Thursday, June 30, 2005

Amusing Ourselves

There are two common ways to pass the time here - shopping and eating - both of which we (I) do with gusto. However, there comes a time (and I never thought I would admit this!), that shoppng and eating lose some of their appeal and one needs to look for other amusements ...

So, these are some of the other ways we amuse ourselves :

Dinner Cruise :
(well ok, so it is technically eating, but we did do something else at the same time, so it doesn't really count, does it?)

One Friday night we took a boat cruise on a dhow (a chuggy old boat type thing)... around the harbour and looked at the city lights - it was magnificent - complete with fish leaping out of the water. The cruise included supper which was a buffet with lobsters, prawns, all kinds of chicken and meat, veg, salads and lovely puddings. It was really great and very relaxing - took 2 hours to complete the cruise (and 2 hours to pry DH off the dhow -he has now decided on a career change .... wants to be a dhow boat driver.... !!)

Jet Skiing :

Next, DD and DM went off to one of the hotels and tried some jet-skiing. DM was too scared to do it on my own, so the lifeguard drove and I sat behind him, holding onto his bronzed, lean, muscled, taut young waist .... oops, forgot where I was for a moment .... oh yes .... I got the "Super Tour" because he took me all around the harbour - saw the Sheikh's private beachfront disco, private floating restaurant and his huge hangars full of all kinds of boats, yachts, speedboats, jet skis etc. There is a huge island off the beach which belongs to him as well (as do many of the islands around Abu Dhabi) - nobody is allowed to go there except him and his family. Ah, the life of the rich and Arabic ....!! DD meanwhile was scooting around on her own jet ski - in and out of oncoming boats and yachts at full speed! Afterwards we did some paddboating and kayaking (well, DD did it - DM watched from a safe distance!) It was really lovely - quite hot, but there was a bit of breeze, so it was bearable. Afterwards we had a delicious buffet lunch ... can't get away from the eating ....

Movies :

Movie tickets cost a small fortune : the equivalent of R60 to R80 each and a small box of popcorn is R40. But we did score in one area - on the way to the cinema, we discovered a coffee shop that serves cups of pure melted chocolate, with biscuits and fruit to dip into it - like your own private chocolate fondue. Now that's more like it!! Eating again!

One thing they do have here at the movies, that we don't have .... mielies. Yes, actual corn on the cob mielies (well, it's off the cob, actually) - a cupful of warm corn with butter to munch while you watch! Oh yes, and tortilla chips with two dips - one tomato salsa and one melted cheese. MMmmm Munching AGAIN!

Golf :

Golf is that "sport" where you take the stick thingy and wiggle your butt, then wallop the ball with all your pent-up aggro. In the meantime, the other ladies stand around, some tittering and giggling and some gyrating and jumping up and down screaming "Stay up" and "Get down" and "Fabulous shot dahling", as the ball dribbles a metre away into the sand trap.

Suffice it to say, we spent more time looking for our golfballs than actually hitting them, well, I did ... DD spent her time looking at the cute coach. But the course was magnificent - just what you would not expect in the middle of a desert. Hey, - we DIDN'T do any eating .....

Horse racing :

What we learnt at the horse races :

We learnt that you must remember to "look over" the horses, looking for humps. A hump indicates that the horse is actually a camel, which means it will run slower than the real horses, or possibly faster, I can't remember which ...

We learnt that as the gates open, you realise that the start takes place several miles away making the horses look like a flock of stampeding squirrels. Try as you might, there is no way you can tell which horse/camel/donkey/squirrel crossed the line first - I think the commentator decides on which one has the most pronouncable name.

We learnt that it is possible to bet on ALL the horses in the race and still not make a profit!
We learnt that choosing a winner based on what colour blouse (!) the jockey is wearing is not a guarantee of winning.

We learnt that eating a LARGE buffet causes one to feel drowsy and lose concentration on the actual horseracing ...

Ice Skating :
(yep - in the desert!! In the foyer of a shopping mall!!)

DD found out that the biggest problem with ice skating is gravity - without gravity it would be so easy, even DM could do it. And she had the wrong equipment - she had ice skates - ice skates are too slippery and, combined with gravity - spell disaster. Skates should be designed with a combination of golf shoe spikes, Velcro and superglue!

More to follow later about how we amuse ourselves in this desert we now call home (..... or is that dessert??)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Are you healthy enough for the health test?

One of the more horrible experiences we have had was the obligatory blood test for Aids. Apparently, everyone has to have one, and if you are unfortunate enough to have Aids (or TB), you do not get to stay. No wonder the percentage of Aids cases is 0,001%.

DH arranged for a guide to take us to the local hospital where they test immigrants. Let me set the picture for you : 5 or 6 hot, stuffy, dirty pre-fab buildings, filled to the roof with sweating, pushing, rude, frustrated and frustrating people - mainly men - all screaming, shouting and causing commotions in various languages at the tops of their voices (including the ones behind the counters!) Total dis-organised chaos!! And our "guide" was one of the worst culprits. He simply pushed in front of a line of about 12 other people, grabbed the one man by his collar and tossed him out of the queue and squeezed to the front. When the other people in the queue began to mutter unhappily at him, he simply turned around, pointed to us (DD and DM) and made as if it was our fault. We then had to bravely smile at them and try to stop them from lynching us.
The guide's English consisted of "You come" and "You pay", and he totally could not (or would not) understand us at all. What I do know is that he kept demanding money - R200 here, R600 there, another R200 again.
We left the pre-fabs for a brick building -passing several bloodsoaked wads of cottonwool along the way. We were marched upstairs (to our doom, we felt by now!) where women and men are separated for the actual blood tests. Our guide pushed us rudely past the other waiting women and through a door, which clanged shut behind us. We were left standing, with our best "stiff upperlip" smiles, facing a herd of women and white coated technicians. After snatching our papers, one (who looked like a prison guard) barked that we must "Follow NOW", so follow we did, out the door again and down the stairs. Our guide galloped after us, shrieking : "What you do, get back, give blood NOW". The more we tried to explain that we were instructed to follow "Helga, the Horrible", more more he screamed at us to GET BACK NOW. Luckily, Helga noticed that we had strayed, had a few choice words to say to our guide, and we were allowed to trot along after her again.
Two and a half hours later (!!) we were totally shattered and just too grateful to still be alive, mostly!! Albeit with punctured arms. All I can say is, after that trauma, they had BETTER give us a permit to stay, for THEIR own health!!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Encounters with the Natives

Well, here I am again. I can't stop writing about our strange and curious encounters here - mainly because all of our encounters are strange and curious! Mostly brought about by communication confusion ....

