Wednesday the 1st of October Atlantis Hotel
My days plan all flew out the window with a text at 7.00am. Do you want to come to Dubai? Very simple little statement and such a loaded context.
Down to the bus depot to catch a bus. Big bus I thought. Wrong! We grabbed a mini bus for 25 DHS ($10) each and were on our way. I had a seat in the front which I'm not sure was such a good idea as the speedo on the mini van was broken and it kept bouncing up and down the dial.
On arrival in Dubai it was another seething mass of bodies all looking to get somewhere at the Dubai end of the bus depot. We grabbed another taxi off to the Big Bus Company that runs two tours around Dubai on double decker type buses. (The Red line and the Blue line) It was hot up top but the breeze blew through when we were moving and it was by far the best way to see the city. As a plan I can totally recommend it. They stop at all of the major points for you to get off and give you a running commentary as you go around. Things like the gold Souk has a 1,000 tonne of gold and no security guards. The Atlantis (Palm Island) location is visible from outer space and there will be three of these man made structures by the end of 2020. Each with a developing theme of amusement parks and activities along with residential and commercial building. We got off the bus at this point and stretched our legs. We walked through the entry way to the Atlantis theme park and through the obligatory shops. (Must be rich clientele they're expecting, more Louis Vetonne, Gucci etc) They have an assortment of rides but only 5-7 as far as we could make out so we weren't tempted to go inside, dolphin pools where you can swim with the dolphins and 'play' pools. I don't think I'll rush to spend the 250DHS for entry with the limited number of rides. The wild Wadi a couple of stops back had lots more rides by the look of it and targeted at head case nutters wants thrills. I took over 50 photos and I will make a selection of those and load them up onto Photo Bucket for viewing. We decided to try our luck on the way back with a Taxi driver and negotiated a deal for him to drive us back to Abu Dhabi. Much more comfortable and he even bought us water for the trip when he filled up for gas. (I think our negotiation skills may need refining but we thought we had a good deal as we were willing to pay another 50 DHS) Got back to the Motel around 9.15pm and I was surprised how tired I was. Sitting on my butt in 40 degrees is hard work. There's a great deal of energy spent in drinking 5 bottles of water (But I did save some energy as I didn't pee all day)
Tuesday Evening 30th Sep
Excitement personified today. I went to the Marina Shopping Mall Yippee. I shouldn't be sarcastic, it was quite interesting. Wendy it is a place you would die for. (Its apparently not even the biggest in UAE butit was huge) They have a whole section that is as big as Queens gate west field plaza of all of those horribly expensive labels. Gucci, Armani, Dolche, Chanel and so on. The real stuff, not knock-offs. Some of them had several shops. (Like Armani) One shop for accessories, another shop for the men's clothes another for the woman's. It would probably equal the GDP for NZ if you were to add up the stock costs for all of those posh shops.
Let me give you an idea of the area that is covered. There are three levels with multiple points of access up and down all the way through the mall. Each level would have to be as deep as 3 rugby fields and probably the same width.
There are food courts for Africa and most of them seem European in origin. Brionte, Galle and a host of other French type names. Talking to one of the cafe owners there is still a large French contingent and influence in the Abu Dhabi area.
Down the back of the Mall they have gutted three levels of shops and have put in a ski slope and an Ice Skating rink. The rink looks ready to turn on the ice makers and once they get the magic carpets in place on the ski slope they'll be ready for business as well. The ski slope is approximately 60 metres across and 100 metres down, with what looks like the construction of two magic carpets to operate on either side to take you back up to the top. Could be a bit of fun once its finished.
My Taxi driver on the way back from the Mall was Nepalese. Probably the shyest chap I have had so far. He is one of three brothers and they all have to do a tour of duty out here earning money for the family. Dinash had been here 3 months and thought it was a pretty good place to work. He was particularly fond of the Palace (had dropped people off there once but had not been inside) under his recommendation I will have to visit the Palace at some stage over this Eid break. We drove past it on the way back and it is certainly a structure to rival Buckingham Palace.
