Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: April 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hooray for Hollywood!

Another installment of the movie adaptation of HBO's popular series is set to hit silver screens all over the world on May 28th. The first one had our Gal Pals going south of the border to Mexico in search of romantic fulfillment.

This second version of "The Cougar Chronicles", as I would rename the series, has our intrepid and insatiable ladies escaping their mundane domestic lives in New York City in an attempt to spark up their love lives in, of all places....Abu Dhabi! That makes as much sense as filming SATC3 in The Vatican!

It is confusing to me why the producers and screenplay writers chose this Muslim Emirate as a venue where public displays of affection are illegal and cohabitation can get a person hard prison time. Recently in Dubai, a couple were arrested for kissing in a restaurant.

In reality, the only "Sex and the City" here is the many Chinese prostitutes that infest downtown tourist hotel bars. If I had a dollar for every time I have been groped in these places by Oriental "hostesses", my car would be paid off by now.

The local film commission even denied permission for the production company to film scenes on location in Abu Dhabi. Because of this, the Abu Dhabi scenes were filmed in Morocco including a fake Emirates Palace Hotel set, an Abu Dhabi landmark.

The Real Emirates Palace Hotel

One has to wonder why the makers of this movie did not just use Morocco as the ladies' destination in the film. Morocco has virtually the same landscape and culture, at least in Western eyes. Certainly our girls could find romance in the same country that is portrayed in what's considered one of the most romantic movies of all time, "Casablanca". You know, the classic one with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

Dubai is recognized throughout the world as a glamorous location but Abu Dhabi, just 100 kilometers away, is off the radar screen for most movie goers. This film will be popular and the mention of Abu Dhabi will make it more of a household word. Tourism is bound to increase here as a result. Many thousands of love-starved middle aged women will see Abu Dhabi as a prime romantic location to fulfill their menopausal "Girls Gone Wild " fantasies. Abu Dhabi will finally be on the map as a desirable and trendy place to be.

The cynic in me says there were some investors that wanted Abu Dhabi as the movie venue for the publicity. Ironically, the film will probably not be shown in the local theaters due to the controversial subject. The title alone is a deal-killer here. The lost local revenues are a drop in the bucket.

What is important is the global exposure of a popular Hollywood movie and the chance to shift a little more attention away from the now tarnished city-state of Dubai to the up and coming  Emirate and city of Abu Dhabi without offending local sensibilities. Very crafty, IMHO!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Response to the Responses

My response to your immigration comments needed yet another new post. It is a complicated subject and it deserves a complete reply from me. I am doing this in the more stable wordpad as Blogger screwed me last time and I lost a heartfelt post to the ether so the text might look different.

u{b}: Your Native-Native American  friends in Arizona were originally from Asia. Their ancestors crossed the now extinct Siberian Landbridge into Alaska back in the day and settled from the Arctic to South America. Some were far from the pastoral, spirtual and peaceful people portrayed in modern textbooks. Many tribes were agressive against others and slavery as well as environmental destruction was practiced. Entire forests were set fire to manipulate animal migrations to their advantage. Its all about the resources.

My ancestors came on ships from Western Europe. The American Indians (for lack of a better term) were in North America first, but the expansion of European immigrants out west created a conflict of interest and the Indians were vanquished with superior technology. Cultural evolution, the guys with the biggest sticks win. I not saying this was right or wrong, it just "is". This has happened all over the world since the beginning of time. Its all about the resources. At he risk of physical harm, I am as much as a Native American as they are.

I guess the happy medium would be between the UAE and USA styles of managing residents/migrants/immigrants. The UAE is wrong by not having a natualization process and the USA is wrong by allowing the spawn of illegal aliens born on US soil full citizenship. Each is radical in its own way with pros and cons.

However, I do FULLY support my fellow CITIZEN'S unalienable right (no matter where they hailed from originally) to bitch, moan, complain, burn the flag, curse the government and peaceably assemble to speak their mind without repercussions. I don't have to agree with what they say, but they have the right to say it as guaranteed under the first amendment of the Constitution. This has weakened a bit since 9/11 but maybe it is not too late to resuscitate..

Rootless: Good thoughtful stuff! I like reading your responses. As you, I am glad I came to live and work in the Middle East. I feel my life has been enriched because of it and I will never be the same again. I see the USA from the outside looking in now and I wish many more of my countrymen would leave those safe shores there to see how the rest of the world lives. I am a big fan of Mark Twain. You know what I mean.