The other day, while wandering around the streets, DD and I found a shop called "Planet Book", which had shelves of English paperback books. We were very excited to find the latest titles. I found one I had been searching for, asked the lady behind the counter for the price (as there was none on the book itself). She looked me up and down, sighed, then searched for it on her computer and snapped out the price. I thought she was a bit rude, but it was a good price. She got even more impolite with the two books that DD wanted, so I just tossed the money on the counter and was about to leave. She then demanded to know : "Why you buy books?" So I said : "Because we like to read" - could there be another reason? She then told us : "This library, you no BUY books, just BORROW!" We had been buying the library's books - no wonder she thought we were cheeky!!

I went to the Post Office to post off some letters to friends. Just as I was about to leave, the helpful man behind the counter said : "Here, you take lottery ticket" and thrust half a dozen coupons in my hand. I asked him how much they cost, he just said "No, you take ..." The conversation after that went something like this : I refused, he insisted, I refused, he insisted and began pushing them into my handbag. I thought - what the hell - if he is giving away free lottery tickets, I don't want to be rude and refuse ... so I thanked him with a big smile and began to walk away. He then nearly had a seizure and leapt up from his chair, shouting "Give back, give back", which I did, just before I ran out the door! As I turned to see if he was following me, I spotted a notice on the door advertising lottery tickets for Dh30!! I had tried to steal his lottery tickets!!

We went to buy our curtains the other day. I told the salesman that I wanted heavy curtains AND lace curtains. He seemed to understand this, saying : "Yes, heavy curtains with lace curtains on outside". "No", I replied, "Lace on inside, heavy curtains on OUTSIDE". After some 10 minutes of arguing with each other, he finally shrugged his shoulders, muttered (probably something about stupid white woman with crazy tastes) and said "OooooK, it look funny, but you want, you get". Then in a last desperate attempt to dissuade me, he took me to the window display of an actual set of curtains and asked if I liked it. I did because it was what I wanted : lace on the inside, curtains on the outside .... But it was what HE wanted to : lace of the outside (you know, closer to the OUTside) and curtains on the INside of the room!!

One of the favourite sayings here is "Insha'allah", which loosely translated into French would be "Que sera sera", or translated into English would be "What will be, will be", and in Afrikaans would be "Ja No Well Fine!!" So, if someone bashes you with a trolley and you scream in pain, he will nonchalantly say "Insh'allah"; if the contractor, who promised to come at 10am on Monday arrives at 5pm on Tuesday and you complain, his excuse will include "Insha'allah"; if the taxi driver shortchanges you and and you point it out, he will reply with "Insha'allah" and ignore you, but if you demand the correct change, he will again reply with "Insha'allah" and give you your money. Come to think of it, maybe the English translation is actually "Oh, shut up!!"

I read somewhere that one should be careful when complimenting locals because they will then feel obliged to give you the article. We had firsthand experience with this when we saw a stranger on the street wearing a particular bracelet DD had been looking for. I stopped him and asked where he had bought the bracelet, whereupon he whipped the bracelet off and insisted that DD take it right there and then. We were stunned into embarassed silence (a very rare occurrence!) and he trotted off before we could finish stammering out our thank you's. MMmmmmmm, methinks I am going to try telling the neighbour how stunning I think his Ferrari is .... noblesse oblige and all that!!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Strange Street Names

Before we arrived in Abu, we were given an address for DD to write her exams. The "address" was : The Pink 501 Building, next to the Modern Bakery with the plants on the sidewalk! That sounded a bit bizzare, but when we arrived, we asked the taxi driver to take us to the ... nudge, nudge ... Pink 501 Building, next to the Modern Bakery ... with ... giggle, snort, cough ..... plants on the sidewalk ... and within 5 minutes, we were exactly where we wanted to be!!

There are a number of problems with using actual street names here :
Firstly, each main street has at two, three or even four names - (1) The original name given to the street (2) The new official name - usually in honour of some wellknown person (3) The road number corresponding to the street name and (4) The common, everyday name used most often - usually describing where the road comes from or goes to, for example "Airport Road" is officially known as Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed the Second Road, and used to be known as East Road, and has a number as well!! The common name often reflects the type of shops on that street, so you get Embassy Street, Electra Street (for electrical appliance shops) and so on.

Then there is the problem that every block which is bordered by main streets, has the same numbers, so if you are looking for 2nd Street, you could literally pass dozens of "2nd Streets" and be on pension before you find the one you are looking for. Usually when looking for a smaller street, you start by using the main street name, followed by the small street's number - this helps get you in the general vicinity.

The streets that are named after Sheikhs, can get very confusing when you are not sure if you are looking for Sheikh Hamad bin Rashid Al Maktoum the First Street or Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayad Al Nahyan the Second Street - by the time you have finished reading the street sign, you are way past that street on onto another Sheikh's street!! And forget about asking the cops - we stopped and asked a group of three cops for directions and each pointed in a completely different way and babbled directions like : "Cross Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan the First Street and drive until the Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi Bridge and then turn into His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani Circle ... " etc, etc. Our heads were spinning and we spent the next hour spinning around Dubai's streets in ever-decreasing circles, until we finally - completely by accident - finally found what we were looking for!

These are the instructions I got on how to make sense of the street names - see if YOU can understand them - I couldn't!!

Along the top of the "T" runs the Corniche (Street 1) which is the side of the island furtherest from the mainland. Streets running parallel to the Corniche all have odd numbers, so the next is Street 3 (Khalifa), then 5 (Hamdan), then 7 (Zayed or "Electra") and so on down into the 30's at the bottom of the "T".

Running vertically down the middle of the "T" is Airport Road (Street 2). Roads running parallel to Airport to the right have even numbers, so the next is Street 4 (old Airport Road), Street 6 and so on. To the left of Airport Road running parallel is Street 24 (Karama), Street 26, etc.

Which explains why everyone here has a postbox and post is seldom delivered to your home. Can you imagine an envelope addressed to :

Mrs Smith
123 Big White Building with blue windows
Next to the park where we had a picnic last summer
Just beyond the tree where the pigeons have built a big nest
Abu Dhabi
Postman Pat (Postman Ali, more likely!) would really have to know his route well!!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Censorship Snips

One of the most frustrating aspects of living here is the strictness of the censorship. Now, I know that they (being the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue - really!!), are trying to prevent their people from being corrupted by the decadent Western values we find normal, but I sometimes think they take themselves a bit too seriously .....
Internet users are banned from many, many sites - including any which mention pigs or sheep (even cartoon ones!) Whole sites containing millions of innocent, non-porno photos have been blocked because they also contain one or two photos which are considered "offensive".
Obvious topics, such as porn or gambling, are well known. But many other subjects are also unacceptable, including any reference to history mentioning disputes between the different emirates before independence.

