So on rereading my last post, I realized that it was a bit negative... so (in no particular order) here is a list of the top 5 things that I like about the UAE-
1) the call to prayer. Muslims pray 5 times a day and that means that the call to prayer echoes from the mosques 5 times a day. it's a good thing i like it. what a beautiful ullulating sound. it reminds of the shofar... in the busy day and chaotic world, it's a reminder to stop, take stock, and think.
2) the hospitality. I know I'm spoiled. I'm here as a Westerner, put up by my company in beautiful hotels. Of course, there's good hospitality. But it seems to extend farther than that. Today, after being dropped off by my taxi in the wrong place, in front of the wrong university (the taxi driver didn't know where he was going and didn't speak Arabic or English so I had him drop me off at the one place he knew and then someone else took me from there), the policemen/security guards sitting where I got out hurried to help me get my stuff out of the taxi. They gave up their seat for me, brought me tea, and were unbelievably kind.
3) the desert. I can't say the desert safari was my favorite trip to the desert in the Middle East, but it was a reminder of how beautiful the desert actually is. I was named for the oases in the Negev and so have a special place in my heart for sand and dunes and the peace that exists out there. I'm glad to be near it again.
4) the cultures. The UAE is a truly international country. 90% of the population is from somewhere else! It's an incredible mix of people from all over the world. I think it's fantastic that you can ask everyone you meet- "where are you from?"- and yet, the country still maintains it's own, unique emerati-ness.
5) the food. Not only can you get any type of food from any country in the world here, but the lebanese food that seems to be most common is delicious, cheap, and plentiful. Today, for dinner I had half of a chicken, a plate of rice, a ton of fresh vegetables and olives, flat bread, 2 types of curry, and tea. And this was just me ordering one dish. The food was delicious and only cost me $7.00. I'd also like to point that I don't think you can beat arabic tea or coffee. mmmm
I was going to try to update this on a daily basis but I'm actually not sure what to write about. Abu Dhabi seems to be such a city of contradictions that I can't get my head around it. It's kind of like Vegas without the gambling- all luxury and service and money and every hotel/restaurant/attraction trying to one up everyone else and constant construction. Anything that sits for too long is quickly covered by a layer of dust. And the weather is hot and hazy.
But, as with every place, the wealth is only one layer of the city. In the centre of the city are high rises, each apartment housing 3 or 4 families. The streets overflow with parked cars squashed wherever there is room- many of the building were not built with parking lots... Apparently in a few years these buildings will all be demolished and rebuilt as luxury apartments and hotels. Abu Dhabi island is being redesigned as an island of elites. The question remains- if the workers are priced out of the city... who's going to do the work? And who is going to live in all these new apartments being built. Everyone I talk to asks those same questions.
OK... enough of my rambling... what have I been doing? Working, relaxing by the pool, and seeing a bit of the city, mostly. ("they come out at night... mostly..."- that's for anyone who's seen Aliens.) On Monday night, the head of operations at Takatof was heading out to the Emirates Palace Hotel (google it, it's amazing) to do a site visit so he invited me along. There was an exhibition on the Guggenheim opening that night and Takatof had volunteers helping out. I don't think I've ever been around so many rich people in my life. It was a little unsettling. The crown prince (!) of the UAE was even there. The hotel is "7 star" and is built to look like an Arabian palace. It's all marble and gold with pillars and arches and tiles and well, look it up. The exhibition, itself, was pretty amazing- they had shipped over some of the masterpieces from the Guggenheim. Cezanne, Klee, Pollack, etc.
Then my host gave me a driving tour of Abu Dhabi-- past the high walls of the major palaces, through the markets, around the inner city high rises, and of course, by the many, famous malls. The blocks here are super long with little streets in between and little rhyme or reason to the numbers. It's not exactly a pedestrian friendly city so I was grateful for the driving tour. It's really the best way to see things.
And then yesterday, I spent doing work at the hotel and crashed at around 7pm for a 12 hour sleep. I think the jetlag/ exhaustion from flying had finally caught up. This morning I went for a walk along the Corniche (the walking/biking area by the water). I was a little underwhelmed. I was sweating like no other, the water is flat and kinda unexciting and there's so much construction going on that you can't really appreciate the beauty that is there. Or maybe I'm just spoiled from living in Australia. I don't think any beach will ever be able to compete again.
This evening I head out on a desert safari...
I'm finally remembering to bring my camera and take pictures. I'll post them when I get back.
