A Travellerspoint blog

Dubai - Day One

Saturday, December 22, 2012
We’re up and ready pretty early this morning. Chaz and Chandler make a grocery store run and then we’re packed and driving to Dubai for two days and one night. Chaz makes quick work of the 140 km drive and very shortly we’re seeing the skyscrapers of Dubai. Dubai is very spread out and we hit two separate downtown areas separated by residential sprawl before we see the unmistakable height of Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world at 2722 feet. It towers over the skyline and just defies your imagination.

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Today is the second day of their weekend so traffic is not too bad. Using our map and the directions from the hotel website we soon drive up to our hotel, the Majestic Hotel Tower in Bur Dubai. With valet parking we can leave the car and use taxis today to sightsee. Upon seeing the hotel, Chaz realizes this is not the hotel he stayed in years ago but we’re pleased with it. Our one bedroom apartment has a separate kitchen, living and dining area, bedroom and bath. We’re on a corner and there are two balconies but only one is accessible. We’ve requested a single bed to be brought in for the living area for Chandler and when it arrives, it’s a mattress and box springs (not a roll-away as we would have expected) that they set up directly on the floor.

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It’s lunchtime and we’re hungry so we gather the camera and notes and strike out. The hotel has suggested a Lebanese restaurant a few blocks down in Al Khaleej Centre – kind of a strip mall but enclosed. The restaurant is called Automatic – such interesting names! We’re the only customers as it’s about 11:30 am. We’ve noticed most folks do not start lunch here until after the 12:30 call to prayer, or around 1:00 pm. First the waiter brings us a plate of pickles with two types of olives. Next he brings a plate with half a head of cabbage, whole tomato, bell pepper and cucumber. When I ask what do we do with this, she thinks I’m questioning the cost and keeps saying, it is complimentary! So Chandler does the honors and cuts it all up and we munch on veggies while waiting for our food. Chandler has ordered the mixed grill – similar to what we ate yesterday in the mall. I have ordered chicken shwarma – shaved chicken on flat bread served with fries. Chaz has pepper steak with gravy. She brings a basket of traditional Arabic bread but it's fresh out of the oven and puffed with air. When you pick it up the air squishes out and you're left with the flat bread. It is all so good and a lot to eat!

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Have I mentioned that UAE has the highest rate of diabetes in the world? If they eat this way at every meal, then I can see why! I know I have gained 10 pounds since my arrival here.

For dessert they bring us hot tea and a flan like dish topped with shaved pistachios – it’s very good.

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We’re headed to the old town of Dubai to see the souks and cross the street to catch a taxi. We tell him we want to go to the Creek – a creek that separates Bur Dubai which is the neighborhood our hotel is in and Deira which is Old Dubai and where the souks are. He says he knows where that is but drops us off at a wharf where there are numerous dinner cruise boats. We ask someone where the abra wharf is and are told “The other side”, gesturing down the wharf. Abras are small open boats that charge AED 1 or about 27 cents to take you across the creek – about a five minute ride. So we walk for 20 minutes to the other side of a large hospital and find the abra dockage.

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Our walk leads us through the textile souk where you can order custom made suits for men and women. There are numerous shops with the scarves and traditional Arab dress for men. When I casually feel of a scarf outside one shop we are swiftly ushered inside by the Afghani shopkeeper. He drapes me with scarves and begins dressing Chandler in the local men’s traditional Arab dress of kandoora which is the white loose fitting robe, the white open weave skull cap that fits tightly over his hair, then the large scarf that is folded in a triange and draped across the forehead and held in place with an agal, a black rope circlet with long streamers that hang down the back. He is very charismatic and has us laughing throughout his antics. When we ask prices, he won’t say, he just keeps dressing Chandler and showing him different ways to tie his headdress. He tells Chandler to put his sunglasses on so he'll look like a true sheikh.

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Chaz keeps asking for a price but none comes. Finally he pulls out a calculator and puts in a price for Chandler’s outfit and a price for my scarf. I offer him half. Chaz keeps walking out and the shopkeeper keeps going out and getting him and pulling his arm and saying, Big Boss, what is your price? Chaz tells him I’m the boss of the money and he has to deal with me. It’s so funny!! We settle on a price about half of his initial offer. But not before I’ve walked out at least twice. It’s so much fun that when later Chaz buys the same pieces at a different shop for half of what we paid for Chandler’s, we don’t even mind because of the fun experience!

Next we head to the abra dock – we’re the first on the boat but it fills in moments and we’re off for the five minute ride across the creek.

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This is the neighborhood of Deira and where we’ll find the gold and spice souks. We wander through the narrow streets and lanes where the shops are closed. Most of them seem to be wholesale though and not retail shops. The area is also on a hill rising from the creeks – the first elevation we’ve experienced since I’ve been here.

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We turn a corner and there is a wide cobblestone alley filled with people. It’s lined with glass-fronted shops glittering with gold necklaces and rings, diamonds and silvers. The shopkeepers are in the alleys and approach you as you walk by trying to get you to come into their shops. Men walk up to Chaz and say “Copy watch, you look for copy watch, sir.” They are selling fake designer watches! They walk up to me with scarves in their arms and drape them over my head exclaiming, “Oh, madam, you look so beautiful, come see my scarves.” Chandler is not left out – he is draped with Arabian headdress scarves. You just have to avoid eye contact and keep walking. We meander for quite some time, people watching and gawking at all the gold. Women are not left out of the traditional dress for sale - but they look like they're more for belly dancers to me!

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Chaz buys a full outfit like Chandler’s, telling the clerk to just give him his bottom line. He gets a very good price after trying on several to find a good fit for his broad shoulders. I buy a refrigerator magnet for my collection. Last stop is one of the spice souks where I buy some walnuts for a recipe I want to make Christmas Day.

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We climb the last of the hill to find a taxi back to the hotel. It’s not long before we’re headed back – the taxi ride is only AED 20 or about $5.50. We have him drop us off down the street from the hotel at Spinney’s and we buy a few things for hors d’oeuvres tonight and breakfast in the morning. Chaz spies a tobacco stand and buys a couple of Cuban cigars.

Back at the hotel we relax a while before deciding what to do for dinner.

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We settle on eating in the hotel as it’s been a long day and we’re ready for something easy! Sightseeing and travel can be very tiring in a strange city. There’s a tension that doesn’t dissipate but always seems to linger. It feels nice to just let go and take the easy route. There are three restaurants in the hotel and we settle on Tirquaz Bistro. The atmosphere feels like we’re underwater – aqua lighting and accents, silver and chrome décor, all very modern feeling. All of our meals are excellent.

Chaz and I are ready for bed by 10 but Chandler heads down to the Music Room for a late nightcap. There’s a cover band there with musicians from several different countries. The Music Room is actually listed in my guidebook as a good example of Dubai nightlife.

Posted by ncoats 19:09 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (1)

Chance encounter and a movie!

Friday, December 21, 2012
We’re all up early and enjoy a bacon and eggs breakfast before heading out for the Central Market. First we stop at Carrefour to use the ATM and as we are pulling into the parking lot, two men are walking down the lane and Chaz exclaims, There is KK. What a coincidence. This is the Indian that works for Chaz as supervisor of his department. We have invited him to dinner on Monday evening. We park and get out and introductions are made. He is very polite and says that he has a doctor’s appointment and likes to park at Carrefour which is on the edge of the island and then catch the bus into town so he doesn’t have to deal with the traffic. I can understand that!