Tuesday 30th September Eid is declared Not quite sure how it works yet but the guys are telling me that some chap goes out into the desert and decides when Eid (The Holiday break ending Ramadan) is to be declared. The goats all hold their breath and hope for a little more time.
Eid was declared this morning ahead of expectations so I'm not to go into the office. (It would be like working on Easter) The team down the road sent me a text when they saw the goats that were waiting in the wheel barrows had disappeared. The restaurant I have breakfast in had the curtains open and it is surprising what a difference the light makes when you are having brekkie.
Things will apparently start opening up around 10.00am so today is going to be a bit of a discovery day. My camera and I will go on a bit of a wander and see if we can find anything to add into the blog of interest. Monday, September 29, 2008 Monday 29th September
Went out to the senior ICT advisors with a couple of others for tea tonight and had my first hand experience of the apartments. Light airy colours and IKEA furniture throughout. Hopefully my apartment is as nice as this one was because it was really homely. 3 really good sized bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. Not forgetting the maids room. A few personalised touches and the apartments come up just like home.
The group of people I had tea with tonight were discussing a camping trip into the desert which I'm keen to get in on. Even after the conversations drifted onto the spiders, scorpions, ants and other yummy insects. The desert is aparently amazing red sand and in the winter time quite good during the day and sleeping bags at night. So I'll let you know how that goes.
Late home so just a small blog tonight. More tomorrow which will be the start of EiD (Ramadan holiday break) Sunday, September 28, 2008 Have opened up this blog and I'm attempting to do my diary up dates here rather than sending out e-mails. Once I've got the hang of it I'll flick you a link so you can come and view as you want to rather than when I send it.
I'm sure I'll be able to add a photo or two as well (Once I learn how)
Today being Sunday was a work day and I've recently come home from the office. One of my colleagues had an accident yesterday and their car is now written off. (3rd car in 2 months) She had pulled up behind a bus and the driver behind didn't see what was happening (He was in one of those rather impressive big SUV's) He rammed into the back of her driving her into the back of the bus. The Police came and sorted out all of the details (You do not leave the scene of an accident here until the police have been and decided who is in the wrong. No matter how long it takes) the car firm that Cognition leases the cars through had a replacement vehicle there in 45 minutes. A few belt bruises and frayed nerves but other than that no big deal. The driver of the SUV's excuse was that he had been fasting since 4.30am and his concentration had gone.
I picked up my first load of dry cleaning today. 3 Business shirts, 2 polo shirts, 5 pair of socks, and 4 pair of undies. Converted to NZ dollars that comes to $16. Not too bad I guess. With most of the cost being in the shirts.
Temperature has bounced back up again today but I am reliably told that it will start easing its way back down from here on in towards a decidedly chilly January in the 20's somewhere.
Diary Up-date. (26.09.08)
Computer log 20092009 (Saturday)
Day one in a foreign land has come to an end as I lie in bed and the jet lag starts to make thwump, thwump noises in my head. Oh that's not the jet lag it's a helicopter lifting people off the old apartment block 4 buildings down the road. No one hurt from what I can ascertain but lots of police, ambulances and traffic sirens to blend into the early evening. Water is apparently not very good for putting out fires and they do better when you have all of the emergency services focused on other activities around the bottom of the building. Between the billowing black smoke, fine sand in the air and the fog, visibility is not that good at the moment (It's also dark, its night)
Moving right along and onto more exciting things like the amazing buildings around the city of Abu Dhabi. Emerald palace, the Palace, the mosque, and the list goes on. (Got tired of writing) There has just been a brand spanking new white crystal sand beach built for the blokes so I'll definitely have to check that out as the female and family sites are off limits to dodgy single people like me. (The sand was apparently bought in from Saudi because it was heavier. The local sand kept blowing away)
Head has suddenly gone to mush so I'll put down the laptop and finish this later on.