That being said, I am not familiar with the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. I will Google it. I fear it was inevitible that the Mexicans would be driven out of the southwestern US due to the larger numbers and bigger "sticks" of the Europeans' expansion. They didn't stand a chance. Again, cultural evolution and its all about the resources. Mexico remains to this day a docile neighbor. It will never regain this lost territory. Again, not judging, it just "was".

For better or for worse, it is human nature to have sealed, controlled borders.If they didn't serve a pupose, the concept would have disappeared centuries ago. I don't think we will all ever be citizens of the earth.

First of all people in general are selfish. We are tribal. In order of magnitude, we have our family, then our neighborhood, then our city, then our state, then our country which we naturally tend to defend against other tribes not similar to us that maybe want something we have that they don't and are willing to fight for it. Did I mention its all about the resources?

This is the reason immigration laws still exist. To protect the home team from the visitors. Home field advantage, if you will.

Our "Reptile Brain" hasn't evolved much past the caveman days no matter how enlightened we think we are. Civilization is a very thin veneer! The survival instinct is still very strong. A month long power failure in Abu Dhabi would expose the animal in all of us.

1) I believe that all citizens of a country should be treated equally under the laws of the land. As a native born citizen of the US, I cannot expect any more or less legal protection or civil rights than a naturalized citizen from, let's say, Estonia.

2) See above. In my opinion, it would be unfair for a native to have more rights and privleges than a person who made the effort and sacrifice to become a citizen. Some could say that naturalized citizens had to actually work at it while all I did was to get born there. Maybe they are more motivated and appreciative. Citizen status is all equal no matter where one is originally from.

The UAE succeeds in making a good society where the ratio of residents/citizens is outnumbered 40/1. This is a feat in itself! The US is floundering under antiquated immigration laws where illegals have more benefits than citizens. This has to change as immigration by nature has to benefit the home country either culturally and/or economically or it doesn't make sense.

I am proud of my country's past open arms to the people of the world willing to take a chance. It made the US strong. Cheap labor arguments notwithstanding, a lot of folks prospered there in the last two centuries including my own ancestors.

Times have changed though and I am all for an emphasis on admittance to the "givers" rather that the "takers". We have enough of the latter already!

Tory B:
 Been there, done that, got the T-shirt! Woo-Hoo!

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.........

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rootless Response

The promised land for these folks

Inscription on the Statue of Liberty

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,With conquering limbs astride from land to land;Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall standA mighty woman with a torch, whose flameIs the imprisoned lightning, and her nameMother of Exiles. From her beacon-handGlows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes commandThe air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame."Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
 With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Colonization and immigration are two separate issues.

Colonization first. You could say that the British, the French and the Spanish colonized the land mass that is now called the continental United States.

The British surrendered control to the new Republic. The French were bought out (The Louisiana Purchase) and I am not sure why the Spanish left. Maybe they couldn't find gold out west and gave up.

I consider myself a Native American as I was born on US soil.

As anywhere in the world where there is a conflict of interest over land and resources between parties, the one with superior numbers and technology always wins. I am not saying it is good or bad, it just "is".

I look at it as more of a social and cultural Darwinism than what you describe as "genocide and slavery". The westward expansion of US citizens certainly did not have bloodthirst in mind.

Immigration makessense if it benefits the home country. The UAE is a great example. We expats come here, and under strict rules and regulations, work hard for a few years, hope to save some money and go back home. The country ends up better for our efforts and skills.

We do have a few mandated benefits, but they are small and not intended to keep us around past our usefulness. I think this is a good immigration policy and the UAE has to do this as the native Emiratis are outnumbered 40 to 1 by immigrants.

In the US, an illegal, pregnant Mexican woman only has to give birth to her child on US soil and the child is automatically a US citizen for life.

Believe me, these births are arranged. The US has a huge social safety net that will take care of them. There is proposed legislation in Washington that is designed to remedy this loophole that is being taken advantage of.

Lax immigration laws of the past are being revised by many countries because of the "not what I can do for the country, but what can the country do for me" attitude of a growing number of immigrants.

When immigration becomes a liability, the doors will shut. Same in the UAE, when I outlive my usefulness, I will be deported. Its only fair to the Emeratis, I don't wish to be a burden.

The  immigrants you personally know may not fit into the category, but the mere fact that it is harder to obtain US citizenship in the past few decades is proof that more and more wannabees have the wrong attitude, and us Native Americans are tired of it. Its happening in many European countries too.

As far as my Muslim taxi driver in Hartford, Connecticut a few years ago, he was only one of about 30 other Muslim taxi drivers who would agree to stop by a store so I could get a six-pack of beer to take to my hotel room. I was honest and told the dispatcher what my intentions were.