Chaz wants to see the shops I’ve been talking about. I checked the website and it says they are open today from 10:00 am until 11:00 pm tonight. As Friday is the holy day and the businesses are closed, it’s hard to tell if a store or shop will be open, or if they do open it is not until 3:00 or 3:30. We navigate the ride to Central Market and even though I have been there twice we make a couple of wrong turns but quickly find a parking space. When we arrive inside, the restaurants are open but only one shop is open! We ask him when the others open and he says 3:00. I mention that the website stated they were open at 10:00 and he responds, Yes, the building is open – you are inside!! So the times were the building opening hours not the stores. This is Abu Dhabi!!

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We drive along the Corniche and leave the car by one of the numerous parks along this wide coastal street. We walk along the beach side for a while and watch large powerboats in the lagoon racing along the waterfront. There must be a race later in the day.

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Next we drive to Marina Mall and check out the movies that are showing. We decide to see The Life of Pi in 3D. Chaz and I both read the book and enjoyed it very much. We purchase our reserved seats and go to the food court for lunch. We choose to eat at the Arabic stall – Alshuroqe. Chaz orders the hamoor (fried fish over rice) and Chandler and I split a family feast – and what a feast it is. Rice, French fries, little pieces of bread with a red paste and red onions, sheesh tarook – spicy chunks of chicken, beef and lamb kebabs and another kebab that seems to be falafel, but maybe not! Fattoosh and Arabian bread. Wow!

The movie is wonderful – very true to the book for the parts that they chose to include. Of course, much was left out but we enjoyed it very much. We head back home and all rest for all while, then work out. We clean out the refrigerator for dinner and watch Moneyball. Another wonderful day in a foreign land.

Posted by ncoats 20:37 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (1)

Abu Dhabi Sightseeing

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Patti picks me up around 10:30 and asks if I’d like to drive to Dubai. She plans to take her daughters there one day next week and we also have a trip planned there so we decide to do some exploring to find our way around. We don’t have a map and end up getting lost in the traffic of Dubai which is stop and go and not much go! We can’t find a parking place in the old town and end up driving out to Jumeirah Beach to a souk for lunch. It’s a long day but has convinced me that when Chaz, Chandler and I go we’ll take taxis or try to park and walk or take the Metro (high speed rail line). When I get home at 4:30, Chaz has just arrived from his long day at work. We go work out and it feels good after so long sitting in the car. I roast a chicken for dinner and we relax until time to pick up Chandler from the airport. I’m so excited!! I can’t wait to see him!

The waiting area at the hotel - note Chaz is sitting on a cushion on the floor!

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Chandler’s flight is delayed about 45 minutes but soon there he is in the terminal. The airport is crowded and chaotic so Chaz and I have positioned ourselves one at each end of the row where the travelers emerge. When Chandler comes out he is on Chaz’s end but Chaz doesn’t see him! I run down to that end but Chandler has turned and walked down to the end where I was! So funny! We finally all converge and it’s a wonderful reunion.

Thursday, December 20, 2012
Surprisingly Chandler is up early, maybe he’s still running on adrenaline. Chaz has ridden to work with a co-worker so that we may have the car for the day. First stop is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I have my directions written out and Chandler has the map open but somehow we drive beyond the mosque. We can see it in the distance, though, as it is so large. We find the parking lot but it looks closed. Then a Big Bus tour bus passes us and we decide to follow it – he leads us directly to the open parking lot and we park very close to the entrance.

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Sheikh Zayed began plans to build the mosque in 1986 but did not begin construction until 1997, completing the mosque in 2007. The landscaping and grounds around the mosque are still under construction. It is a testimony to opulence! Sheikh Zayed had a vision of using this mosque to educate about Islam and I’m sure to proselytize as well. It is the largest mosque in the UAE and the eighth largest in the world. It can accommodate 40,000 worshipers with another 10,000 in the grounds outside. There are three prayer halls – the main prayer hall can hold 7000 people. The main prayer hall carpet is one piece and over 60,000 square feet and the largest single piece of carpet in the world. The largest chandelier weighs over 12 tons and is made of Swarovski crystals. It’s amazing with red, yellow and green balls of crystal hanging down. When someone in our tour group asked why the colors of red, yellow and green, the answer: because it matched the carpet! We expected some religious significance. There are columns with inlaid mother of pearl, outside there are mosaics of marble floor with natural marble flower inlay, and huge glass doors. The Qibla wall is the direction that Muslims should face when praying. On this wall are inscribed the 99 names of Allah – which are actually his attributes and qualities, such as The Creator, The Much-Forgiving, The Utterly Just. The center of the wall points to Mecca and is a large inlaid section of gold made to look like a river of honey, from a verse in the Quran.

We arrive in time to take the guided tour which is supposed to be about 30 – 45 minutes. But we have a curious group that asks a lot of questions. Our very patient guide, Mohammed, answers each question fully. Women must cover their heads and I have brought one of the pashmina scarves I bought last week. They also request women to wear loose long-sleeved and over your ankles clothing. If you are not appropriately dressed they have abbayas and head scarves to loan you. We notice that white men's robes are also given to some young men who look like they’re headed to the beach, in muscle shirts and shorts. Women and men also enter through different openings but we meet in the middle. We have several stops on the tour - one in the outside columned pavilion, one on the large marbled open area, where we remove our shoes, both of these stops outside the mosque. Then we have two inside – one in the foyer area and then when we get inside the main prayer hall, we sit on the carpet while listening to Mohammed. We learn about the clock that shows six different times of day – five are the calls to prayer for the day and the sixth is sunrise. There are two dates on the clock, today’s date in the Gregorian calendar and today’s date in the Islamic calendar which is dated from the date Mohammed immigrated from Mecca to Medina. So today is December 20, 2012 in Gregorian and the 7th day of Safar, 1434 on the Islamic calendar. The Gregorian calendar is solar and the Islamic calendar is lunar. We also learned that Ramadan is a month on their calendar – as well as the month of fasting. It’s an interesting and educational hour.

Here are a few photographs, you can click on the picture for its title. I also think you can go to my photo gallery to see more pictures but I haven't finished titling them all.

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Next we drive to downtown Abu Dhabi – about a 15 minute drive. Again, we navigate the streets with no problems until we are close to Central Market and can see it from across the street, but getting to it and parking is another task. After driving completely around one roundabout twice we pull in to the drive and find a parking spot. It’s 12:30 and we’re hungry so we head to the roof for lunch at Roul’s. It’s another beautiful mild day – low 70’s and a slight breeze. Chandler orders Lebanese coffee and I have a decaf cappuccino. I had told Chandler about the sheesha and he wants to try it. We find out you can order just plain tobacco or “original”, flavored or fruit. The flavors are strawberry, pineapple, various other fruit flavors and Chandler decides on rose. I tell him the story when my Atlanta book club ate at a Persian restaurant after reading a book set in Iran and we ordered rose ice cream – which was awful!

The sheesha is delivered to our table. It has a cup in the top for a hot coal, the tobacco is inside and there is water in the bottom. He unwraps the hose from it’s sealed plastic casing – probably to show that it is unused and Chandler smokes away! I take a puff but it’s too harsh for me.