This is the message which comes up when you try to access these "dirty, perverted, disgusting" sites :

We apologize, the site you are attempting to visit has been blocked due to its content being inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates.
And, if the government and its watchdogs happen to miss spotting a miscreant - there are a number of self-ordained morals watchers who will pounce and threaten anyone they consider to have overstepped the boundaries, with all sorts of dire consequences, including arrest and deportation!!
DD was flabbergasted when she bought the Cosmo magazine and found a number of pages, showing models in swimming costumes and lingerie, scribbled on with a black felt pen. It is actually somebody's job to page through each and every copy of the magazines and then blot out all the scantily clad butts! What is his job title : "Butt blotter"??
And talking of immoral .... you really must watch a video here - or even a movie or tv show. They are all censored, but not with bleeps, they actually cut out whole sections which contain words or actions which they consider offensive. So, if you are watching a love scene, it would go something like this :
"Oh, Jeff, I ..... you and .... you to .... me"
"Oh, Linda, let me .... my .... on you .... and feel the .... of your .... on my ...."
Well, you can substitute your own words of course, and then it either becomes a hysterical comedy, or a REALLY xxx-rated film!!
Then, of course, they slice out any reference to God, Allah, Royalty, divinity or religion of any kind, as well as any "swear" words, which include damn, gosh, golly, heck, bother, etc. Any mention of a body part is removed, unless it is visible when wearing one of their abayas, and as you know, this means that "eyes" are about the limit! Politics, gambling, partying, drugs, drinking, car chases, etc - all no-no's.
So, a movie which lasts 2 to 3 hours elsewhere, here consists of :
The Beginning ....
"Oh you have beautiful eyes"
....The End!!!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Speaking Hinglish

One place they really do use the full English language in a unique style (although not always in the way it SHOULD be used!), is in the daily newspaper. These are some examples of what they have written :

* When the Sheikh died, they reported that the people, the trees and even the robots were "drooping their heads with sorrow".
* Talking about the misuse of missed call messages on cellphones : "This ubiquitous chime could ring you out of your senses while you are blabbering out a valedictory speech. It is a ruthless money-saving menace which has found favour with the money-minded".
* Vehicle and pedestrian accidents are caused mainly by : "drivers of vehicles and pedestrians".
* An article on absconding maids : "They often play crumble ways with those who offer them jobs, screwing them up to the extent that their satisfaction is pledged". Huh??
* A man who was decapitated : "found himself choking with emotion when he was given a ticket to return to his homeland". YOU would choke too if you were decapitated! It seems the person actually had his legs amputated.
And, once again, we were misunderstood ...... We took our sheets and DH's shirts to the laundry - they wash and iron them for a small fee. However, when they came back, the laundry owner had written a code number in pen on the back of the shirt collars and on the sheets. Obviously, so he knew which belonged to which customer. When we went back the next time, DH told him : "We are cross with you, you write on shirts and sheets with pen, we do NOT want to SEE numbers on our sheets and shirts, understand?"
Yes, he understand - WE could NOT SEE the numbers - so the next time, he took a bigger, thicker, blacker pen and wrote in 1 inch numbers, so that we COULD see. Now it looks like we pinched our sheets from some hotel or hospital. And DH looks like an escaped convict with his prison number written on the back of his shirt!!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

TV or not TV?

We miss South African television very much - of the 30 or so free channels here, at least 27 are only in Arabic - and they were all only showing a photo of the dead Sheikh, with someone caterwauling in the background for ages after his death. Radio stations were exactly the same, the only alternative to the wailing was panflute elevator music, which one can only listen to for so long before going nuts. DD was threatening to leave if that music was going to be permanent. Luckily, some normality returned after the mourning period was over.

We have subscribed to "DSTV" here - called Orbit. The local tv stations are all in Arabic and the only free English programmes you can get are BBC and CNN which are full time news. So now we have another 140 channels to choose from!! The only problem is - about 120 of THEM are also Arabic. The English ones range from not too bad to fairly okay. We have started watching the new series of the Bachelor and Bachelorette. We can also get the latest US Idols and The Apprentice (with Donald Trump) and there are some ok movie channels. DH is glad for the sports channels and DD watches the music channels. Alas for me - no cooking channels!!

We also get channels from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Germany, France, even China - what a pity we can't understand a word any of them say!

So, although we have ove 200 channels to choose from, more often than not, someone is grumbling about their being nothing to watch on tv!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Shmoking Shisha's ish Shpechal

Not to be confused with shishka - Do not smoke your shishka (meatball on a stick)!

"Smoking a shisha is nothing like smoking a cigarette," a 71-year-old man said as he looked up from his pipe. "Cigarettes are for nervous people, competitive people, people on the run," he said. "When you smoke shisha, you have time to think. It teaches you patience and tolerance, and gives you an appreciation of good company. Shisha smokers have a much more balanced approach to life than cigarette smokers."

We notice that many restaurants offer shisha's as a before-or-after dinner treat (those are the Arab hubbly bubblies with the long pipes). They smell really pleasant and we have been tempted, but not quite convinced, to try one someday. The menu's list flavours like strawberry, banana, rose, licorice, apple, grape, melon, mint, lemon, orange, mango, coffee, cappuccino, honey, cola, even cigar and cigarette flavours, but they also list : shisha fantasia, exotica, flight of dreams .... and, when you look closely at the people who are smoking the shisha's many of them have dreamy, faraway looks on their faces ..... could it be another, less innocent type of leaf they are smoking??? We MUST investigate this ...
So, some time later ...................

Before .....

We had our first taste of a shisha at the notorious desert safari - we sat on cushions on the floor and puffed away at the hubbly bubbly. I thought it tasted superb and asked what it was we were smoking - the "operator" replied : "Apples and red flowers" ....(...??Poppies ???!!!) Too late by then, just had to sit back and enjoy ...............................! We seemed be get a little giggly and giddy as the puffing went on - but maybe that was just wishful thinking!!

After .....

