Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: October 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Where is Robin Leach when you need him?

Pictured is a small flotilla of private yachts owned by well-heeled race fans moored alongside the Yas Island Formula 1 Circuit Complex in Abu Dhabi. To me it looks like the cruise ship terminal in Miami. I can't even imagine having that kind of money or what scruples one has to discard to accumulate such wealth. OK, I may be a bit jealous. Even the huge motorhomes full of drunk rednecks that occupy NASCAR racetrack infields are dwarfed by these vessels.

In the background of the photo, the tall structure you see is the pedestrian walkway from the car park for us common folks........just kidding!

I know a lot of people that are going to the biggest event of the year here and I feel like I will be missing an opportunity as I have other plans and am not attending the race. On the other hand, I just got back a few days ago from London where I saw an American NFL football game at Wembley stadium and I have my temporary quota filled of crowded public venues with all the inconveniences and discomforts. My team lost badly. I have read reports that many logistical details at the Yas Island Circuit have yet to be ironed out.

In addition, the Formula 1 tickets are roughly $400 for two days. I would have been more open to the idea if there were one day tickets for $200 available. Two days are too much. I know there are concerts after the races by world-class performers, but Aerosmith is the only one I care to see.

So, it looks like I will try to catch the race on the telly. The consolation will be that I will have a bathroom available with no queues and cold beer in the refrigerator a mere few steps away, just like the guys on those yachts!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Rave

Good news!!!
Your's truly has been invited to write a regular feature column for a bold new magazine in Abu Dhabi. It's called Abu Dhabi Tempo and the creators are dedicated to providing fun, fresh news about this unique city to both residents and visitors. The magazine is free and available at business and resort venues throughout the city. If you don't see one, ask.

Check out the website:

Make sure you download the .pdf version of the charter issue from the site!

In the U.A.E, Dubai has historically gotten most of the attention and it is good to see the people at Abu Dhabi Tempo magazine giving the capitol city of Abu Dhabi it's deserved due. I have met with the creators and they are sincere and driven to deliver a quality product.

My first scribblings will be published in next month's issue (A Yank in Sand Land). My intention is to entertain my loyal readers and I wish to be successful at that. Nothing makes me happier! I had to alter my style slightly for the wider audience, but stay tuned to my blog for the rawer stuff. That's what blogs are good for, unlimited space and freedom.

A Rant

I don't want to be known as a chronic complainer, but there is one thing I want to get off my chest. The appliances available here designed to wash and dry clothes suck! I bought one of those "All-In-One" contraptions that is a combined washer and dryer. This type of unit seems to be the standard in this part of the world and while it seems to wash OK, the drying function is sorely lacking.

Back in the U.S., the norm is to have a separate washer and dryer. Each one is specially designed to do it's specific job and they do it very well. One only has to transfer the wet washed clothes from the washer to the dryer. When the dryer is done you get nice, dry, unshrunk, wrinkle-free clothes that are ready to be folded and put away. Easy! As a single guy, I like easy when it comes to domestic chores.

The appliance I have now is supposed to perform both functions. Throw the dirty clothes in the front hatch, add detergent, set the knobs and turn it on. It has a lot of settings on it and it is a quite sophisticated machine. The device is of Italian origin, but so far it has been very reliable. It then starts it's programmed cycle of washing, spinning and drying. Sounds simple, huh?

During the spin cycle, it does remind me of a Boeing 747 revving up for takeoff, but I think that is kind of cool except when I am on the phone.

The problem is exposed when the cycle is at the end and the flashing light tells me that the hatch is unlocked and I can remove my rags. What comes out is an example of the worst case of fabric abuse one can imagine. After an hour on "Dry" the clothes are anything but. Not only are they wrinkled beyond description, they are still damp and steaming! I then have to hang them up all over the apartment for drying to complete and I have yet to make friends with an iron. I have tried setting the dryer function for 90 minutes and the clothes do come out dryer but unfortunately are about 2/3rds the size they were the last time I saw them. I think the microwave oven could do a better job. I am tempted!

The U.S. does do some things right. I would give a pinky finger for a nice, big Whirlpool, Maytag or Kenmore dedicated dryer. As far I know these are not available here. Unfortunately, even if I could find one I have no place to put it in the apartment. My current machine occupies a space under the kitchen counter.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Yas Island Formula One Update

I didn't intend to spoil it for you all that are planning on attending the inaugural Etihad Abu Dhabi Formula One race at the brand spanking new track, but here are some rather blurry photos of the complex at night. Featured is the translucent shroud that partially covers the trackside hotel that magically changes colors ( I can't even imagine how much the tariff is on those rooms per night!). It is the only hotel in the world that has part of the racetrack running through it.

The lights are amazing! I have been watching the testing of them for weeks. Some nights the shroud has bands of contrasting colors pulsating from front to back, like some sort of exotic deep sea animal. I have seen every color of the rainbow represented. It is a very organic shape. Las Vegas can learn some lessons here!