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For lunch Chandler has kebbe pie, a Lebanese beef pie served with a cucumber yogurt salad. I have Sfiha – a meat pie in crescent shaped dough served with lettuce drizzled with garlic oil.

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After lunch we browse through the shops. Chandler buys some spices to take home. I decide on a handmade Turkish plate and bowl for Chaz’s apartment. I also find some gifts to take home to friends. It’s fun to bargain again – I chose the same shop where I bought my bracelet last week.

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Our last stop is the Emirates Palace Hotel. The lobby area and front grounds are open to the public. This is another lesson in opulence. The hotel was built by the Abu Dhabi government at a cost of around 3.5 billion dollars and turned over to a private company to manage. We have heard that there is a gold bar vending machine inside but we don’t find it. There’s a large central dome with a Christmas tree in the center. One of the restaurants here serves high tea at a cost of 240 AED so we pass!

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We’re a bit tired from a long day of sightseeing and decide to head home. Chaz arrives shortly after we do and we sit by the pool for a while and chat about our day. Another nice home cooked meal and a movie and we’re all in bed before 10! (Well, I confess, i was in bed before 9.)

Posted by ncoats 04:31 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (2)

A History Lesson

I have finished reading From Rags to Riches, A Story of Abu Dhabi, by Mohammed A. J. Al Fahim. His memoir traces the history of Abu Dhabi, particularly during his own lifetime of growing up here in the 1950’s and 1960’s and the incredible changes he experienced with the discovery of oil and the meteoric development of the city and country through the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. The oldest evidence of life here dates back to 5000 years before Christ. Life in the early to mid twentieth century had not changed very much from those early years. The Bedouin, nomadic culture subsisted on pearl diving in the summers on the island of Abu Dhabi and farming in the winters in the oasis of Al Ain and Liwa, a little more than a hundred miles to the east. This journey would take seven days by camelback and now takes only a couple of hours. Their diet consisted of rice, yogurt, fish and dates. They lived in barastis, huts made of palm wood.

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Only a few learned to read or write. The British established a presence here in the mid 1800’s. Pirates would plunder their ships traveling through the Arabian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz as they searched for shorter routes to India rather than around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope. The British negotiated truces with the rivaling sheiks of the seven tribes to protect their ships, thus the area was known as the Trucial States for almost a century. Indian merchants would buy the pearls from the locals and trade them in India. It was a bare subsistence life. Al Fahim attended a one room schoolhouse where their only book was the Quran. Each day they would study one page and only when that page was mastered could they move on to the next. Once they had read through the entire Quran they were finished with school. Learning to write was also from copying verses out of the Quran. Al Fahim’s mother died in childbirth in 1962 and there was no hospital or medical care in the entire area. The first hospital was built in 1966. But all the building materials had been shipped here in 1964. They lay in crates and containers as no one had thought to contract with someone to actually build it! They only contracted for the materials to be delivered, such was their ignorance in the workings of the world.

In the 1930’s oil was discovered by the British but World War II delayed development. The Sheikh of Abu Dhabi at that time was very distrustful of the British. His culture was one of giving your word with no need for documents or signatures. He felt the British were always trying to cheat him and that the actual documents were not the same as the oral agreements he had forged. As a result, when money began to come to him from the oil shipments, he simply hoarded it and did nothing for the people of Abu Dhabi. Granted, he did not spend it on himself but felt he must hold onto it for the day when the British would cheat him and he would have nothing.

It’s difficult to understand why the British did not do more to bring a better way of life here. There was a British presence here for over 100 years before oil began bringing riches. How could they have ignored the primitive living conditions, the lack of adequate health care and education?

As the oil development began to bring more and more expatriates to the area, building began slowly but largely financed by outside interests. It was not until the Sheikh’s younger brother, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, became the Ruler of Abu Dhabi that real change started to come for the people here. With the pull out of the British in 1971, Sheikh Zayed worked tirelessly to bring the tribes of the area together to form the United Arab Emirates. He rightly felt that only by cooperation could they establish themselves as a country and protect the vast wealth coming their way. He also became the first President of the UAE. He established schools, government, infrastructure, roadways, hospitals, all of the many things needed to bring the country into the 20th century. Can you imagine growing up in a hut, drinking brackish water and now living in a luxurious high rise apartment? There were many growing pains along the way and much money squandered or lost in bogus schemes.

Sheikh Zayed worked out many programs to benefit the Abu Dhabi people. All healthcare is free, each person was given land and income and later when many had sold their land and then lost all their money, he paid them again in land but this time setting up government programs where the government would develop the land and lease it, taking payment back from the rentals and when paid back, turning the enterprise over to the Abu Dhabian to now manage and reap the rewards.

Sheikh Zayed ruled Abu Dhabi and the UAE for over 30 years until his death in 2004 when his son Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan took over as Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE. Sheikh Khalifa requires all companies to train Emiratis to do many of the jobs they perform. However, the task is not without growing pains. The young people have grown up in wealth and prosperity, the complete opposite of their parents. Money has been given to them and work is a foreign concept. Many of the young Emiratis that Chaz works with have a lackadaisical attitude towards their jobs. One such young man has been absent from work 43 times in six months. Chaz is working through his own Emirati counterpart to influence these young men and impart the importance and satisfaction of working hard and doing a good job. But it’s a very difficult undertaking. It will be interesting to see how successful they are in imparting their knowledge and training Emiratis to do their jobs.

Well, that’s your history lesson for the day. I’ve had a very leisurely day of working out, writing, cleaning and doing some wash. I could get very used to this lifestyle! Although life in a big city would not be my first choice. While I am probably more isolated with no phone or car, it’s easy to feel very isolated in a big city. I do miss my village life in Oriental, NC. How quickly I’ve grown to love life on the Neuse River and the quirky spot I call home!

When Chaz gets home, he’s decided not to keep his appointment with the dermatologist. The spot we were concerned about has mostly sloughed off. Fine with me! We go to Carrefour and the liquor store to stock up before Chandler’s arrival tomorrow. When we walk down to get in the car, Chaz tosses me the keys and tells me to drive! Nooooo!! Why? He says, I want you to see that you can! This is such a microcosm of our relationship. Chaz has encouraged me to do and be more than I ever thought possible. I love you, honey!

And he’s right – I can drive here. I just stay out of the left lanes where drivers zoom up and tailgate you, flashing their lights for you to get out of the way. Also, most of the streets are multiple lanes with large grassy medians down the middle. Turns are negotiated with roundabouts and pulling into a roundabout reminds me of playing jump rope as a girl. When you would stand on the sidelines and bob your head until you have the rhythm of the rope twirlers, then make a mad dash to get into the circle!

We stop at the liquor store and get rum so I can make a rum cake while Chandler is here. Hopefully we can find all of the ingredients at Carrefour. We also buy more of the special we found the other day on the red wine from South Africa – 6 bottles for 120 AED or $5.45 each. Not bad!

At Carrefour we find my Betty Crocker yellow cake mix, just like I get in the States, except with Arabic writing, of course. There’s no jello pudding so we get something that looks like flan. I need a cake pan but none seem to be big enough so we buy two, one large and one small. This could be interesting. We stock up on produce as well. I tried to get a picture of the signs but I don’t think I zoomed in enough. Each item is labeled with its name and its country of origin. Like Green Beans from India. Oranges from Egypt. Apples from Lebanon. Its like a United Nations of Produce.