If you intend to follow our example and sample a shisha, here are some interesting hints and some do's and don't's to remember :

* Do NOT use regular charcoal as this may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning!
* You may try adding things to the water to change the taste or consistency of the smoke.
* Example additions include ice cubes, mint leaves, lemon slices, alcohol, fruit juice or milk.
* For a sweeter and more flavourful smoke, you can add some wine to the water in the base of your hookah. It's a happier smoke, and you can really taste the wine.
* Try putting Coca Cola instead of water and use the "cola flavoured" shisha tobacco, it really enhances the cola taste
* Dry tobacco can be rejuvenated by marinating it with fruit preserves such as marmalade or jam.

Smoking shishas here is very acceptable, and we have seen people smoking on street corners, in restaurants, at the beach, even while sitting in their car - with the shisha on the ground outside! You can even get a multiple hose shisha which allows you and your companions to all smoke a the same time - otherwise you can each have your own or you can pass one around - with each person using their own mouthpiece.

May you always smoke in good company and peaceful times!

Retail Therapy # 3

In an effort to make the cavernous lounge look a bit more like a home than a museum, we decided to buy some flowers - joke! The first major hurdle was finding a shop or person who actually sells real, fresh flowers - as you mostly only get the non-destructible, need-no-care, plastic variety in a number of totally unnatural colours and shapes.

When we finally found a florist who supplies some of the hotels with flower arrangements, they were only able to offer us either roses (at R20 each) or some rather wilted and sad-looking daisies. We settled on the daisies! But they do not sell vases. In fact they looked at us as though we were from Mars when we asked for a vase - "........a vaaaaazzzz?? No!" We have now searched numerous shops and are still no nearer to getting a vase, so we have finally settled on a blue plastic water jug. The locals are probably all shaking their heads at these mad Whities who are looking for flowers in a desert, and, if you think about it, who can blame them?

But, I refuse to accept that they do not have sheets here - at first we could not find any to fit our beds. It appears that each furniture makes just makes the bed to the size HE wants - there is no standard size for double, queen or king size. So none of the sheets fit properly. It seems that we have a king-size queen bed and DD has a queen-size double bed. Nou ja! We finally did find some sheets, but they are way too big - it seems that there is no standard size in sheets either - Queen can mean anything from double bed size to double king size!! And most of the sheets available here are made of pure cotton, which rustle like leaves when you lie on them and are impossible to iron - so crinkly and old looking. They have also all faded and blotched after just a few washes - so they look far worse than the 25 year old sheets that I threw away when we left home to come here!!

Pillows are another story - they also come in a number of different sizes - Queen, King, Supersize, etc, so you have to make sure that the pillowcases you buy are the right size for the pillows - ours are all too small for the stupid Kingsize pillows we bought, and have ended up looking like sausages with the stuffing squeezed out of them!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Toys for Boys

DH had his revenge for us girls buying all new furniture, and bought himself a brand new, out of the box, 4 x 4. It is really neat, just the right size for carting our new furniture (which is all do-it-yourself and bought in flat boxes).

It is not commonly known, but only about 5% of the human body differs between men and women. Part of this 5% is the portion that causes males to become so emotionally involved with their cars. Us girls just want to know what colour it is, and does it have aircon.

He then HAD to have a satellite gps system for his new car - it can supposedly find any street or shop in the world and tell you exactly how to get there. Unfortunately, it seems to me, the only way it can tell you this, is if you have been to the destination before and programmed the route into it. DH loves it, but it's bleating gets on DD and DM's nerves ".... 100 metres turn right, robot turn left, arrive at destination ....." and more often than not : ".... lost satellite reception, re-calculating ...." (In other words, you are on your own now...) Grrr, it is obviously a boy's toy! All it does is tell you just how lost you are!!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Retail Therapy # 2

A very peculiar aspect about the shopping is the fact that the shops open from 9am to 12 noon, then close until 5pm and then open again until 10 or 11pm. On Fridays and during Ramadan, most of the shops are closed all day, and only open after 6 or 7 pm. This sounds exotic and actually was, the first time we tried it, but when we only got out of the shop after midnight and still had to load all the shopping bags into a "pocket rocket" and then lug it in relays up to the 14th floor and then pack it all away - suddenly it was a lot less fun!!

We are still battling with being too polite. Nobody here seems to grasp the concept of queues. Queues here are one person deep and 3000 wide. Disembodied arms will reach under, over and around you to plonk their purchases down on the counter. The sales assistant will then immediately ring up whatever is in front of her. Next, the arm will squeeze past you again, clutching payment and grabbing the parcel. All this time, we are left with a dazed look on our faces, waiting patiently and politely to be served. It took us a few such experiences to learn that polite people end up going on pension before they get served, so now I stand with arms akimbo (on my hips), challenging anyone to try and get their puny arms around ME. The meek shall definitely not inherit anything in this part of the world!!

Women are often served first in shops, no matter how many men have been standing for how long in the queue before you. I find this very awkward and embarrassing, and have tried to insist that "He was here before me". This concept is completely lost on the sales people (and the waiting men, by the way) and they will inevitably part like Moses' Red Sea to let you get to the front.

So, to sum it up - the women are too rude and the men are too polite. There is never a happy medium!!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Retail Therapy

The currency here is the Dirham (pronounced Dur-ham or Dirrim, depending on whether you are a local or an expat) - which is their Rand ... and the fil - which is their cent. However, the coins you see the most are 1Dirham, 50fil and 25fils - less than 25fils is just not worth the botheration, so they simply ignore it. If your groceries add up to xxxDirham and xxxfils, they will probably just round the fils to the nearest Dirham - so you win some, you lose some. You DO actually get 10 and 5 fil pieces, but if you don't want to be walking around with a purse full of useless coins, yu just leave them at the cashier. The few times we have tried to get rid of them by giving handfuls of them to taxi drivers or shopowners have met with a stream of incomprehensible (but definitely rude) Arabic! So now, we avoid these coins like the plague!

Notes are very pretty colours and have Arabic on one side and English on the other. They are worth 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 Dirham. Beware, however, notes above 100 Dirhams seem to self-destruct and somehow completely disappear out of my purse without me being aware of it! At the moment, on Dirham costs about two Rand - so when we see something that looks pretty cheap, we hav eto remember to double the price to get an idea of its real price - which is sometimes quite shocking and always depressing!!

Of course, there are always times when you really, really, really need the consolatin of shopping - there are amazingly big malls with all kinds of shops, including Truworths, Woolworths and Mr Price! Been there, shopped there, paid extravagant prices! If you look really hard, you can find "normal" clothes, but most of the stuff is really weird - VERY bright colours, lots of bows and sequins and lace, the latest here is slashed clothes - everything looks like it has been in a shredder, with long shreds hanging everywhere!

