie about the origins of my dress (doesn't Vintage Givenchy sound better than Derby from Marina Mall?). "She said she would be back." "What happened?" asks one of the stylish and intelligent Indian ladies. "I never saw her again." It is almost midnight and time for me to make my way home to Abu Dhabi. I leave the Dubai hotties partying away and pick up my copy of the Hot 100 book on the way out. I search for my picture. Oh no, is it possible, did I not make it after all? Was there a printing error that has left me seriously un-hot? "No, really I was in it," I can hear myself telling friends as they shake their heads slowly and smile indulgently. "I really was there, on the wall, with all the others, I promise."

At last. There I am. At the back admittedly, but there, in glorious technicolour. I am in the "Up and Coming" category. Crumbs. Forty really is the new 30. Maybe that means that next year I might win the best-dressed competition. Time to start looking for a new outfit. I don't mind wearing something that you might wear for a bet to enter a marathon, just as long as I don't have to run one. hfrithpowell@thenational.ae