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The seafood is really interesting, too. Chaz is holding a prawn in this picture!! One would make meal.

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Tonight we watch a movie, The Conspirators, about the trial of Mary Surratt, the owner of a boarding house where John Wilkes Booth conspired to shoot Lincoln and others in his cabinet. TV here is state controlled and its mostly movies and a few TV dramas and sit-coms. The movies are pretty wholesome and any foul language is bleeped out and any obscene gestures grayed out. I’ve actually enjoyed having so many movies to choose from. Chaz watches any favorite TV shows on the internet, which is also censored but there are ways to get around it. I also enjoy all the news channels from around the world. Al Jazeerah, BBC and Sky News. They really give you a much more global perspective than the myopic US news programs. I may continue to watch these on the internet at home.

Tomorrow Patti West is picking me up at 10:00 for another day of sightseeing and lunch. I feel so blessed that these women have taken an interest in me. Chandler arrives tomorrow night and I’m following his flights on the internet. So far, so good!

Posted by ncoats 20:52 Comments (1)

Another lovely lunch and the Port

I spend the morning planning our trip to Dubai. We’ll have an old Dubai day and a modern Dubai day. Chaz had stayed in a hotel in Dubai in 2006 and I look it up online and find while it is a 4 star hotel the rate is only 580 AED for a one bedroom apartment or about $160. Compared to other prices I’ve checked online this is an excellent rate, so I booked it for Saturday night. One of the must-sees is Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world. I find that if you buy tickets online at least 24 hours in advance they cost 100 AED per person. If you buy them onsite they are 400 AED per person. Yikes. Also by booking in advance you have a set time that you will take the elevators up. I spend a few hours researching and mapping out our days.

Chaz sends me an email that Chris Corcoran wants to take me to lunch and then an email comes in from Chris that she’ll pick me up at 1:15. We drive to Al Meena Island where Port Zayed and Dhow Harbour are located. There are rows and rows of containers and covered market areas where vegetables and fruits are sold. There’s a carpet market, fish market, Iranian market and flower market. First we drive to the very end of the island where there is at least a 15’ build up of large rocks forming a breakwater. Chris and I scramble up to the top and there is the beautiful Arabian Gulf. The water is calm, blue-green and absolutely gorgeous. There are many Indian men squatting at the top and just gazing out at the water. One man is fishing with two fancy long fishing poles.

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Next we drive around the markets and look out at all the goods for sale. I take a picture of Toys R Us just to show the juxtaposition of English and Arabic that is everywhere. Chris wants to stop at one of the flower markets to look at a bouganviillea tree and I take the opportunity to snap a few pictures. On the drive back to Abu Dhabi Island we pass the Dhow Harbour and there are lots of wooden boats in the harbor. I’m glad to see this and know Chaz and Chandler will enjoy seeing this area as well.

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We drive into Abu Dhabi city and head to Café Arabia. This is a three story café owned by a Lebanese woman, who started it two years ago. It’s built in a villa and when she opened the government was making a push for no businesses in villas. They told her she had two years to become a success and she has exceeded expectations. Besides serving three meals a day of Lebanese food, she specializes in coffees, offers free wi-fi and brings in local singers for concerts. Chris and Steve’s daughter had set up their initial website and Chris enjoys showing the spot to visitors. It’s very open and airy with 2 floors for eating with balconies off of both. Decorations are art work, lanterns and interesting items for sale. One wall has a montage of Arabic people that is absolutely stunning. There’s a nook with paperback books as a lending library. The third floor has a make shift store with all types of Arabic items for sale. Chris finds several pieces of beautiful cloth that she will use to make pillows. I find a flat cloth basket for only 10 AED or $2.75 for Chaz’ coffee table. When I look on the bottom there’s a tag that says Bread Basket and it’s also written in Arabic. For lunch I have falafel with pickles, lettuce and tomato in a saj, served with a small salad. A saj looks like a wrap but with a few more flaky layers. Chris has fattoosh. One of the specialties here is camel milk chocolate which I’m looking forward to tasting.

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We get back to the apartment just in time for Chaz and I to leave for his dermatologist’s appointment. When we arrive the doctor is late and Chaz decides he’ll wait for half an hour. With minutes to spare the doctor has arrived and takes a look at a troublesome looking spot on his back. He wants Chaz to come back in six months so he can monitor it’s growth but Chaz tells him it has grown a lot in two months and he’d rather have it removed. So Chaz is scheduled for surgery tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. This is very normal to do things late in the evening. Because of the heat of the desert there would be very little movement during the day. It’s in the late afternoon and relative cool of the evening that the city comes alive and the people begin to move about. It’s very different from our “early to bed, early to rise” Western culture.

Posted by ncoats 07:29 Comments (1)

Doctors and more exploring

Chaz is back to work today and I spend the day catching up on my blog and posting pictures. I do a couple of loads of wash and iron a shirt for Chaz for a presentation tomorrow at work. He has several presentations this week and will be pretty busy. He’s taking two days off from work next week. Chandler, our son, arrives on Wednesday night. We’ve saved doing the tourist attractions in Abu Dhabi until he arrives as we didn’t think we’d want to do them twice. We’ve also made hotel reservations in Dubai for Saturday night. It’s about an hour and half drive to the old city and we thought we would enjoy it more if we could take things a bit more leisurely than having to think about getting in the car for a drive back. I will be the travel agent as usual and plan our sightseeing tours.

We’ve heard of another medical center with a good dermatologist and were also told you don’t need an appointment. So when Chaz gets home we drive to Gulf Diagnostics. Again, remember no addresses but from their website it looks like it is west of 30th street between 13th and 15th street. We find it but have to park a good ways down the street. There’s a large concrete and wrought iron wall around the building. As we’re walking along the wall we come to a wrought iron gate and look to see if this is the entrance. A man standing beside his Mercedes shouts, NO, NO this is my home! We apologize and keep walking. So here is a large building housing a medical center and there are private homes in the same building. This is Abu Dhabi!!

However, when we go to the reception (counter) we’re told we did need an appointment but we can try across the street at Reception 2. This building seems to be more of a hospital. The hallways are very narrow and winding. We find Reception 2 and are told that this dermatologist can see Chaz tonight at 9:40 p.m. Another man standing by with a badge around his neck sees our hesitation and he says Come with me, I have another doctor you can see. So we follow him back through the maze of hallways and he takes us out the front door and points to the medical center where we just were and says, Try there! We tell him we already did so he takes us back inside and through the maze again back to Reception 2 where we make an appointment for tomorrow at 5:00! We exit out a different door and find we are on 30th street and there is a large parking lot there. Hopefully we can find it again tomorrow.

Next we head back to Al Wadah mall with my new cell phone to see if we can purchase minutes. However, their system is down and they are only taking billing questions. I show my phone and the sim card purchased earlier to the attendant and he says the sim card is for a smartphone and can’t be loaded in the flip phone I’ve purchased. This is getting to be way too complicated. I think I’ll just do without!!

We find a bookstore to purchase maps of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Maps are expensive for some reason - $18.00 each. We had a good map in the car but the last time we used it was driving to Shangri-la hotel. We used valet parking there and can only figure that the attendant needed it worse than we did. These will help me in my tourist attraction planning that I’ll do tomorrow. (Update: our apologies to the valet attendant, I had put the map in the visor and when lowering it today it fell in my lap!!) Now I have a map to help me with my planning and Chaz has one for the car. It’s all good.