Then thre are the equivalents of our Supermarkets and Hypermarkets. We went on a shopping spree and bought everything form figs to a fridge, from washing powder to a washing machine from the local hyper (called Co-Op here). We saw plates and dishes (plastic) for sale by the kilogram. We saw products from all over the world - furniture from India and Malaysia, meat from New Zealand and Australia, plates from China, Romania and Denmark, and foodstuffs from just about any and everywhere.

We went furniture shopping and were astounded at the over-the-topness of the furniture - obviiously designed for palaces, most of the lounge and bedroom suites made us feel like hobbits in the land of giants. Huge Sleeping Beauty type beds that are almost as tall as us standing next to them, couches that are so wide and high that yur feet don't touch the ground when you sit on them.

There was even a bedroom suite designed like a medieval castle, with a wardrobe that looked like a castle wall! When we went the next day to take a photo - it had been sold!! We struggled and struggled to find a semi-normal type of lounge suite and beds, and then, when they were delivered, they only took up about a quarter of the size of the room, that is obviously why they rather take those huge monstrosities - to fill out the rooms. We now have two lounge suites in our lounge (4 x 3 seater couches) and a recliner chair!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Counting the Pennies

The currency here is the Dirham (pronounced Dur-ham or Dirrim, depending on whether you are Arabic or European) - which is their Rand ... and the fil - which is their cent. However, the only coins you see are 1 Dirham, 50fils and 25fils - less than 25fils is just not worth the botheration, so they simply ignore it. If your groceries add up to xxxDirham and xxxfils, they will probably just round the fils to the nearest Dirham - so you win some, you lose some. You DO actually get 5 and 10fil pieces, but if you don't want to be walking around with a purse full of useless coins, you just leave them at the cashier. The few times we have tried to get rid of them by giving handfuls of them to taxi drivers or shopowners, our efforts have been met with a stream of incomprehensible (but definitely rude!) Arabic. So now, we avoid these coins like the plague!

Notes are very pretty colours and are worth 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 Dirham. Beware, however, notes above 100 Dirhams seem to self-destruct and somehow completely disappear out of my purse without me being aware of it!

At the moment, one Dirham costs two Rand - so when we see something that looks pretty cheap, we have to remember to double the price to get an idea of its real price - which is sometimes quite shocking and always depressing!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

If it's Tuesday, it must be Wednesday

Trying to get used to the work days here is really difficult, you see - here in Abu Dhabi, Thursdays are Fridays and Fridays are Sundays, followed by Saturdays, which are followed by Mondays, which are Sundays everywhere else. Mondays are actually Tuesdays, but Tuesdays are Tuesdays as well!

Most companies in AD work from Sunday to Thursday and have Friday/Saturday weekends. However, most companies in Dubai have Thursday/Friday weekends, and some international companies have the normal Saturday/Sunday weekends. Then, some unfortunates work for companies that only have one day weekends - Friday - which turns Fridays into Saturdays AND Sundays all in one!

Somehow your brain knows that, while you are lazing around on a Friday, the rest of the world is working, but it will not accept the reverse on a Sunday. Because Saturday feels like a Saturday, you kind of expect the next day to be a relaxing day - but noooo - it is a work day!!

We are lucky that we do not have schoolgoing children, because some schools have their weekends on a Thursday and Friday. This means that kids and their parents only share one day weekends!!

Add to this confusion, the fact that during Ramadan, the shops are closed all day (like our old-time Sundays) and only open at 6pm or 7pm, and during the mourning period for the Sheikh who died, all shops were closed all the time, and you can see what I mean by being confused.

I tried to handle the mayhem by calling a Friday "Saturday" and a Saturday "Sunday", but because no-one else here does that, it confused them AND me. Now, I have a calendar stuck in a very prominent place and diligently mark off the days each morning, so I will know WHEN I am.

So, if we speak to you on a Monday and ask how your Friday is going, please bear with us - we are on Arab time!!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Public InConveniences

Okay, now we venture on to even more dangerous stuff - public toilets ... You may not believe it, but most public toilets do not have any toilet paper (which they consider unhygienic!), they merely have a hosepipe situated nearby the loo. This means that the floors of the loos are almost always swimming in what one hopes is water - which I consider unhygienic! Now, what I want to know is this - if you can master the art of squirting the hose in just the right place, and at just the right angle, how do you dry yourself off if there is no loo paper? Or do they walk around holding those tiny little battery-operated fans at just the right place under those voluminous black robes of theirs?

Even in the flat, each bathroom is equipped with a bidet and a rather interestingly angled hose/tap type of thing. These are basically carwashes for your *ass*. None of us have been brave enough to actually try using it, because it seems one would have to get into the "prepare for crash landing" position used on aircraft - with your head between your knees - and then try to twist yourself into a pretzel in order to reach the tap which is situated directly behind your butt, turn it on to the correct pressure and readjust the angle, whilst at the same time trying to maintain your balance on the (seatless) porcelain bowl. I am afraid I would get into position and then have a fit of giggles, give myself a slipped disc and have to wait for someone to rescue me. Or worse, turn the tap up too high and give myself a free enema. I HAVE asked, but nobody seems to be prepared to demonstrate How To Use Your Bidet Without Drowning.

(Bidet in French originally meant "small horse" - which seems to describe it perfectly!)

Question : Are bidets for *assholes*?

PS : They do make great foot-washing basins, though ....

While we are on this delicate subject, consider the rules and regulations which Moslems must adhere to when using the toilet :

Muslim’s toileting practices could be compounded into six areas— entering, seclusion, the prohibition of facing Mecca, squatting, cleaning and stepping out.

The Qur’an states that one should enter the restroom with left foot first while saying a prayer of protection. It is not permissible to enter a restroom while carrying anything that bears the name of Allah, such as the Qur’an, or any book with the name of Allah in it, or jewelry such as bracelets and necklaces engraved with the name of Allah. Muslims should keep silent when in the restroom. Thus, talking, reading, greeting others and answering greetings are not to be done inside the restroom except for risky situations, like guiding a disabled person.

One should be out of sight, thus doors of toilets should be securely closed. Privacy is therefore a major requirement when providing restroom facilities for Muslim users. Muslim women specifically have problems with Western-style public restrooms because they find stalls with gaps between the floor and wall too immodest.

