Tales and observations from a stranger, in Abu Dhabi, a very strange land, and now to beyond and back

Friday, March 20, 2015

Back Again

Gosh. How long has it been? Far too long I guess. But like a bad penny or a dodgy dirham here I go again. This time to the Emirate between Ajman and Dubai. 3 months only - I hope and the money is terrible, but a job is a job. I think there are some from before who are still out there, some who have died and some who have retired and some, like me, didn't want to go back and hope I don't want to stay. Postings will be resumed when I get there and assuming internet is available.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

On getting Old

Is it 3 years? Time flys when you are having fun. I have been working for over 30 years now. I have been planning some form of escape for at least the last ten. I have finally bought somewhere to escape to - a place in France in the Charente. All my travels over the years that I have worked must have sunk in and I find myself often wanted to be somewhere other than the UK. The house is owned by us. No mortgage and no debts. If everything goes tits up then there is always somewhere we can go to with central heating and a pool (but no heating in the pool yet). A house for all seasons and I hope a house we can live in if or when I retire or at least somewhere I can go to when I cut down the work time.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Winter Snow

Not sure why I have come back to this after so long. Life has changed out of all recognition.
If you are wondering, I still miss the life in Abu Dhabi, the sun, the freedom, the money (especially the money) and the expat lifestyle. But, and there is always a but, there is so much more to do and experience in the UK - like snow!
I may go back again and then this blog will continue, till then who knows?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Park and Ride

The latest in the “I bet they wish they hadn’t done that”. In yesterdays Gulf News there is the sad tale of a couple who fuelled by alcohol decided to have a quicky in the car.

There are a couple of things that don’t quite make sense. Why was the lawyer’s son up and around at 3:15am? Why does the sound of a horn make anyone go outside? Why did he go and investigate? Why didn’t they notice a Dishdash with a flashlight? And why did they do it in a developed area? Questions that we will never have answered. There is always more than appears in the papers.

I remember in my courting days with Mrs Dabbler finding a country lane with a quiet track and having steamy windows time. Although it was a mini, I had the sense to have an estate with the fold down rear seats. I was always aware of the surroundings and was worried about the copper with an insatiable curiosity.

I feel quite sorry for the couple who will loose their jobs, as they will be deported, probably have difficulty explaining to friends what happened and will regret it for the rest of their lives.

Never forget that this is not a Western country and different rules apply.

Friday, February 03, 2006

No, I mustn't - Oh all right then - Houston we have a problem!

Here I am in Houston. The weather is good, the food is fattening and the job is boring, boring, boring!

Her indoors is complaining I was only supposed to be here 2 weeks, my company is trying to keep me here for ever, and the work stinks. Better start the tunnel then or perhaps I should go through one of the ones from Mexico

Who invented cherry diet coke? Must have been a sadist on a diet. I have always disliked cherries since I was a child and got given lots of medicine smelling and sort of tasting of cherries - but always with an aftertaste of earwax or bitters. If you were unlucky these would be combined. There must be a whole generation of English kid put off cherries for life. Obviously didn't happen in the US coz cherry seems to be a popular flavor(sic).

I am working with a bunch of Spaniards. In Houston you have breakfast at 7am, lunch at 12 and dinner at 6:30 or 7pm. The restaurants start to close at 10:30. The Spanish are just about ready to go out for a meal then. Lunch would be around two or 3pm when the lunch places are closed. Can't be enough Mexican influence here or do they also eat food early?

Yesterday was Groundhog Day. There was a shadow so 6 more weeks of winter. Only problem is that Phil has only been right 37% of the time. By the law of averages he should be right closer to 50% of the time. Time somebody found a better interpreter.

Friday, January 20, 2006

On my travels again

Next week I go to Houston. Never been to Texas. Not sure how I will keep a straight face at George Bush airport, but I will have to!

You have a lot of Middle East stamps in your passport? Just visiting for business! Why do you have residence visas then?

Yee Haw

Monday, November 14, 2005

Dubai Dreams on BBC 2

There is a series on at present on BBC 2 about Dubai. What is interesting is what they don't say rather than what they do. So far the BBC have covered the press (Gulf News not the favourite number one paper), and the housing boom. Should be interesting if they cover the seamier side of Dubai and the Emirisation of companies. Got it on tape to savour and feel homesick about later.

Yes, we are all starting to really miss the UAE. As winter starts and the snow and frost start then it will get worse.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Flying Visit

I was back, again, in Abu Dhabi for a 2 day visit over Ramadan. Strange to see what has changed. I would not want the restrictions that there are in Saudi Arabia with no restaurants open in the day time and not never no booze (officially), but was surprised to see people eating and chewing gum during the day openly. The bars are also open in Abu Dhabi after 7pm during Ramadan, the first time I can remember this in a long time.