Tonight I try a new recipe that I saw on a food show, Dolce Vita. It’s boneless chicken breasts baked in foil packets with a mixture of spinach, artichoke hearts, swiss cheese, mayonnaise, and spices. Of course, we couldn’t find swiss cheese so I’m using mozzarella and we couldn’t find spinach so I’m using a dark green leafy vegetable that we found in the spice section! It actually turned out very good. We have invited Chaz’s two assistants to dinner next Monday night and I think I’ll cook this again. KK, is from India, and actually runs the department. Abdullah is the Emirati that Chaz is training for his position. KK lives on base and Abdullah’s family lives several hundred miles away – he goes home on the weekends. I’m looking forward to meeting them.

Posted by ncoats 07:17 Comments (1)

Decadent Brunch

or why I'll be dieting big time when I get home!

Today we have plans to meet some of Chaz’ co-workers for brunch at the Intercontinental Hotel. It is located in the city district of Abu Dhabi on the waterfront. We enjoy a leisurely morning of coffee, reading and TV before showering and heading out to meet them by 12:30. We arrive a bit early and walk the grounds of the hotel including the adjacent marina and beach for hotel guests. We had hoped for views of the Gulf but there is a man made dune built at least 20 feet high to form a small swimming lagoon for the beach goers.

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We have lunch with Mike Linwell, Gary McCutcheon who is Director of DynCorp’s school, and Mike Watson, one of the teachers at the school. The brunch costs 250 AED with alcohol or 180 AED without alcohol. Tipping is not a normal or expected practice here. If you do tip and add it to a credit card, management receives the tip, not the servers, so if you want to tip a server it’s best to leave cash on the table or give it to them directly.

This buffet is as sumptuous as the one at the Shangri-la. There is a station of all cold items, including breads, a carving station, a sushi station with cold seafood – raw oysters, boiled shrimp, steamed mussels and steamed crab legs, a hot vegetable station and a hot meat station as well as a huge spread of desserts. You serve yourself wine, champagne or you can make a mojito. Soft drinks and water are included in both price points.

I go back three times, taking very small portions of the items I try – first a cold plate including majadara which is cooked lentils with rice and onions and muhammara, a Syrian dish of red hot pepper dip. All of the items are labeled. Others that I try are French bread with goat cheese, Arabic bread that looks like a cake soaked in olive oil, crackers and brie with jellies, baked white fish, sliced boiled egg wrapped in pate, various fresh vegetables with yogurt dressing - it’s hard to remember it all! My second plate is seafood and sushi and my third is hot dishes including chicken casoulet with sausages and white beans, soya glazed hammour with bok choy, braised lamb leg with roasted parsnips, vegetable samosas and cheese samosas. Last I fill a plate with desserts including a traditional Arabic bread pudding called oum ali.

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I took small bites of each item on my plate and still felt so full I didn’t know if I could walk. The company is very enjoyable and we laugh a lot, telling stories and exclaiming over the food.

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On the way home we go to Spinney’s, the grocery that caters to more Western tastes. It’s also more expensive and we spend way too much money! I get to see the pork room and take a picture of Chaz when he emerges with his bacon prize!

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Posted by ncoats 02:59 Comments (1)

Ibn Battuta mall, Dubai

We’ve made plans to drive to Dubai with Mike Linwell, the Dean of Faculty, with DynCorp’s school. DynCorp’s contract is with Al Taif Technical Services which provides the technical know how to the UAE Armed Services for maintenance, repair and overhaul services for their equipment and vehicles. DynCorp operates a school to train mechanics for fulfilling the contract. DynCorp has brought in people from all over the world to fulfill this contract but are charged with eventually employing at least 44% from the UAE. Mike is in his late 30’s and father of five. His wife lives in California with their two small children, his first three children live with his ex-wife. His current wife visited here once but did not like it at all. Mike has lived here for two years.

We’re going to Ibn Battuta mall on the outskirts of Dubai to see the Imax version of The Hobbit. Mike lives in the same apartment complex where Chaz used to live. We drive there to ride with Mike and I get to see the apartments. I can definitely sympathize with why Chaz wanted to move, the rooms are small and not as luxurious as his current apartment. I’ve brought my computer for Mike to look at as it overheated during a Windows update this morning and it has gotten stuck! Mike resets it somehow and starts a system restore. We leave it to do it’s thing and pile into Mike’s Honda City for the hour’s drive to Dubai. We’re there in no time as Mike drives about 140 to 150 kmh! You know when you are crossing from the emirate of Abu Dhabi to the emirate of Dubai as the green trees in the median suddenly stop!

This is a picture of the entrance to the Ibn Battuta mall (I haven’t figured out how to do captions on my pictures yet). There is a hotel on one side of the archway and offices on the other side. This is very typical grand scale Emerati architecture!

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Ibn Battuta Mall is named for a Morrocan explorer from the 1300’s. There are several sections to the mall – Indian, Egypt, China, etc, each with it’s own decorations and food court. We buy our tickets first and choose our reserved seats, then explore to find some lunch. We eat in the Egyptian food court. Mike has shwarma, shaved meat wrapped in soft bread. Chaz and I split a Bento 4 – which is 3 types of meat on rice for AED 40. We have beef, chicken and shrimp, all spiced and very tasty. We browse a bit in the stores, a Borders satisfies my book fetish, then an electronics store where I buy a cellphone for 84 AED. We’ll take it back to Etisalat to activate my sim card and purchase some minutes so Chaz can communicate with me. I might even venture out by taxi alone since I won’t feel so cut off.

The movie is wonderful – it’s been a long time since I’ve seen an Imax movie. It really adds to the experience and The Hobbit has so many fantastical creatures from Tolkien’s imagination, that we are greatly rewarded for the effort in getting here. On the drive back to Abu Dhabi, I see oil fields with the flaming wells in the distance, and also a large two building palace that Mike says belongs to one of the daughters of the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi. There’s a green and white concrete fence that runs for miles and miles and Mike says this designates the Sheikh’s private lands. We arrive home around 6:30, too tired to go to the grocery store, so we thaw some small steaks to cook on the little grill and eat up all the leftover vegetables from the week.

Posted by ncoats 02:57 Comments (1)

Lunch, shopping with the girls, and a Party!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Chris picks me up at 11:45 and we head to Patty West’s home. Chris’ husband, Steve Corcoran, is Chaz’ manager and the Project Manager for DynCorp. Patty’s husband, Scott West, is the Chief Operating Officer for DynCorp. We’re also meeting Teresa Stokes, who is the wife of Jeff Stokes, the Director for Supply with DynCorp. Patty and Scott live in a villa closer to the city center. It also is a gated community but is much larger than Steve and Chris’ villa, and also three stories. The compound has opened a café by their pool and tennis court so we walk there and order from a small Filipino man. I ask about ordering something local and end up ordering fattoosh. Fattoush is a tomato, cucumber and pepper salad with balsamic vinegar. It’s served with fatteh – tiny pieces of fried bread. It’s very good. I’d like some hot tea but Chris warns me it’s definitely not decaf so I stick with bottled water. The cost is 30 AED or about $8. It’s fun to have lunch with the ladies and learn more about Abu Dhabi from their perspective. Chris and Patty have been here about a year and a half and Teresa a little less than that. Chris’ 25 year old daughter, Tracy, is also here and looking for work. Teresa has two daughters, ages 12 and 11 who are enrolled in one of the international schools. Teresa announces that Spinney’s has chicken gravy and to be sure and pick some up soon. I learn that food items can appear or disappear for weeks on end from the market shelves. If you want a favorite item, it’s best to stock up when you see it. This explains why Chaz has seven cans of ham in his pantry!