Computer log 20092109 (Sunday)
In fact I fell asleep for a couple of hours while sitting up against the pillows in bed. Put the laptop down and called it a day at 9.30pm. Slept pretty well all things considered. Woke up on and off mainly because I didn't want to sleep in and miss my lift in the morning.
The rumor this morning about the fire is that the owner wanted to put the rent up and could not do it according to the law while there were legal tenants. Burning the building out gets the owner around the legal requirements of rent hikes.
Ramadan is approaching the final and most holy last week. Apparently if you die in this last week you are doubly blessed. This might explain some of the driving habits during the end of the day as the blood sugars and nicotine levels get low.
The city is planned across an extended grid, East to West streets are even numbered and North to South are odd numbers. They have names and there doesn't appear to be a great deal of use made of either of the naming conventions. When you give instructions to a cabbie, it follows the line of the large white building behind the round about with two lines of fountains. The sooner I get to know the land marks the better I'll be able to direct the cabbies. The city is relatively easy because of the layout pattern to get around although I promise not to let you know when I get lost.
Computer log 20092209 (Monday)
Second day at work and the mind and body are catching up with the flight time. Sun glasses became a must today for the first time as a combination of the bright sun and reflection off the predominately white buildings built up to quite an intense level. We visited some girl's schools today to discuss their use of Share point and the process of ringing the man bell and letting the females cover up certainly adds time to a visit.
Ramadan certainly plays havoc with the timetable over here. Late or early starts short working days and then restaurants opening up late to stay open really late (3-4am) Diet patches and nicotine patches help the levels of control but the five calls to prayer out of the public loud speakers is an interesting concept.
Drove home along the cornice tonight and it definitely is somewhere I will be spending some time as the weather cools down. Today was 41 degrees and it's like walking against the gentle blowing out of a hair drier. The front half of your body is dry and the back half is breaking out in a sweat , which reverses around when you walk in the other direction.
Computer log 20092309 (Tuesday)
Today was the first day that I caught a Taxi into work. Have I talked about the driving here yet? No I don't think so. The open road speed limit varies between 100 and 120 km/hour. The built up areas vary between 60-80km/hour. There are speed cameras and these are at pretty regular intervals with cameras mounted in the greater majority of the units. There are also red light cameras on virtually every intersection. Nobody runs a red light, from the time the light turns red if your license plate is over that white line you get quite a heavy ticket. So much so that if the drivers are close to the white line everyone edges back. (Could do with this policy in NZ) The speed cameras however are set with a 60 km buffer. That means on the open road in a 120km area you can travel at 179km per hour and not get snapped. You do not enter the fast line on the 4,5 and 6 lane highways unless you mean serious business. As we were driving out to Bani Yas today on a 4 lane highway we got mowed down by a Toyota Yaris that must have been doing a good 170km.
Anyway back to the Taxi. There are three firms. The basic majority, (Cream and Brown) run by the Pakistanis for the council. They are contracted to be on the road for 16-18 hours a day and can get a little tired by the end of the day. Just about anywhere in Abu Dhabi is 5 Dirhams (DHS) (approximately $2.20) Your choice to have the meter on or off. The grey ones. Quite tidy and the cars are all generally a bit newer. The meter will run and you pay what's on the meter. (No tipping) Then the black ones. You paying more for the English speaking driver and the leather seats.
Back to my Taxi again. After 10 minutes I managed to wave down a basic cab and I dropped into his car in a little pool of water and hastily forgot the name of the building I work in. Hand signals are great and we managed to get to my destination with a minimum of sliding lane changes and only three beeps on the horn. I work about 5 km away from the Sheraton where I'm staying so that wasn't too bad. Horn beeping here has been developed into an art form and is the constant sound as you walk around the city. You beep to let the person know that even though you both stopped at the lights you still want him to go when it goes green. You beep when you think someone in front of you may be thinking about slowing down and you don't want him to. You beep to anyone and anything and anytime. Quite an easy rule really. You don't take anything personally and just interpret the beep in your own manner and make sure you're moving.