Islam prohibits facing the Qiblah (Mecca) while defecating. The Prophet said “if you go to defecate, do not face Mecca nor turn your back toward it. Instead, you should turn to your left side or your right side”.

Muslims are encouraged to urinate while sitting or squatting and not while standing. Squatting or sitting is said to be better since it is healthier for the body and there is less chance of urine splashing onto one’s body or clothes. Islam strictly prohibits direct contact with urine and feces as these are considered impure. The Prophet once passed by two graves and said “Both are being punished. They are not being punished for major sins. One did not shield himself from urine and the other carried gossip.” This explains why hole-in-the-ground squat-type toilets are still popular in some areas.

After using the toilet, one should performs the Istinjaa (cleansing with water). However, when water is not available, a material that does not have a smooth surface, such as stone or wood can be used. Tissue paper can be used as long as it does not absorb the feces or urine and cause the hand to come into contact with it.
Qur’an forbids the use of the right hand in order to clean oneself from the impurities of urine and feces.

Muslims have a practice of leaving the toilet with right foot first. They utter a prayer of forgiveness as they leave the toilet.

Prayer uttered before entering the restroom with left foot: “O Allah, I seek Your protection from the male and female devils”
Prayer uttered after leaving the restroom with the right foot: “I seek your pardon. Praise be to Allah who removed discomfort from me”

Well, that's enough to make you constipated!!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Whether there is weather ...

The weather (even in the middle of winter) consists of really warm days, bordering on hot, especially if you are outside. We seem to dart from one airconditioned house/shop/car to the next - the air is humid and the poor excuse of a breeze just seems to circulate the warmth around rather than cool anything down, much like a hairdryer set on low heat, blowing in your face.

In winter, temperatures are in the low 30's and go UP at night rather than getting cooler. Our SAfrican summer clothes were all too warm for here, so we HAD to go shopping for some more appropriate clothes (good excuse, hey?) Imagine our amazement when we found that the shops were stocked to the rafters with thick leather jackets, mohair coats, woollen polonecks and kneehigh boots! Maybe 35 degree heat is cold to them - if so, I don't want to be here at the height of their summer. One taxi driver put it very well, he said : "Summer here very hot, white people all die!" What a pleasant prospect!

Hey, guess what .... it rained here the other day - rain in the desert! It didn't rain much, and it didn't rain for long, but it rained just long enough for the oil slicks to convert the roads into an ice skating rink. From our vantage point in the flat, we watched as cars skidded and whirled all over - obviously not used to driving in the "wet". Apparently, in the couple of hours following the rain, there were over 200 accidents in the city! But that is not the most bizarre aspect of this story - apparently the "rain" was created by scientists who detonated hydrogen bombs in the sky to create artificial rainfall. They also claim to have brought temperatures down below the normal highs. (Locals agree that this is true).

It is June and the current weather chart for Abu Dhabi looks like this :

Sun 41C high 0% precipitation Clear and sunny
Mon 42C high 0% precipitation Sunny skies
Tue 43C high 0% precipitation Sunny clear skies
Wed 41C high 0% precipitation Abundant sunshine
Thu 42C high 0% precipitation Sunny and clear
Frid 43C high 0% precipitation Mainly sunny
Sat 43C high 0% precipitation Sunny skies

Talk about predictability!!!
And summer is still on it's way .....

Well, we have had our winter - this year it was on Thursday 31st March - and now we are into full-blown sprummer (spring + summer rolled into one!) It was as if someone flicked a switch on that hairdryer and suddenly the temperature and humidity shot up. Of course, if we are battling now, we are going to be melted puddles by the time the "real" summer gets here. I am starting to understand why so many of the expats say they "don't do Middle Eastern summers" and head off back to cooler climes for a couple of months.

Every day we are learning new ways to describe the weather - it's hot and humid, hot and dry, hot and windy, hot and muggy, hotter, slightly less hot, sunny and hot, hot with plenty of sunshine ...... well, you get the picture - I did not know there were so many variations on the theme of HOT!

I am brushing up on my descriptions for when the actual summer hits us - judging from how the milder season of spring has been, I am including words like : burning, scorching, sizzling, boiling, blistering, sweltering, and, oh yes, my all time favourite : HOT.

The mystery of why the shops close from noon til 6pm has been solved ... It is because anyone stupid enough to venture out at the height of the heat of the day - like mad dogs, Englishmen and us - are instantly fried, seared and scorched by the death rays from the sun. People who have to be out scuttle like beetles in the Kalahari - with their toes barely even touching the ground. As DD says : "Even my sweat is sweating!"

Our airconditioner is battling on bravely, struggling to make a difference to the incoming furnace blasts of hot air. Every vent has condensation pouring from it, making unsightly rivulets down walls and puddles on the floors. And speaking of puddles on floors .... in our entrance hall, we have a rattan table with a basket of sweets and chocolates. The other day I found a small puddle of brown liquid under the table - it appears that the chocolates have been melting and dripping onto the floor ... I guess I will just have to eat the rest before they melt too ......

Do you remember that little place in SAfrica called "Hotazhell" ? Well, welcome to "Hotternhell"!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

We can see the sea !!!

Well, at least we are near the sea - in fact we can see it from our flat window - if we stand on the second rung of the ladder, press our noses to the tiny window opening and use the binoculars! So, you would think that the evening sea breeze would cool things off - no such luck - there ARE no evening breezes, in fact no breezes at all ... and in the evening, the temperature rises and makes it all the more bizarre!

I'm beginning to wonder if the sea is actually a sea at all. I suspect it is more a lake or a man-made dam. There are no waves (I am sure you could skip a stone all the way to Iran if your arms were strong enough!), there is no sea sound, there is no sea smell, there is no sea beach and there are no seagulls. MMmmmm sounds like a lake to me!

Mind you, let me be honest, the other day, there were some "waves" - the water actually splashed up around our knees (!). People started wondering if this was a tsunami attacking Abu Dhabi and were just beginning to panic, when it was discovered that the "waves" were in fact being made by a passing, speeding jet-ski .... Bathers breathed a sigh of relief and within seconds, the sea had gone back to its normal placid lapping.

But, whatever it is, it has the most incredible colour ....

Although Abu Dhabi is a peninsula in the sea, there are actually very few public beaches - most are privately owned by 5-star hotels who charge an exorbitant daily fee to access them. The public beaches have no facilities and there are no shops anywhere near them. Some of them are walled off and designated "ladies' beaches" which means that no male over the age of 8 years (!) is allowed in - kinda makes it a bit difficult to have a family outing to the beach.