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The day is very pleasant, about 70 degrees with a bit of a breeze, the first I’ve experienced. Each day is the same weather wise – clear, 70 degrees and very mild. Teresa and Chris are dressed in shorts and Patty in jeans. I’m surprised because all that I have read says you should cover your knees. They explain that covering your upper arms is more important and that as long as you’re not wearing short shorts, it’s ok to wear them. I’ve brought only one pair which I threw in at the last minute. The matching top is sleeveless but I have a short sleeve crocheted top I can put over it. These restrictions apply only to the women, though, men dress as they wish!

When I ask about seeing locally made goods, Patty and Chris make plans to take me to a souk (or market) tomorrow and out to lunch again. I’m so thankful for their attentiveness! Teresa gives us all a Christmas package of home baked cookies. She and her family are leaving on Friday for a mission trip to Sri Lanka so she won’t join us for the souk outing as she’ll be packing.

I’m also curious about worshipping as a Christian here and learn that there are a number of Catholic and Christian churches here. Years earlier British medical missionaries agreed to come to Abu Dhabi to work to help to bring the child death rate down. In return they were allowed to worship openly. This tolerance continues today. Teresa attends Cornerstone church which is a multi-storied church that allows all nationalities to use their facilities for their form of Christian worship. Chris and Patty are both Catholic and attend mass sporadically at one of the two Catholic churches in town. Chris and Patty’s families also have travel plans for Christmas. Scott and Patty with their two grown daughters are travelling to Jordan and Chris and Steve with their daughter, Tracy are flying to Garmisch, Germany where their son, Scott will fly in from Alabama where he attends University of Alabama.

This has been a very enjoyable afternoon where we have lingered over our salads for two hours! When I get back to the apartment, I decide to work out and head to the exercise room and the treadmill. It feels good to exercise and move my muscles after all that sitting. Wednesdays are Chaz’s long work day. All other days the DynCorp workers must be off base by 2:30, on Wednesdays they stay until 4:30.

Thursday, December 13, 2012
Chris is to pick me up at 10:15 to go to the souk and then to lunch. But when I go outside it’s Patty as Chris had forgotten plans to help her daughter prepare her resume so she will meet us later for lunch. The souk we go to is the Central Market that Chaz and I tried to find a few days ago. It’s a large building downtown with open corriders three stories high and small shops along both sides of three floors.

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It takes us over two hours to make our way through them all. Many are Turkish and Indian with Pashmina scarves, jewelry, and Turkish pottery. There are shops of spices, dates, nuts, candy, and loose tea in bins. We browse through purses handmade from palm leaves from the Phillipines, wood carvings from Iran, fine silver jewelry, abbayas, perfume, bath and body oils and lotions, it’s quite an assault on your senses! We head to the roof to scout out the rooftop restaurant and find Roul’s. The menu looks good – Lebanese – with varied offerings. There’s a set of stairs up one more floor outside and we explore and discover low tables and chairs, some with bean bags. We discover this is where you can order sheeshat – a three foot tall silver water pipe with a long hose coming out. You can order different flavors from fruits like pineapple or spices like cinnamon! The custom is to order a pipe and pass the mouthpiece around to your companions!!

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We decide to shop some more and I buy a refrigerator magnet for our collection, a bracelet to go with my outfit for tonight’s company Christmas party, and two Pashmina (cashmere) scarves from Turkey. The prices are extremely varied from 50 AED to 550 AED. I playfully bargain with one shopkeeper, and end up getting two Pashmina scarves for 75 AED. Each time he names a price, he says, “That’s it, this is my bottom line.” But I make another offer and he always comes back. It’s fun!

Chris has not arrived but we decide to have tea at Roul’s before ordering lunch. I have dragon tea in honor of Oriental, a spicy tea that I enjoy very much. Patty and I each order salmon salad. First they bring small warm rolls with whipped butter and a paste of olives and seeds that is quite delicious. I’m expecting our entrees to be a green salad with a salmon filet on top like the serve in the States but when our plates arrive it’s a very large square plate with a small green salad with balsamic vinaigrette in one corner, smoked salmon in another corner, yogurt dressing in a small cup, a wedge of goat cheese, fresh lemon wedges and 4 hard crostini. So I make layers of the salmon, goat cheese and dressing on the crostini – it’s delicious. It’s a lot to eat and I get a “take-away box” for the remainder of my salmon and yogurt dressing.

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Chris arrives at the end of our meal and has a cup of cappuccino. I give them gifts I’ve brought from Oriental that Ellyn Speciale from Pigeon Holes helped me design. Small linen cloths that she has imprinted with different Oriental dragons – I have four for each of them. They seem delighted!

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When I get home at 4:00, Chaz has been here for over an hour. Now to get ready for the Holiday Season party with DynCorp, Chaz’ employer. It’s being held at the Shangri-la Hotel, a palatial hotel on the mainland side of the canal that encircles Abu Dhabi city on three sides. Here’s a link to their website so you can see this beautiful hotel: http://www.shangri-la.com/abudhabi/shangrila . We think we’re one of the first to arrive at a few minutes before seven but find a group outside by the pool bar. There are quite a few tables set up outside with many people mingling together that are not with our group. We discover our section is on two sides of the large steps leading out of the hotel to the pool. It makes for a bit of a disjointed party since we’re divided into two sections about 50 yards apart! There’s a large buffet inside set up on at least six different stations. The food is expansive – every dish you can imagine – salads, sushi, vegetables, fresh carved meat, seafood, chicken, kebabs, it’s mind boggling. The dessert station is amazing – with 4 chocolate fountains – all different flavors, fruits, beautiful pastries and mini-cakes, tarts, nuts, dates. It’s a lot of fun to just walk around and look at everything.

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We enjoy the evening very much, I’m so glad to put faces with the names I’ve been hearing about from Chaz. DynCorp has about 80 employees and the majority are white males as well as former military. Scott West was a 2 star general in the army and Steve Corcoran was in the marines. There are two black couples – one from Ethiopia and another that the male is from the States and his girlfriend from Ethiopia. Many of the employees are from England and many have foreign wives. I meet women from the Phillipines, Korea, England and Russia. Rebecca, from England, has two small children and she tells me they have a live-in nanny from the Phillipines. They pay her the equivalent of $400 per month but also pay for her visa each year which is about $1000. We stay until 11:00 which is quite the night owl for us!!

While waiting for valet parking to bring us our car a Lamborgini convertible pulls up. The top folds back and it reminds me of a transformer as the two young Arab men emerge. They can’t be more than 25 years old. With some internet searching we find a used Lambourgini for about $525,000!! The wealth here is just amazing. Patty West has brought me a book tonight that I’m really looking forward to reading, From Rags to Riches, A Story of Abu Dhabi, by Mohammed A. J. Al Fahim. It’s the memoir of the Vice-President of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Born in 1948 he has seen Abu Dhabi grow from a seasonal village of a few hundred living in barasti or huts made of palm wood to the international city of sky scrapers and over 600,000 people that it is today. What a transformation.

