Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gearhead Heaven (or Petrolhead Paradise)

The other day I went to the Abu Dhabi International Motor Show (ADIMS). This event happens every two years which surprises me considering the car crazy culture in the UAE. I figured it would be an annual event. The show was held in the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center (ADNEC).

I have always been an incurable Gearhead (US) or Petrolhead (rest of the world). At 3 years of age I could discern different makes and models of cars. It is a native ability which unfortunately is not a lucrative one.

Seems there is there is always something going on at the ADNEC but this was my first time there. I have to say I was very impressed with the facility. Easy access and parking in the garage. The venue was squeaky clean and the attendants and security personnel were pleasant and helpful.

 One of the first things I noticed was this:

A pool,table fashioned after a 1965 Mustang
This is a creation of a company called Classic Pride from Dubai. I have to admire their vision. This was nicely done and they do a lot of other stuff with classic car themes.

All the major automobile brands had a display in addition to some local vendors and customizers.

For A-L

And many others.

One of the most interesting cars was in the Mazda area. This vehicle was shrouded for a few hours and when it was unveiled, this is what emerged:

In my opinion, easily the star of the show. While it it a concept car and most likely will never see production it still is a good example of creative design.

Hyundai had an interesting car on display also. They have come a long way from the econobox they have been known for in the past.

Abu Dhabi's Finest were well represented also.

And then there are the dreamers....Yes that is $800,000.00

Nothing beats Detroit heavy iron. They may be crude but you can't beat the Bang for the Buck!!!!

As far as pure style goes, this is my favorite:

For a cruiser, this Jaguar would be my choice, but the guy picking his nose in the background kind of ruins it for me:

I saw this woman sitting in the black Ferrari convertible and I tried to get her to do a friendly wave. She responded as if I asked her to take her pants off. I shot the photo anyway. I had a media badge on too! Bitch!!

Speaking of which, most of the women hired to showcase the cars were acting badly. Sure, I was there early and there were not a lot of folks around at that time but I saw most of the models sitting around, drinking coffee and yawning. They were not promoting the cars at all. If it was me as their boss, I would have sent them packing! Bad attitudes and indifference don't sell cars!

These ladies were cool though!

Anyway, there was some activities outside, namely the white Prado obstacle course. You would think there would be nothing left to prove as most are seen doing 200KMH+ in the fast lane but here ya go! They can actually go slow too!

And then was the Go Cart track. The concessionaire made a big deal about changing into a race suit like you are an F1 contender. I have to admit that it looked like fun but at 150 DH a pop, I had to decline. The carts sounded like they had Briggs & Stratton lawnmower engines in them but the track was tight and suitable for the speed.

All in all it was a fun afternoon. I love things automotive and this scratched my itch. The facility is top notch and things were run well. However, I am left wondering why there were not more people there and why this event is held only every two years in this otherwise car-crazy country.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Best Laid Plans......

So the other day I had to get some business cards made and I decided to take care of that after a 7PM to 7AM graveyard shift. I got home and shut my eyes for awhile to do a light recharge of my batteries and intended to awake and get the chore done in a few minutes and go back to bed.

Arabic Strip Mall

Near me in Khalifa City A is what I call an Arabic strip mall. It juts up out of the flat suburban landscape like a monument and can be seen from miles around. These are ubiquitous throughout the Emirate outside of urban areas and consists of retail establishments on the ground floor and professional offices/ apartments above. One can get just about anything at ground level from tomatoes to hammers.

Arabic Strip Mall

I went to a photography store that I had used before to see if they could print the business cards. After waiting about 10 minutes while the owner did his books back in his office, he finally appeared and asked me what he could do for me. I asked him if he could print business cards and he shook his head "no", but there  was a stationery store around back that could. I thanked him and drove around back and found the correct store. there was a problem though, there was a huge sign declaring  the closed status of the business even though another sign assured me it should have been open. Thinking someone might have been late, I sat in my car for awhile but no one showed up. Fail!

Despite this, I decided to go to the local smoke shop around the corner to get some lighter fluid for my Zippo. The shopkeeper was pleasant enough and understood my needs but said the lighter fluid was of poor quality and refused to sell me any even though there were plenty of cans on the shelf. OK, I asked him if he had an inexpensive butane lighter and he sold me this with a refill can.

Butane Lighter
I recognized this as a crack pipe lighter but I was entranced by the bright blue flame and it was refillable so I bought it for 5 Dirhams and a can of butane for 10, not a bad deal. The trademark "KKK" may have some problems in North America though if this lighter was ever marketed there.

This small smoke shop was also packed to the rafters with shisha pipes, charcoal and tobacco. For those that are not familiar with shisha, it is a very civilized Arabic social custom where folks sit around and puff fruit flavored tobacco through the pipe which is also known as a hookah. The tobacco is packed in a chamber and is kept lit by charcoal. The smoke goes through water and is cooled and mellowed by the pipe which results in a mild, flavorful smoke. The tobacco flavor runs the gamut from grapes to mint to watermelon.