He announced my desire over the radio and everyone of the drivers in the cue refused. Finally the dispatcher said he found a guy but I had to meet him away from the taxi queue of his peers, so I did.

He duly stopped by a convenience store and when I came back with a 6-pack of Bud, he told me to put it in the trunk. The driver knew I was not going to stiff him because I left my luggage and valuables in the taxi. I should have been more worried about him running off.

When we got to the hotel, I tried to give him a generous tip because I felt he had taken a chance of getting his ass whupped by his brethren if they found out he transported alcohol. He told me to keep my fucking stinking money. That's when I got pissed-off!

This was the way I was treated in my own country by an immigrant. He was the agent of a government regulated taxi company that existed to serve the public without discrimination. Yet here I was refused carriage by his Muslim brothers and insulted by him.

I wasn't the only one this happened to. The same thing was big news in Chicago when a Flight Attendant was refused a taxi ride because she carried a bottle of wine from her trip to Italy. Muslim taxi drivers also refused to let seeing-eye dogs for the blind into their taxis because they were considered "unclean".

The government had to step in and the madness was finally stopped. Hopefully the Muslim immigrants found employment more suitable to their temperament.

This would have never happened in the UAE to an Emirati or the lot would be on the next flight eastward. AS IT SHOULD BE!!!!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Second City

Just like Chicago is the Second City in the US, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has its own Second City, Al Ain.  This town is 160 kilometers from Abu Dhabi City. I still am not used to metric units of measure and prefer to think in terms of miles, feet, inches and Fahrenheit. I believe the United States and Liberia are the only countries in the world to use the old Imperial measures. At .62 kms/mile, Al Ain is approximately 99 good old fashioned miles from my abode on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. Metrics are wimpy with all the millimeters, liters and hectares and such!

Abu Dhabi Dispatches Editorial Team, Lake Powell , Arizona Summit Meeting 2009. Your humble servant second from left.

But I digress. Back to the day trip to Al Ain.  Like I said, it is a short day trip on the smooth, fast highway. and I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by a French exchange student, Anna-Lou.

We started out using my GPS, but the "Bitching Betty" audio directions proved too irritating. Anna-Lou's sharp eyesight got us where we needed to go, the closer we got to Al Ain, the greener the scenery was. It reminded me of Central Florida, my home state. 

Al Ain is an oasis in the desert and has many natural fresh water springs. It is also the birthplace of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. A man I admire as he was a true patriot of the UAE as he had only the best wishes for his countrymen in mind. He is the UAE's equivalent of the US's George Washington and is very much loved by the Emiratis, for good reason. A great man! He is missed. I would have liked to meet him. He seemed a good guy!

Sheikh Zayed

Al Ain Oasis

So anyway, we found the date palm oases in the middle of town, it was a forest of trees with an irrigation system. The whole thing was an elevated alleyway that you could walk or drive on. There were surprises along the way and one could lost in the labyrinth. We saw a lot of animals and a few parrots and a chicken or two. 
Date Palm Trunk

My next house

One of the surprises

Arabic Chic!

Desert Greenery

Next stop is Jebel Hafeet. An improbable rock jutting 4000 feet (1200 meters) out of the desert floor, A very entertaining road leads to a nice hotel at the top. I saw a lot of cars puking Prestone on the way up and smelled melting brakes on the way down. Some auto manufacturers use this road as a proving ground as its average 8 percent grade puts cars to their limits.

Road up Jebel Hafeet

Google Earth View of Jebel Hafeet Road


View from Jebel Hafeet

And Another

Mon Navigateur

Who says there is no scenery in Arabia?

Al Ain is a fun and doable day trip from Abu Dhabi. Although I found the drivers even more crazy than here. Every effen roundabout is its own mini Indy 500. I survived, though and will live to race another day

Friday, April 16, 2010

What's To Do????

At the urging of ultra[blue], a frequent and welcome commenter on my blog,  I am going to attempt to explain my thoughts on the state of security and the policies of the United States as they apply in the post 9/11 world. I fear my thoughts on this will run contrary to many of my countrymen as the US has strayed far from its founding principals.

In the beginning, the US was a colony of Great Britain. The thirteen original colonies were populated by misfits, criminals and other undesirables who left (or were deported from) England for those very reasons. Well, the English being who they were back then, started to abuse the American colonists and the rabble decided enough was enough!