Posted by ncoats 01:41 Comments (1)

A Few Domestic Days

Sunday, December 9, 2012
Chaz must go to work today and he’s already gone when I wake up. I enjoy a very domestic day – straightening and cleaning and ironing Chaz’ shirts – it has been years since I’ve ironed shirts!! When Chaz gets home a little before 3:00 he wants to go to Etisalat to order phone service for my iPhone so we can use it as a hotspot. It will be several weeks before he will have internet installed at the apartment – things move at a very slow pace here and it does no good to worry or fuss about it. I have a global plan from Verizon on my phone but it’s very expensive and we can get a local plan for $70 a month with 5G. So we drive to Al Wadah mall and find the cell phone provider but then discover Chaz needed his passport to order the service and he doesn’t have it with him. They've only just started requiring passports or an Emirates ID to get cell phone service. The government felt that there must be something illegal going on with so many cell phones out there so they instituted this requirement. Oh well, another stop at Carrefour before we go to the liquor store. The liquor store is tucked away on a side street in what looks like a former loading dock. Your purchases are socked away in large black opaque plastic bags. Arabs drive up in their large Mercedes or SUVs with blackened windows and send their Filipino servants in to purchase liquor for them! Tonight we cook hamburger steaks with onions, sautéed green beans and sliced tomatoes.

Monday, December 10, 2012
Chaz needs to see a dermatologist but the earliest appointment he could obtain is February 4. There are hospitals and medical clinics seemingly on every corner all run by different nationalities – like the Canadian Hospital or the German Hospital. The doctor he has an appointment with sees patients without an appointment on Mondays. Two weeks ago Chaz arrived when they opened at 8:30 and was told that they only see 19 patients a day on a first come first served basis. The attendant told Chaz that he had 27 people in line at 8:00 and that he should get in line at 7:00 if he wanted to be one of the 19. The next Monday Chaz drove back from the base (he gets to work at 5:15 am) but there was a wreck in the tunnel on the island and by the time it was cleared he’d missed the time he needed to get in line. So today we arrive at 6:45 to get in line and this time there is a sign on the door that the doctor was not seeing patients today! I’m learning what Chaz means when he says you just don’t get in a hurry here or get impatient – it does no good. Things move at their own sweet pace and it’s better for your blood pressure to just accept it. If I could get reasonably priced internet I could search and try to find an alternative. After work today we go back to Al Wadah mall (with Chaz’s passport) and purchase a sim card for a local phone number for 40 AED (the local currency is dirhams – exchange rate is about 3.67 to $1) or $10.90. But when we try to load it we discover my phone is locked and the number cannot be activated. We’re told we can go to Defense Road and ask one of the cell dealers there to unlock it for us. This makes me nervous and we decide that I’ll just use the Verizon service but only briefly when I need to go online. I’ve been online twice and already it has cost us $50. Chaz is tired anyway from a busy day at work so we head back to the apartment and enjoy another home cooked meal.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
I’ve had an idea during the night of asking Chaz’s manager, Steve Corcoran, if his wife, Chris, would pick me up and take me to their villa to use their internet. I haven’t been able to log onto my company email and I’m getting concerned about it. The plan is for me to call Chaz at 10:00 and see if arrangements have been made. I don’t want to leave my phone on for Chris to call me sometime because the roaming charges are so expensive. When I call at 10, Chaz has not heard back from Steve so I assume not today. When Chaz gets home at 3:00 he says he spoke with Steve and Chaz will take me to their home to use their internet. They live in the compound next door and we’re there in moments. They live in a three story villa (attached to other villas) with a fenced courtyard in back and a 2 car carport. The feel is very similar to Chaz’s apartment with high ceilings and tile floors. Chaz goes back to the apartment to work out and I spend an hour checking my company email and personal email as well as bank balances and bills. My peace of mind will now return in the middle of the night when I wake up worrying about all these little details. Chris is very personable and leaves me alone to do my work. But then we enjoy a long chat about children, internet, cell phones and UAE. When Chaz comes back to pick me up, Chris invites us to stay for a drink. A quick call to Steve informs us that he is still in meetings and won’t be home for a while. We sit outside in their courtyard surrounded by green grass, a large tree and the sounds of zooming traffic on the other side of the compound wall. Chris invites me to lunch the next day with two other DynCorp wives and I gratefully accept.

Posted by ncoats 01:14 Comments (1)

Marina Mall

Today we want to explore a little and head out to find Central Market, a souk or marketplace in the city center. There are no addresses here, literally, no addresses! Chaz lives in Al Seef Compound, Al Matar in Abu Dhabi City Center District and his entrance in the apartment building is C08 and his apartment is on the 1st floor (that’s the 2nd floor for Americans). There is no mail delivery unless you are a business. Chaz is considering getting a post office box so he can receive packages and mail. The streets are named but the maps only show the main roads and the signs are turned opposite of the way we would turn the street signs. The street signs also have sector numbers largely displayed which we have no idea what they mean but they’re confusing when looking for Street number 11 and you see Sector 13 and think the next street is the one you’re looking for! The main streets have numbers as well as names – like Number 11 which is also Hazaa Bin Zayed Street. I explain all this so you’ll understand why when we parked and walked around the corner to where Central Market should be there was no Central Market. Later, we were driving home and I saw a large sign that said Central Market – and there it was behind a building that looked a bit like a strip mall except it was 10 stories on the corner that did not correlate to where it was marked on the map. Oh well! The guide books say that it’s easy to navigate as the east west streets are odd numbered and the north south streets are even numbered. However, in practice it just doesn’t feel that simple.
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So we decided to go to Marina Mall and eat lunch in the food court. Marina Mall is on its own island along with Home Centre and Heritage Village, which is a replica of a Bedouin village, which we hope to explore soon. Abu Dhabi is also on a very large island and access is by two bridges. On the drive out to the mall along the Corniche Road which skirts the waterfront and beach I take pictures of a large, what looks like a Space Needle coming up out of the middle of the mall. We’re very hungry and go straight to the food court. It’s very large with every type of food you can imagine, from Arab to Chinese to Burger King to pizza, it’s all here. We head to one that is Arabic food. Chaz has fried fish (hamoor, a local white fish) on rice and I choose Sheesh Tawook, spicy chicken over rice. All is served with warm Iranian bread – large, soft flat bread – and also a marinated cucumber, tomato and onion salad with a yogurt type dressing called fatoosh.
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The mall is huge with over 400 stores and 122,000 square feet. It’s very easy to get lost here with walkways leading to one long mall area after another. We stumble onto an open area with an elevator in the middle leading upwards within a free standing shaft that disappears into the soft sheeted ceiling. We wonder if this is the Space Needle structure we saw. There are no signs as to what might be up there but we decide to take the elevator and find out. There are only 4 buttons and we push the top one marked V – we hope it’s for the view! When we emerge there is a hostess station and we realize we’re in a restaurant, Tiara. We decide to have a drink and ask to be seated. The drinks menu lists all types of mixed drinks, mojitos, dacquiris, and several specialty drinks. Chaz asks for a dessert menu and orders a glass of red wine. This is when we learn that everything is non-alcoholic. I remember I had read that alcohol is mostly served in the hotels that have a liquor license. So Chaz has a mojito and tiramisu and I have peach iced tea and warm apple tart with mandarin ice cream. All is very delicious.
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The restaurant is circular with glass walls all around. At one point Chaz looks up and says, this is a crummy seat – look, the waiter’s station is blocking our view. But it wasn’t there when we sat down! We realize the center where the tables are set is on a circular moving floor. We’re slowly rotating! My pictures do not do the views justice. We can see the Emirates Palace Hotel (more about that later) then the expanse of the Arabian Gulf, next the lagoon and marina and then the old city itself with its wide Corniche Road that runs the length of the waterfront fronted by wide white beaches. We watch a sailboat race of about 6 large yachts, including a catamaran. They are tacking from the lagoon out the entrance to the wider Gulf but we don’t see any buoys or committee boats and wonder where they are headed. The channel must be deep to the edges as the boats appear to almost hit the shore before tacking. The island is man-made so it may very well be dredged to the edges.
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We stop off at Carrefour again before heading back for a much needed nap after all that food! Chaz’s apartment has a beautiful stainless steel Bompani stove outfitted with a rotisserie. We’ve purchased a small chicken and with the drip pan in place and the chicken properly spitted, turn on the rotisserie. The stove begins smoking like crazy – but it’s coming from the top of the inside of the oven. It seems to be a film that is burning off as this is the first time the oven has been on! We leave the oven door open and after about 20 minutes it stops smoking and we’re able to cook our little chicken. We enjoy our rotisserie chicken with Indian green beans (very long, thin beans) and small potatoes and onions sautéed in olive oil, Mmmmm good!
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Posted by ncoats 00:29 Comments (1)