I respect the right to choose to fast or not, but if you are in a country where the majority do fast then it is poor taste to opening ignore the rules and eat. Perhaps I am over sensitive but I never would be eating in daylight in public. In fact this year as I was only over for 2 days I fasted during the day -still drank some water though, don't have the power of faith I guess.

Just after the start of Ramadan last year was shopping with a friend and they opened a drink in the Co-op and started to drink it. My cry to stop was met with I'm going to pay for it! Sometimes it is hard to remember the complete change in the rules.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Back in the UAE

Over here for a business trip. Just reminded me about the things you take for granted here.

Toilet roll that are too big for the holders, so you have to gently ease them out for the first 20 or so pieces.
Salesmen that say sincerely that something is multi region when it says region 2 on the box (or yes we will have HDMI or teletext for TV's)
Taxi drivers that will take you across the city for 6 dirhams
Shortages and equally unexplained gluts of items for sale
Comforters - why? Every time I get to the airport there are TWN taking cheap comforters with them to their home country.
Ramadan Kareem and the usual rumours that the bars in Abu Dhabi will be open during Ramadan. They won't but Dubai will.
Plastic seat covers in taxis - still irritates me.
Air conditioning that works - even in 40+C
Service with a smile - and it is genuine
Pasminas for 20 dirhams - keep thinking I should export and run a car boot stall
Liptons yellow label tea. I always end up carrying some back to the UK with me. (Coals to Newcastle I hear from the back)
Medicine without prescription - why do I need to see a doctor every time I want to get a ventolin?

I miss it here, but life is just as different in the UK. But who would be interested?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Proxy and Companies

There has been much press about the sacking or muzzling of employees who blog about their companies. Some of the blogs produced in the UAE have had other forms of censorship, mostly self – sections deleted and in one case proxy blocked. The power of the press and help from many admirers brought Secret Dubai back to the UAE.

I am now back in the UK, having been downsized from my job in Abu Dhabi. Tried to get into my blog at lunch time here and found it “access denied” and my attempted access would be reported to the powers that be. I will see if a couple of security guards escort me off the premises later.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Car crazy

A curious system of snobbery exists with many car buyers in Abu Dhabi. Because it is not possible to see how new a car is from the registration plate as in the UK there are other ways of achieving this:
1. Keep the plastic car seat covers on
2. Keep the original export stickers from the originating country and the import stickers from Abu Dhabi.

The first leads to very hot seats and the second leads to the sad sight of faded and torn pieces of paper with date of import of 2001 or before. I have even seen the stickers left on with dark tinted windows with a piece of tint missing where the sticker is.

But - where else would you be able to drive past a used car dealer and one day see two Ferrari Enzos and the next two Maybachs. Money no object - that's Abu Dhabi. I wonder if the future Maybach owner will put plastic over the exquisite leather seats?

Inscrewtable (sic) Orient

Many of the bars in Abu Dhabi have over friendly regular clientele. A little strange for a Muslim country, but interesting never the less. A mixture of ladies who are Chinese, Russian, Ethiopian and from the 'Stans. No bank accounts, no regular residences and shady "customers" leaves them vulnerable to being robbed, hurt and even gang raped. None of this ever reaches the police. Who is to blame? The hotels for getting them visas, the agents for getting them tickets, the landlords for having 10 women to a room or the women themselves for coming?

The dangers of pregnancy in the UAE for an unaccompanied woman whatever her profession who cannot prove she is married are also documented. A recent case with an airline stewardess has gone very quiet in the press. I expect she has done a runner like the Radio 1 DJ from a couple of years ago.

If you are Chinese, pregnant and single on a visit visa and have severe abdominal pain, what do you do? If you are lucky you have friends who take you to hospital and get you seen to and risk prison in Al Wathba rather than die. If you are not then you get acupuncture and a quick walk around a car park. Fear of arrest and the Government Hospital system can cause foolish decisions. Perhaps not this time, but the desert is a large place.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Why I love America

  • Blogger – of course
  • They still use miles an hour, gallons and pounds weight
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Frasier
  • The fall colo(u)rs in New England
  • Groundhog Days
  • American cars – so good I own one myself (OK so it’s German branded)
  • Paris Hilton – trashy but classy
  • The US embassy in Abu Dhabi – a stealth bomber as a building
  • Disney World but not Epcot
  • The Rockies and Death Valley
  • San Francisco
  • Lake Havasu
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Star Wars (ANH, ESB and ROTJ)
  • Anything called Enterprise
  • Groundhog Days
  • Have a nice day – and meaning it
  • McDonalds (but only in the US, somehow it’s tastier)
  • John B Chilton
  • Humphrey Bogart
  • Michael Connelly
  • A theme park with it’s own beer tasting (Anheuser-Busch)
  • We could have been huge – frogs and chameleons
  • The American flag in almost every garden or house
  • Motown

However I still stick to what I said about Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and to quote The Daily Torygraph:

"The movie hits a serious stumbling block, though, when the usually dependable Sam Rockwell appears. His timing's all off as vainglorious galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox; pitched too broad and too high, the performance is a liability, and he's not helped by the lousy special effect whenever a degenerate second head pops up from under his neck to spout abuse."