There was the Boston Tea Party protest and the Declaration of Independence from our British oppressors. Wealthy American colonists such as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and others decided to plan a new country. A country where every citizen has unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Founding Fathers had balls because they risked everything they owned and even their own lives to cross the powerful British Empire.

Such was the hatred of the yoke of British colonialism around America's neck, the Revolutionary War began. A bunch of rag-tag colonists hung on to defeat one of the most advanced military entities in the world at that time. British General Cornwallis surrendered and the world had a new country. Many folks forget that the USA was born of the blood of patriots. Please forgive us our zeal and pride, but we pulled off a Big One there!

Since then, Americans have had open arms to oppressed peoples from other countries because we kind of sympathized with their plight. We were there once. We wanted others to experience the Land of Opportunity. The Melting Pot.

Lately though, the dream fades. Immigrants have an entitlement mentality. Its no more what I can do for America, it is what can America do for me. I live in the UAE at present and I try to follow the rules here but I will never forget the time I flew to Hartford, Connecticut and none of the Muslim taxi drivers would stop by a 7/11 so I could get a six-pack of beer, that pissed me off!. If I was an Emirati and a taxi driver did that to me here in the UAE, he would be on the next flight back to Katmandu! I had no such recourse as a citizen in my own country.

That being said and to get back to the point, freedom has its risks and I am willing to take those chances, just like  the founding fathers of my country. Personally, I would rather have free access to my flight without being frisked as a criminal. I am willing to accept some losses rather than the endure the "everyone is suspect" mentality. It is just damn un-American.

As a side note, I have to commend the UAE for managing the expats here. We are all on our best behavior for fear of jail and/or deportation. I think somewhere in between the lax USA policy and the firm UAE policy is the way to go. The UAE does do a lot of things right! I am still here!!!

The US has to live with the past liberal immigration policies, the camel's nose is under the tent and there is not much that can be done now. I no longer think that it is a good idea to target those of Arabic origins as the bad guys will use grannies and babies as a workaround. I spoke out of anger earlier. I really have no solution. We just have to accept the risks as free people and trust each other.

Don't forget that anyone who does something "funny" on a US domestic flight is now subject to an extreme ass whuppin from fellow passengers or a bullet from a Federal Air Marshall, so it is somewhat of a self-correcting situation. Not to mention a USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon escort to the destination, weapons hot.

Peace, Bro!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fun Food

I was at the local grocery market the other day and as usual, on the alert for offbeat and interesting things that tickle my funny-bone. This is a habit of mine in an attempt to turn mundane chores into something fun. Most of the time I am unsuccessful in the transformation but I find enough gems to keep me playing the game.  I was not disappointed on this trip.

American supermarkets are boring. They are homogeneous. One looks like the other with the same products, presentation and no surprises. Ethnic foods are relegated to a half an aisle next to the kitty litter. Here in the Abu Dhabi, everyone is from somewhere else and the market managers have to cater to the tastes of folks from Asia, Europe, the Subcontinent and of course the Middle East. This makes for an entertaining stroll through down the aisles. You never know what you are going to see. The inventory seems to change each week. One time you may see English cookies and the next, ghee from India occupying the same spot the cookies previously did. It;s a grab bag and you cannot rely on your favorite stuff always being consistently available. Part of the charm, I guess.

I am fortunate that my nearest market has a pork room. This is a small room off the main floor with its own doors displaying large signs warning that entrance is for non-Muslims only. I look at it as a generous gesture by the UAE government to allow us expats to slake our cravings for pig.and I appreciate it as a lover of bacon and grilled hotdogs. Turkey bacon substitutes suck!

So, the other day I walk into the pork room, got my bacon and Oscar Meyer links and continue to the freezer on the opposite side of the room to see what various porcine delights were available there, then I saw this:

Bingo! I just found my Gem o' the Day. Out came the mobile phone for this image, much to the bemused stares of the Filipino pork butchers nearby. 

Now the maker of these delicacies, cdo/Sea Quest, looks like a Western Company and they really should know a little bit more about marketing. I'll bet my last beer that the frozen items inside the bag are not actual cephalopod testicles but are probably the tenderest of squid meat formed into a round shape. They probably taste very good and would be something I would enjoy, but when the name "Squid Balls" is emblazoned over a clear plastic window showing some round objects inside, I get an unnerving impression. Call them "Calamari Rounders"or"Spheres Du Mar"; anything but Squid Balls!