Computer log 20080923 (Wednesday)
Most of my walking to date has been on a limited basis. Limited to the amount of sweat I'm willing to perspire. Tonight however felt decidedly barmy so I set-off and did a stroll down to the Corniche (Flash cobbled walkway along the water front) Beautiful fountains, gardens and the sea rolling in. There were a couple of catamarans sailing up and down the beach, all in all pretty cool. (Cool visually not physically) I thought this is not too bad I must be acclimatising. I didn't feel too hot. When I got back however I was pretty well wet through (Lovely mental picture, the feeling wasn't too crash hot when I walked into my air conditioned room either) (I'm now on my second bottle of complimentary water from the Sheraton)
The city is really pretty. On my walk I went through an underground walkway and the entire 100m was mosaic tiles 2 by 2cm. The scene was a beach scene with ancient ships sailing around the headlands. I have no idea how long it would have taken to put together but it was amazing to look at. Then as you walk out of the underground rising up through layered beds of fountains, all around you are these incredible glass buildings with some hugely impressive shapes and angles. For those of you who know me a little will know that I do not really do "Old buildings" so this place is right up my alley.
Computer log 20080924 (Thursday)
The last day of the week for work and it still feels like a Wednesday. Starting the work week on a Sunday has blown my work body clock way out of place. Inconsistent starts and similarly varied finishing times and I'm all over the place. Add to that the temperature and I'm not really into any rhythm yet. In an attempt to throw some normality back into life and get some rhythm going I went to a Pub on the last night of the work week and had a beer. Yes a real live lager! A Stella even. Lots of chat and a pub in the old English style of buttoned leather sofas and 42" plasma screens on all the walls with 3 sports channels from around the world playing. Soccer, Slam dunking on Trampolines and another soccer game.. It would have been really great except they have this issue with smoking still. Hopefully a Sheik somewhere decides it bad for you and it will then be smoke free on both sides of the room. I'd forgotten the stink of clothes in the morning after being in a room where people are smoking.
Computer Log 20080925 (Friday)
The Holy Ramadan and the holy day for the emirates is a big deal even though it is apparently a little bit more relaxed here than some of the other Arab states. If you're like me you may have known a little of what it is all about, but not a lot of the details. Today I got up and headed out into a ghost town. For a city of a million people they hide really well. The speakers on the mosques were transmitting the prays out to the general populace and all of the sandals were lined up on the steps. (Did I tell you that the first prayer I hear each day comes through the speakers outside my room at 4.45am) The mosques are all over the place and the people during the morning disappear to pray. The shops are shut, the taxis off the road and nobody around except a few odd people like me wandering around. It really amazes/impresses me that a city that has 800,000 expats and 200,000 locals can hold onto its identity so well. There is no doubt where you are, you may not even see an emirate but it's still an Arab city.
Computer log 20080926 (Saturday)
Cars are back on the roads and people are back out in public. I went with a couple down to a shopping mall to wander around and enjoy the air conditioning. Still no food or drink places open. It will be a different place when you can grab a coffee or a bite to eat without it being forbidden. I'm starting to need a haircut badly but when I think of it they are shut and when I'm not intending to or don't have the time I'm guessing they're open. This afternoon I spent a couple of hours up on the roof of the Sheraton in and around the pool. Hot as but no burn. The intensity of the sun is totally different I guess I would have burned had I have stayed out there long enough but two hours alternating between swimming and reading is obviously not enough time to burn when it is only 40 degrees. The view from up on the roof is fantastic. I took a couple of shots and have added one here for you all to look at. It's looking out over the corniche with a few sky scrapers edging into the panorama.
Pretty cool huh? The corniche runs for quite a few kilometers down behind the line of skyscrapers.
I purchased today the definitive guide to Abu Dhabi. So now I need to do some quality reading time to plan my movements around the city getting ready for the guided tours for visitors. Four hundred and thirty pages of what to do, where to go and how to live in Abu Dhabi. By the time the first visitors get here I'll be catching Buses and Taxis like a pro and will be haggling for the price of a handmade carpet that the hardened bargainer would be proud of.