Even in the middle of winter, the water is not cold, but now that summer is here, it is bordering on being lukewarm, so swimming in the sea is rather like splashing about in a very large, very salty bath.

The oddest thing is looking at what people wear to go swimming - there are itsy bitsy teeny weeny floss-like bikinis, Speedo's that leave nothing to the imagination and there are the all-in-one, swim-in-your-national-dress-costume which are basically black trousers, ankle length dress, long-sleeved coat and face-covering veil - all of which swirl around like some alien sea-creature in the water. How they don't end up drowning themselves is beyond me. Still ... no risk of sunburn or skin cancer ...

Friday, June 10, 2005

Taxing Taxi's

Taxi's seem to outnumber humans at least 10 to 1. We have christened them "pocket rockets" because they rocket up to you in a cloud of dust and rubber, load you in as fast as possible and then rocket off again - it is your responsibility to hold on tight to your luggage, children and other appendages which might be left dangling out of the open door when the rocket takes off. No going back for bits and pieces! The standard fee is Dh2 (R4) which you virtually throw at the driver as he barely slows down at your destination, before rocketing off in search of another victim!

Of course, taxi drivers spend their entire lives cooped up in those ovens-on-wheels, which probably accounts for some of the rather interesting odours one encounters when entering them! Many of them actually have little air fresheners on their dashboards. They also have a variety of other interesting dingly, dangly things on their dashboards and scattered around their taxi's : these include prayer beads (for use by driver and passengers!), Christmas tinsel and baubles (in and out of Christmas season), boxes of tissues (who does so much crying or sweating??), bushels of faded plastic flowers, and lots of gaudily framed photographs of various relatives and themselves. In fact, many also have these ornaments hanging from their bumpers and outside mirrors too. We have even seen some taxi's (and cars) with fringes and curtain tassles hanging from their bumpers!

Like everyone else, there are different personalities driving these pocket rockets. There are the taciturn, grumpy, don't-talk-to-me type; the eager, enthusiastic, obviously-still-new type; the chatty, look-at-my-photos, where-are-you-from type (who, when we say South Africa, invariably respond with :"Ah, Mandela and Hansie Cronje!!")

Taxi drivers have their own language - spoken and understood only by themselves. When we asked to go to the Post Office, one smilingly replied : "Smoker's Corner?" The more we insisted "Post Office", the more HE insisted "Smoker's Corner", until we gave up, smiled and agreed to go to "Smoker's Corner", which turned out to actually be the Post Office - don't ask how! And likewise, the "mall" has become the "mawn", the "club" has become the "cumb" and the "church" is the "chiz". I don't know how, but somehow we do finally reach our destinations!! Most of the time!

The other day we leapt into a taxi - the driver smiled broadly while vigorously nodding his head and saying : "New?! New??!!!!!" Of course, we replied : "Yes, we are new ..." and told him where we wanted to go. We rocketed off. However, after 20 minutes, during which time we passed the same buildings at least three times, we tried to find out if the driver actually knew where we were going. "No, ME NEW!!" was his reply - HE was new and had no clue where to go, he was waiting for us to direct HIM. We had to jump out and find one who did actually know if he was coming or going!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Walk Like an Abu Dhabian ...

Let me just say a word or several about pedestrians. Pedestrians all over the world are considered pests by most drivers, but here in AD, they are a complete law unto themselves.

It appears that any driver hitting a pedestrian (whether at fault or not), can be sued by the injured pedestrian or his family for an amount of "blood money". The amount is determined by the injured family! Until such time as the driver (or his family) can pay this "blood money" - sometimes several hundreds of thousands of Dirhams (many years' salary for most people), the driver is imprisoned. Obviously, drivers therefore go out of their way to avoid mowing down pedestrians.

This, in turn makes the pedestrians bolder than usual. They are assured that cars will avoid hitting them at all costs, so they meander, saunter, waddle and stroll, with glazed eyes, talking on cell phones, staring into space, or chatting to their children, one another or themselves - wherever and whenever they want, including highways, blind corners and red robots. They are completely oblivious to any other road users - almost as if they were in a coma or sleepwalking. Then, at other times, they dart, scuttle and scamper across the roads from behind buildings, bus-stops and parked cars, without the slightest hesitation or botheration to check for oncoming cars. It is almost as if they have an invisible force-field around them once they don those black or white robes......

When we arrived, we were confused about when to cross at robots and baffled by the u-turning cars, so we decided that "when in Abu, do as the Abu's do", so when they walked, we walked - which was most of the time, as they rarely stopped for traffic. After a couple of near hits, and some pretty hair-raising moments when the robots turned green for the cars and we were stranded in the middle of a 4-lane road, we decided to stop doing as they do, and now rather wait until there are no cars in sight - left OR right. This means that crossing a street can take us up to 25 minutes - but hey, it is better than being roadkill!!

Maybe they should take a lesson from the British, who paint these signs on the road at pedestrian crossings - to help dozy blondes like me .....

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Pathetic Parking

Then there is the parking, or should I say "parking" in inverted commas, because it is not parking as we used to know it. The rule seems to be that the instant you spot the shop you are looking for, you simply stop and switch off the engine. This can be done in the middle of the street, on a corner or at the entrance or exit to any parking area.

Legitimate parking includes diagonal, parallel, vertical, double and even quadruple-parallel-behind-diagonally parked cars. In fact, we have seen several cars utilise the same parking space - at the same time - leaving only the side cars with enough room to open their doors and forcing the occupants of the middle car to use the sunroof to exit and re-enter their car. Obviously, if you do not have a sunroof, you should avoid being the car in the middle, unless in an emergency, when you could try to use the windows as escape routes!

We have not seen this YET, but would not be surprised ...!!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Licence Plates

Of course, Arabic numbers (as used on licence plates) are different to our western numbers (well, actually, the western numbers ARE Arabic numbers, and the Arabic numbers are Indic numbers, but that is a whole other story ...)

Anyway, the numbers here are different to what we are used to, and some could cause confusion, for example :

Our 5 is their 0, our 6 is their 7, our 2 is a backwards 7 and our 4 is a backwards 3 ... not to mention that our 7 is a zig and our 8 is a zag.....

The only ones that match are the 1 and the 9.

We have discovered that you can make words with their numbers, so, for example, if your licence was 41415 - it would read E I E I O!!