Greetings from Abu Dhabi. I think at this point, I can safely announce that I made it without it all disappearing. The flight over on Etihad was a breeze. There was no one in the seat next to me, which meant that (1) I had a window seat to look out over Australia as we flew over the continent (2) I didn't have to climb over anyone to go to the bathroom- the number 1 reason why aisle seats are important on 14 hour flights and (3) if I crunched up my body in exactly the right way I could "stretch" out while I slept. Flying over Australia was definitely the highlight. After spending a semester at uni looking at maps of the Sydney Basin, it was wild to see it all play out below me. The city became suburbs that went on and on, then planned subdivisions and rural areas appeared, and then the undulating Blue Mountains took over. They were incredible- this ongoing wavy field of blue/green bush. And then they ended and the next time I looked out of the window the ground was pink and red and there was nothing. It was insane. I took pictures but forgot to bring the cord to hook my camera up to the computer so can't post them.
The only downside to the flight was that I hadn't gotten my act together to buy snacks for the plane and as even the smell of airplane food makes me want to retch (let alone eating it), I was quite hungry by the time I arrived.
But arrive I did, my bag was already off the carousel and waiting for me, and when I got through customs there was someone there to pick me up and take me to my hotel (I was a little worried that this wasn't going to happen and I was going to need to take a cab with no money on me to a hotel where I knew the name but not the address-- on a side note, i have since found out that there are no addresses in abu dhabi so that wouldn't actually have been a problem), and when I got to the hotel my colleague from work had left me a package of food. I was beyond grateful.
You can see the hotel I'm staying at here. Be jealous. A free robe and a king size bed and I'm sold. Today, consisted of sleeping in, lounging about the hotel, walking to the mall (to get there you turn left by one construction site, pass 3 other constructions site, turn right at the row of villas, walk all the way to the main street, avoid the rubble, and look out for the big tall glassy building, also under construction), and meeting up with work colleagues to start planning the details of the training. I'm also thinking through where I want to go and what I want to see over the next week. I looove work trips. I just wish some of you were here with me!
I'll try to keep the updates fairly frequent while I'm here.
tentatively titled: I'm going to get quite fat if this keeps up...
i'm waiting to hear about visas
in the meantime i'm eating two pizzas
if this takes any longer
i'll look down and ponder
if my waistline can handle some cheese-uhs.
i'm waiting to hear about visas
it's been two months, three days, and a seizure
i'm going quite batty
i think i'll get a new tatty
what else do you do when you're waiting a few and you're quickly
approaching a geezer?
i'm waiting to hear about visas
london's the inside of a freezer
it's cold and it's damp
and i feel like a tramp
and i wish i was heading to tropical bedding and summertime weather at
the drop of a feather instead of here waiting and feeling like hating
the government being a teaser.
i think i need to stop telling people i'm going to abu dhabi. every time i say something the trip gets cancelled or postponed. Looks like I'm going on Saturday or Sunday but I won't believe it until I'm on the plane.
See ya, folks. I'm off to Abu Dhabi for two weeks. My 2 year old cousin Miri think I'm making it up, but in a few hours I'll be on my way. I'm looking forward to meeting my colleagues, working with students, and seeing a new country. AND, I'll hopefully be heading over to Qatar for two days to see my cousin, Amelia, who will (hopefully) be moving there this week. She's got an awesome gig playing music for rich people at a villa on a private island. Yea, that kind of life. (http://www.ameliarobinson.co.uk/home.html)
Today, I hand in my last paper and then the summer will really begin.
I've been inspired by this entry on darcy's blog to write one one of my own.
Yesterday, Maine voted to repeal same sex marriage. Because of the time difference, I didn't have to stay up late to watch the votes trickle in. Instead, I sat at the library trying to write a paper and hitting "refresh" over and over again on the Keep Maine Equality webpage. By late afternoon I had a blasting headache and my heart hurt.
Somehow, for some reason, we think that by empowering others, we have to give up some of our own power. Somehow, for some reason, we think that by extending rights to other people, we lose our own rights. I am sickened by the ways that people feed off of fear and spread hatred in the name of religion.
Darcy posted these three videos, and they're also my favo(u)rites so I thought I'd share them as well. They make me laugh and give me hope that love and commonsense will prevail. Thank you to everyone who worked hard on the No on 1 campaign, who voted with their hearts, and who continue to keep up the fight.