I can imagine this Marketing Executive in the product launch meeting surrounded by his peers and the CEO of Sea Quest suddenly standing up and saying, "I know, let's call 'em Squid Balls!!!". They should have thrown him down an elevator shaft. But instead, they went with it. The plastic bag makers probably pissed themselves with laughter when they got the details of the order.

What Squid Balls were doing in the Pork Room is also lost on me.

As if this isn't bad enough, fellow bloggers Neil and Caz found these items in a downtown market: The Real Thing  A Pakistani friend of mine says these are a real delicacy back there. Bet you can't eat just one! They eat them in the US too, also known as  Rocky Mountain Oysters. All I can do is wince.

I did buy a bag of these though:

These are fried peas coated with hot Japanese wasabi mustard powder. They are very good and I was surprised to find them available here, but I don't understand the "& YOU" part. The peas never delivered on the personal relationship promised by this phrase. Come to think of it they kind of look like little green.................uh never mind!!!!


Friday, April 9, 2010

Self Inflicted Wounds

There was another scare in U.S. airspace today when a Qatari man with diplomatic status caused a disturbance aboard United 663 en-route from Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C. to Denver International. Apparently the man spent a long time in the lavatory which aroused the attentions of an onboard incognito Federal Air Marshal. He was suspected of sneaking a cigarette in the lav.

It is reported that the diplomat then made some comments out loud when he returned to his seat that he was having trouble getting his Bally loafers to detonate. That was all it took, he was restrained, law enforcement officers were requested upon arrival in Denver and last, but definitely not least, two F-16 Fighting Falcons were scrambled to escort the United flight the rest of the way to Denver, air-to-air weapons systems "hot", no doubt. Thumbs on the buttons.

The perp, Mohammed Al-Madadi

Now this photo shows what appears to be a normal, bright, well adjusted young man. What caused him to go off the deep end is a matter of speculation. Maybe it is a combination of tequila shots at the Reagan International Airport bars, his "untouchable" status back in Qatar and the diplomatic immunity he enjoyed in the U.S. that created his mischievous mental mix. 

International concourse, KJFK, can't we all just get along?

So here we have another person of Arab origin threatening a U.S. airline flight. What people from this region of the world I now reside in have to learn is that since that horrible day when my country sustained a coordinated attack against New York City, the Pentagon and a failed attempt on the Capitol building that ended up in a remote field in Pennsylvania, that the United States is VERY, VERY, VERY concerned about not letting the same thing happen again. 

Verrazano Bridge, South of Manhattan

What that means to me personally is extra scrutiny and hassle when I travel. I don't like that as I have been a straight-up Patriot all my life and a U.S. Navy Officer to boot. The U.S. bends over backwards to be fair and not "racially profile" but I cringe when I see 80 year old grandmothers in wheelchars and 6 year old children get patted-down as if they are close relatives of OBL, who is probably deceased anyway..


The point is that I work with some really good people from this part of the world who just happen to be Muslims. They are ordinary folks just like the people I worked with back in the U.S.with the same hopes, dreams and trials of life that anyone has. I consider them my friends, they are not the radicals the American government and media portray then as. They don't hate the U.S. and in fact most of them have family in the USA working and contributing to the economy. They love to visit the US. and have very positive things to say about Americans. Some would like to live there.

On Approach

The Ass-Clowns like our Qatari diplomatic friend, the the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber make it so much more difficult not only for us regular United States citizens to travel freely, the honest, hardworking people from the Middle East are going to be scrutinized even more because of their nationality. All the recent incidents involved people with Arabic origins and/or names. Give me a good reason why the TSA shouldn't racially or nationally profile given the facts!
I hear it is tough enough to get even a visitor's visa to the United States as it is for legitimate people from certain countries. Well, do you you blame us? There is a track record here that is hard to deny. 

I am angry about this as it negatively effects me and my Muslim friends and co-workers. Where is the peer pressure? The American people are going to demand racial/national/religious screening and I think it is justified for now, and I can't disagree considering the history and circumstances of late

 It's going to be more difficult for the good citizens of some countries to visit or live in the USA for now..The radicals and in this most recent event, the arrogance of a diplomat with legal immunity from an Arabian Gulf country sealed that fate.

He was let go, but the stench remains. I could never get away with what he did as a foreigner over here. Jail and deportation would be certain for such actions.

As  US citizen, I think we have been too kind up to now and with apologies to my friends over here, I now think that a few bad apples ruined the barrel and there is plenty of justification for profiling. Just too much crap happening from a certain part of the world lately!

I would prefer to see the US as a welcoming country to all peoples of the world, that is the strength of our heritage, but some want to undermine that. A shame!