The government periodically sells "special" numbers, like 78787 (which would give you a pretty ziggy zaggy licence), and what about 5555 - that would be 0000! Or 4444 would be EEEE! The auction price of these special numbers sometimes start at Dh60 000 (R120 000) and can reach astronomical sums - and they sell like hot cakes. Someone told me that you can buy these numbers for life, and actually leave them in your will to your lucky inheritors ... I think I would rather have the pearls thank you!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Transport - The Arab Way

I know what you are thinking - that a handsome, tall, Omar Shariff type has fallen under my spell and kidnapped me, taking me by camel train to the darkest reaches of the desert ...

.... no such luck!! I am sitting here on the 14th floor, with not an Omar in sight!

We are slowly beginning to understand the interesting phenomenon of Abu Dhabian life.

Take their driving for instance : firstly, they drive on the wrong side of the road - the right side (if you get my meaning). This includes not only the cars, but the escalators, stairs and pedestrians as well. So we are constantly fighting our way through streams of oncoming cars, trolleys and people - until we are bumped to the other (wrong) side and can then go with the flow!

Because it is illegal to turn left into a block or driveway, u-turns are not only allowed, but are actually compulsory, and are more or less executed from any lane, in front of any number of oncoming cars. U-turns are also the only time it is compulsory to use an indicator. Some u-turns even have their very own little miniature robot to tell you when you can u-turn.

It seems that traffic signs such as robots, stop signs, yield signs are considered (at best) to be a recommendation or suggestion, not an instruction; and (at worst) a pesky annoyance to be ignored, an irritation and a nuisance!

(And some, like these, could be understood in a number of different ways...)

If you have a road accident, you must telephone the police and they come to assess who is to blame. If it is your fault, you get a pink copy of the form, the blamefree motorist gets the green copy. Garages will not repair your car without this form. A westerner (or expat) involved in an accident with a local is generally assumed to be in the wrong - no matter the circumstances of the accident - the reasoning being that if you were not in the country in the first place, the accident would not have happened. Can't argue with that logic!

Oh, did you know it is the LAW here that your car must be clean? There are very few dirty, dusty or neglected looking cars. However, the other part of the law says that you may not wash you car on the street either!!!??? That explains the long queues at the car washes!

Virtually every intersection has a roundabout, but they are not the puny, "traffic calming" ones we are used to. They are huge circles with at least 8 or 10 roads feeding in and out of them. Vehicles can join from any lane and cross any number of lanes to get to any other lane and can leave by cutting across any lane from any lane into any lane of the adjoining road. The result is scary, to say the least. I am sure there are some cars (probably diven by inexperienced expats) who are too petrified to try to leave these roundabouts and have been circling for years! Some of these roundabouts are so large, they have massive fountains, trees and picnic areas, etc. Although, just how one would cross the 4 lane road to get there is a mystery.

All cars, especially taxis, are fitted with special heavy duty hooters and brakes, because no car can operate without the excessive use of one or the other, or both at the same time. The definition of a nano-second is the time it takes between the robot turning green and the guy behind you hooting for you to move!

And remember, camels have the right of way .....

Sunday, June 05, 2005

I am cooking with gas .....

I am cooking with gas ...!! No, really, literally ... cooking with gas - for the first time - I am used to an electric stove.

I have, thus far, managed to : burn water (yes!! you CAN burn water!!), singe my eyebrows and eyelashes and DH's mustache (don't even ask!), melt my non-stick cooking utensils and the stove lighter, set my oven glove on fire, set my favourite apron alight (who knew you should not switch on the gas for a few minutes without lighting it, because it would explode into flames??,) char everything I have tried to fry, roast a leg of lamb for 7-and-a-half hours - and still serve it raw, fill the flat and adjoining passage with smoke - almost activating the building's fire alarm and giving us all severe lung damage, and scald several different body parts (some unmentionable in THIS country!), on several different occasions .....

In my defence, the oven doesn't even have a thermometer - you judge how hot it is by how quickly the hairs on the back of your hand singe off. After using the oven a few times, I now have no hand hairs left, so it is creating a problem. There are only two settings for the oven - scorching hot or ever so slightly warm - nothing inbetween, and no way to tell which setting it is on.

But I will persevere - I will not give up - I shall overcome ... and in the meantime, we have programmed the fast-food delivery number into our telephone!!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Our New Home

We lived for 25 years in the same house in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was a big house with a big garden. We now find ourselves perched like eagles on the 14th floor of a towering inner city building, which does nothing to reduce my swaying vertigo problem!

They say you should never get a flat above the 5th floor because fire-engines' ladders can only reach to the 5th floor .... Think that's a joke? Read on about how well I can cook with gas ....

Our imposing front door

There are 4 apartments on each floor of the building. So we have a quarter of the floor for our flat. We have not met our neighbours yet, but we have SMELT them - They sure cook some strange smelling food!!

The kitchen

Before we moved in, we had the flat deep-cleaned and the cleaning company suggested they insect-proof the place. I felt that any creepy crawly that managed to climb up 14 floors to get to our flat deserved something more than instant death, but I was outvoted by the entomophobics (those who scream like little girls when faced with any kind of creeping, flying or scuttling insect) in the family. Now we have little orange blobs of gel stuck around the door frames and skirting boards. It looks bizaare, but it must be working - I haven't seen any six or eight legged creatures up here yet! Must work for elephants and tigers too - haven't seen any of those either!!!

We were lucky enough to be able to choose our own furniture - which we did with much gusto and much flashing of cash. It took us all of one week to fill the flat and empty the bank balance. Everything in the flat looks crisp and bright and new - about the oldest and most bedraggled things are the humans!

Lounge Before ...

Lounge After!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Images of Abu Dhabi City

Early evening in the city

Abu Dhabi at night

Plenty of greenery - which is why AD is known as the Green Capital

The newly constructed "Corniche" - a seaside recreation area where people can stroll, picnic or sit alongside the beautifully planted gardens, wonderful covered picnic areas, sparkling fountains and intricate paving.

The buildings that you see from the main roads are a marvel of design - each one completely different - many sparkle with mirrored glass and gold painted exteriors. But, as DH once remarked, it is just like a Hollywood movie set - beautiful facades on the outside, whilst behind are wooden shacks and broken-down, shabby buildings, that should have been condemned for human habitation. So many are crammed together that there is barely enough space for people or sunlight to get in-between. But, to their credit, the government seems to be slowly demolishing these eyesores and replacing them with more habitable structures.

Wait a minute ... This doesn't look like some backward desert oasis, filled with marauding savages and fleabitten camels .... it looks quite civilized .... maybe we could even live here!!!