Flying to Abu Dhabi

My flights to Abu Dhabi from New Bern by way of Atlanta and Amsterdam were smooth and uneventful. I left New Bern at 6:00 am Wednesday, December 5 and arrived in Abu Dhabi at 9:00 pm Thursday, December 6 (local time) which was 12:00 noon EST. My good friend, Sherry Stewart, met me at the Atlanta airport for my long layover there and we had lunch and walked around the terminal. It was wonderful to see her again. I was able to sleep on the planes and arrived in Abu Dhabi after 30 hours feeling a bit dirty and scratchy but relatively unscathed. (It had been 33 hours since my last shower, whew!)

Chaz was a wonderful sight in front of my exit door from the customs terminal and we were driving to his apartment in a matter of minutes. Although he had warned me about the traffic I was astonished at the way every car weaved in and out of line, turning from the center lane, honking the moment the light changed…it was wild. And did I mention they drive very, very fast. Chaz is considered an aggressive driver in the States but here he’d be considered laid back! Chaz had not driven from the airport before and we had one small misturn but were soon pulling into his apartment complex. He lives in a gated community of stucco three story apartment buildings. The streets between buildings are just wide enough for cars to park along either side and two way traffic to jockey for position down the middle.

The apartment complex is called Al Seef Compound and is on the island of Abu Dhabi in the Al Matar district. The 3 story stucco and concrete buildings are very close together with room for cars to park on either side leaving one lane in the center for two lane traffic to jockey for position. P1020306.jpg

His apartment is bigger than our house in Oriental. At 1700 square feet, it’s about 500 square feet larger! The rooms are spacious with high ceilings and an even higher tray ceiling including a large living/dining room with kitchen adjoined by a large opening as pass-through, three large bedrooms and three full bathrooms. P1020285.jpgP1020303.jpg
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He has outfitted one bedroom as an office including a single day bed where Chandler will sleep when he arrives on the 19th.
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My room is the largest with two oversized arm chairs. P1020369.jpgThe master is the only bedroom with a hallway of closets and the bath adjoining, the other two have baths off of the hallway and closet space is confined to overlarge chifarobes. All rooms have small balconies with the living room having two. Chaz has been busy building his nest. Colorful rugs brighten the beige tile floor in every room and hallway. He has kept the local Home Centre in business with purchases of paintings, pillows, vases and artificial flowers and straw. It feels very homey and I really appreciate his efforts. He moved in less than a week ago and worked like crazy to get unpacked and settled before I arrived. The apartment is provided for him furnished but with little in the way of “extras”, basically the necessary furniture but no accoutrements. When a new tenant moves into an apartment, new drapes and light fixtures are installed. Chaz chose the styles and fabrics for each room and they just completed installing them about 30 minutes before he left to pick me up at the airport.

I’m so keyed up that we relax for a while and talk until 1:30 am. I’ve timed my arrival before his “weekend” of Friday and Saturday. Friday is the Muslim holy day similar to our Sunday. The work week here is from Sunday to Thursday, so we’ll have two days together before he’ll return to work on Sunday morning.

Posted by ncoats 07:02 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (1)

Preparations

Soon I'll be travelling to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates to visit Chaz for three weeks. I've purchased two guidebooks - one by Frommer's and one by lonely planet. After exhausting all that wikipedia had to offer, I thought I needed more detailed information.

Chaz has been working in Abu Dhabi since September 17, 2012. He is Senior Manager of Environmental, Health and Safety for Dyncorp International which is secunded to the UAE Army. He has a three bedroom apartment and a car. This is his fourth trip to the Middle East - once to Iraq, and twice to Afghanistan, but his first that is not in a war zone. I'm excited to be able to visit him there and see this part of the world.

Abu Dhabi means Father of Deer. Chaz lives in the city of Abu Dhabi which is in the emirate of Abu Dhabi and is also the capital of all of the United Arab Emirates. There are seven emirates and Abu Dhabi is the wealthiest of them all. The country of UAE is only 41 years old. The British controlled the coast along the Arabian Gulf through much of the 20th century to keep pirates from attacking their ships. Until oil was discovered the people here lived in utter simplicity and poverty. They lived on the island of Abu Dhabi in the summers diving for pearls and trading them to the Indian merchants who took them to India for trade. Winters were spent in the oasis of Al Ain, a hundred miles to the west. Life was primitive and hard, food was scarce and diving for pearls was arduous, strenuous work. The tribes were ruled by sheikhs and the British encouraged treaties or truces to ensure the safety of their ships. The area was known as the Trucial Coast as a result. Oil was discovered in the 1930's but it was not until the 1960's when Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan became the ruling sheikh that the rich reserves were used to benefit the people and bring them into the 20th century. In 1971 the British left the area and the country was formed. Now it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The current Sheikh is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nayhan. Bin means son of. Sheikh Khalifa has worked to bring foreign knowledge to his emirate. The companies that work here are charged with transferring their knowledge to the Emiratis. DynCorp must bring their employment of Emiratis to 44% of their total workforce. Chaz is training an Emirati to do his job.

The weather looks surprisingly pleasant for the desert. Average highs in December are in the 70's and lows in the high 50's, low 60's. From what I have read dress is fairly normal. They do ask that women cover their upper arms and knees. If you want to visit a mosque you must wear long sleeves and cover your ankles (skirt or slacks is fine) and of course, wear a head covering. The largest mosque in the world is in Abu Dhabi and we plan to visit it while I am there. Another packing consideration is that Chaz's company Holiday party will be held while I am there. I have a wonderful new outfit from Marsha's Cottage in Oriental and I can't wait to wear it!

I leave on December 5 and am so excited. More to follow.

Posted by ncoats 06:19 Comments (1)

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