Shisha Pipe

Shisha Pipe

I always entertained the idea of having my own shisha pipe in the house because it is such an enjoyable activity and it would be cool. Here I was in a smoke shop with the supposed proprietor and I asked him his advice about purchasing one from him. Amazingly, he told me to get one from Bani Yas, a town 20KM from my current location. I was dumbfounded! Here I was surrounded by these things and he refused to sell me one. I couldn't have swung a dead cat without hitting a shisha pipe in the small shop. I was stunned, I got in my car and started for home and still couldn't figure out why the guy didn't want my money. Maybe it was a racial thing, but it seemed quite cordial.

I never did get my business cards but I did get the cool crack pipe lighter. Maybe next time!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Holidays in Abu Dhabi

The time is here again for the most popular holidays celebrated by many expatriots living in Abu Dhabi, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I could count Thanksgiving but that was last month and is rarely celebrated outside of North America, even the USA and Canada observe it on separate days. There is not a single turkey within 6000 miles of this place anyway. Thanksgiving is a non-starter here.

I kind of enjoy Christmas in Abu Dhabi. Back home the commercial interests start late in October and are relentless in cajoling folks to start purchasing gifts for the Big Day. The malls and traffic get progressively more congested as time gets closer to December 25th. As a guy, I typically hate shopping and wait to the last week to do my gift purchases. By then the malls resemble the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Tension is high and tempers flare during these last minute retail outings. Not my idea of fun.

In Abu Dhabi things are so much more subdued and the shopping pressure is off. Sure I miss my friends, family and the parties. Sitting in front of a roaring fireplace, the house decorated with twinkly lights and the smell of a freshly cut and decorated Christmas tree lighting up the room can’t be beat. Exchanging gifts with loved ones (especially the children) is always fun! It’s the commercialism that bothers me back home and I don’t have to experience that here if I choose not to. I'd rather not.

Christmas Tree at my Old House

My Last Christmas in Utah, USA, 2007

I will have to admit the perfect springtime weather in December here is not real conducive to a strong “Holiday Spirit” for me. I have always associated Christmastime with cold, snow and nasty weather. Not many fireplaces, hot toddies or fir trees here for that matter. Although the malls in Abu Dhabi try, I miss the outside street decorations and lights in front of businesses and residences.

Zion National Park, Utah, USA

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

This will mark my third season away and while there a lot of things I miss, I still remember to count my blessings and make the best out of things. Its not so bad here this time of year.

New Year’s Eve is another story! I call it “Amateur Night” and try to stay off the road as some drivers who may not have drank all year do on that night and don't know their limits. It may be better here but I don’t take chances. Anyone know of a good fireworks show?

On a related note, it does strike me as more than coincidental that a lot of religions and cultures have holidays/rituals corresponding more or less to the two equinoxes and two solstices (both extreme positions of the sun) that occur each calendar year.  Ancient peoples built Stonehenge and other elaborate archeological wonders found all over the world to measure these solar events. It must have been as important to them as it still seems to us. That is a topic for another post.

Happy Holidays, y'all!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Banking Woes

I deposited a check the other day in  my local bank and they said it would take A MONTH to clear! This was a check from a big company from a major US bank and there shouldn't be a problem. It was for only $400. Geez,   I can transfer money in minutes all around the world and this bank (NBAD) insists on holding my money for a full 30 days!!! I have to throw the bullshit card.

They just want to hold my money to get interest from it. The check will clear in a few days but I cannot have access to my money for a month. Its pure theft and things only work the bank's way. What if I told them my car payment was going to be 30 days late, I don't think they would be very understanding.

Banks are nothing but thieves and I suggest all to keep their money under the mattress rather than enrich these bastards. Charging interest is not according to Islamic law but that  fact is conveniently forgotten.

OK. I vented and feel better now.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thailand Part 2

So as fascinating as Bangkok was, my friend and his family left for Abu Dhabi and I had itchy feet so I decided to go to Koh Chang, an island in the Gulf of Thailand six hours bus trip south of Bangkok. I eventually got to Trat, the nearest city to the island but the ferries had stopped running so I spent the night there and arranged transport to Koh Chang island the next morning.

After a 30 minute ride through the Thai countryside, we arrived at the ferry terminal. Automobiles on the bottom and people on the top deck of the rusty ship. It was chilly on board but a snack shop had beers so I survived without too much discomfort.

The voyage to the island took about an hour. The weather was hazy and the island revealed itself after about half way there as huge mountains jutting out of the gulf.



I arrived at the small port and waited for the pickup truck to take me to the other side of the island where my hotel was. The trucks have a canvas covering over the bed and the riders sit on makeshift bench seats in the bed aligned longitudinally. I arrived at my hotel and checked in to a very nice room. Thailand is inexpensive and a typical room costs USD$30/ night, breakfast included.

7/11s are everywhere

The next day I hired a guide to show me the island. We drove on the hilly roller-coaster roads to the southern most point of the island called Bang Bao where there was an overwater marketplace. I had a great meal (but the scallop appetizer gave me a rash, I think) and enjoyed the sunset with a couple of beers.


On the way we stopped by an elephant place. I declined a ride on the pachyderms but decided to feed them instead. These guys can eat an entire pineapple whole. Seems that would be rough going down the throat but they didn't seem to care. On one occasion, I almost  got a "trunk job"! 


I loved the elephants and spent a lot of time there. I felt a connection with them.
There were monkeys too.

The weather could have been better. There was a high overcast and it was very windy. Otherwise, I did enjoy myself on the island. Four days there then back to Bangkok and then to Abu Dhabi.