I envy those that will be attending. I was planning to go to the race days and concerts, but I have some good friends from back home due to visit during that time and unfortunately they are not interested and I was not going to abandon them after all the effort they are going through. I have to be a good host. I would rather spend time with them, although next year is a must for me at the races.

Since I have followed the progress of this complex for over a year and have posted some photos in this blog every few months, I am happy to say that it looks like it will be ready for business on-time. I had my doubts earlier this year as the heavy construction cranes just left the site a few months ago and it seemed a Herculean effort would be required to finish in time for the race. From what I see, the management and crew pulled it off with moments to spare. Kudos to them! I am sure that failure was not an option.

So in the last few days of October and the first of November I will be finding excuses to be outside to hear the erotic shriek of high-strung V8's turning 18,000 RPMs and maybe later, if I am lucky, some Aerosmith!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Liquor License Redux

My liquor license expires this month so being the beer aficionado that I am, the task of renewing it jumped to the top of my "to-do" list to insure an unlimited future supply of suds.

Unfortunately I chose the wrong day to do it.

I got off work at 7AM and came home to take a nap. I can sleep for an hour and am good to go for hours after that. A trip to the grocery store, a car wash and the Liquor License renewal was planned for the day.

The grocery store trip went well but I was fourth in line for the ADNOC car wash so that took some time.

Then off to the police station where the necessary paperwork, passport photos, letters of permission, visa copies and Dirhams would be exchanged for a shiny new Liquor License that is good for another year.

When I arrived at the police station, I was issued a visitor's ID and proceeded to the area where the transaction would take place. There was a long counter with 5 stations. One station was labelled for the Liquor Licenses and the other four had signs that said "Black List". I don't know what that meant but I am sure it was bad and I was glad I wasn't there for that.

The Black List stations were empty but the Liquor License area had about eight people waiting in chairs. I pulled a queue number from the machine and took a seat. After about 12 minutes the clerk called the eight people up to the counter and a lot of arm waving and loud vocal protests immediately began on the part of the applicants. This went on for some time and, being in a police station, I was surprised that no officer showed up out of curiosity to assess the situation although many walked by. The clerks manning the Black List stations were actually smiling and laughing at the scene going on.

After five minutes of this fiasco, the woman in charge of the Liquor Licenses (sporting a blue camouflage uniform, teeth braces and a black beret) walked out from behind the counter and led the irritated customers to an office somewhere out of my view. I continued to sit there and watched as the customers left the office and walked out of the police station one-by-one with dejected looks on their faces.

I sat there some more and curiosity got the best of me so I approached the counter. I asked one of the Black List ladies what was going on. She explained to me that they had run out of blank Liquor Licenses and that it would be one month before the stock will be replenished. She told me to come back then.

No wonder my fellow expats were agitated, they were there to follow the rules and were probably down to their last bottle of Chardonnay. Now it will be at least a month before they can legally purchase alcohol in the Emirates. Not to mention all the other expats who hope to get/renew a Liquor License in the next few weeks. As I was told, it can't be done.

I took it in stride as I am fortunate enough to have enough supplies to last me until then, but if I was down to my last two beers, I might not be so patient and understanding.

I appreciate the fact that the U.A.E. government allows us expats our vices. I think that is very generous. They don't have to do it, but I am glad they do.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Pattaya Thailand

First of all, I have to apologize for not posting in a while. I enjoy writing here and I was shocked at myself when I discovered I haven't written anything here in almost a month.

I have two excuses:

1)I am a lazy bastard that mostly disdains the trivial crap that must be done in everyday life, but has moments of inspiration and motivation to contribute to this blog. Today is such a day.

2) I just got back from spending 9 days in Pattaya, Thailand.

I went to Pattaya with a couple of friends that have been there before. This was my first visit to Siam so I relied on them to show me the ropes. They told me that Pattaya is a very unique place and to be prepared to be open to the experience. I thought "yeah, yeah, I have heard this before".

Well, they were right! This place was unlike anyplace I have ever seen. Pattaya is a resort town situated on the Gulf of Thailand 2 hours by car from Bangkok. The beach there is idyllic with soft white sands, blue waters and beautiful sunsets. It's only when you stray away from the Beach Road that you see the real Pattaya. The streets are literally lined with beer bars, go-go bars, discos and nightclubs. Most of these establishments have ladies sitting outside urging the passers-by to come in and spend some time (and money) with them.

Anyway, without being too specific, I really enjoyed my time in Pattaya. It is the equivalent of a Disneyland for guys. Beer, bands, billiards and stunning women are all in ample supply. The combination of the fantastic scenery, the great food, the relaxed lifestyle and the hospitality of the Thais I met makes Pattaya I place I will return to. It makes Las Vegas, Bourbon Street and Miami Beach look lame in comparison.

If Mom is reading this, I saw a lot of temples and museums during my stay.

A final thought: I know Pattaya is not a true representation of Thailand and I want to return to see more of the country. Like so many others, I am impressed with the country and people. Variety is the spice of life and my visit there provided me with a nice respite from my life in the UAE. The temporary change did me good. Watching the late night thunderstorms from my hotel balcony was a plus!