Nothing about Americans in general but one in specific.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Another one bites the dust

I knew it was going to happen; the signs had been there for several months. When it did happen it still wasn’t any easier. I had delayed renewing the lease on the flat as I was being told my work would go elsewhere.

I leave at the end of the month. I know that it is final as they have my passport for cancellation. Bugger.

I may put more blogs like the previous one, to counteract the idea that everything is normal here. We all self censor, because we do not want to loose the freedom we have. Perhaps we are selfish and greedy, but that is life here after all. You feel good giving the grocery packer a couple of dirhams coz it is a significant proportion of his wages and you ignore the larger injustices with the majority of workers.

On the other hand there is always a chance I can get another job here in the future, and I don’t want to screw that up!!

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

Sometimes things remind me that we are not in the West and that more care has to be taken than you would expect. The case of Tracy Wilkinson highlighted this to the British recently and I have had more personal experience of this.

Under UAE law if you are involved in a road accident and there have been injuries then you will be arrested and put into prison. If you are injured yourself then you can have hospital treatment prior to be taken away. A friend of mine was doing a U-turn at some lights when a Local ran the red light and ploughed into him. Fortunately for my friend he was driving a large American 4x4 and the other driver was in a Peugeot 206. My friend got away with whiplash and some cuts but the National had a badly broken leg, fractures, and was generally not very well. It was thought that the man would loose his leg. Although my friend was innocent and even had a witness in the car with him he was locked up.

My friend is a Canadian citizen, but was born and raised in the UK. The British embassy was informed that he was in prison. Nobody from the embassy ever visited him. However, the Canadian ambassador and the Dutch ambassador (long story but boring) came to see him. His company employed a high-powered local lawyer and after 5 days he was let out of jail – on bail.

The moral of the story is don’t have a car crash with a National, if you do don’t be British, and if you are get a good lawyer!

Another friend was not quite so lucky (or rather was more stupid). After a late night Thursday session on the pop he decided to go into the office on a Friday. Setting off at about 6:30am the roads were very clear. Driving a German sports car he felt the journey would take no time at all. Reaching Mussapha, he sped over the roundabouts quickly until he came to one when a dog wandered in his path. Rather than driving over it (Arab approach) he swerved to avoid it thereby destroying his car and leaving him with shattered wrist and several broken ribs.

He was taken to hospital and blood was taken in preparation for a transfusion. This was found to have a quantity of alcohol in it. The laws here state that there is a zero limit for alcohol in the blood system. He was therefore placed under arrest. He was able to get a good lawyer who stated do not leave the hospital even if you feel OK. So he was in hospital for several weeks while the “slight problem” was being dealt with. It came to trial day and unfortunately nobody came to collect him. The police said “Right, you are well enough to go to court so you are well enough to go to prison”. A period of time in the notorious Al Wathba jail (see uaeprisons.com – but not in the proxy servered UAE) left him traumatised and unwilling to share his story except to say he would never go there again.

When the court reappearance was arranged he went to court to find the main charge was dropped and the remaining charge was of not having a liquor licence and being a resident. He was asked if he was getting one, as in “You are in the process of obtaining a liquor licence, aren’t you?” Being stupid he said no. This question was repeated and his lawyer agreed that he was getting a licence. He got away with a large fine and the time he had already spent in jail. The moral here is always know a National or reasonable faxsimile!

However the car was totally wrecked and the insurance refused to pay for any repairs. So minus 160,000 dirhams!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Etihad and other problems?

The joy of the internet and lounges!

Stuck at Abu Dhabi airport for the second time waiting for a flight to the UK from Etihad. This time the flight had technical problems so we were all told to come back in 90 minutes and in 60 minutes food would be served in the grotty airport restaurant to keep us from starving.

We all went down to see if we could get a cup of coffee. Not surprisingly with over 100 people the queue was long, people tried to get food early and the usual chaos ensued.

Gave up and decamped to the Ghazel lounge, a haven of peace and tranquility with food, drink and no queues. OK, it cost 70 Dirhams but has to be the bargain of the airport for that. You can eat and drink like you are in the frequent flyers lounges (another large black label please) and chill out. Shame it's too early to drink (much). I have to drive the other end anyway.

Etihad are trying hard. New airline with leased aircraft but mostly killer prices. You do get what you pay for at times with a schedule almost as tight as Easyjet things are bound to unravel. Had a nice letter from a Richard Bate in PR last time I flew. Better than KLM. Never had a word from them ever.