Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: February 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

And I Thought Traffic in Abu Dhabi was Bad......

I often complain about the bad drivers and daunting traffic in the UAE, but when I stumbled across these videos I realize I was just being a wimp. This is the real deal!

Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India. Not much density here but the way the large trucks, cars, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians interact is hypnotic to me. I watched this several times in awe at the cooperation between the different types of transport. Pure impromtu choreography without middle fingers or shakened fists displayed. Everyone just kept moving and dealt with it.

The two videos above are from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). The traffic is denser and almost takes on an organic look as if the mass of vehicles are the corpuscles of some large animal. Its almost as like each driver knows what the others are going to do through some understanding of universal unwritten rules. It is lawlessness and anarchy that somehow seems to work without too much bloodshed. I think it is an uniquely Asian thing. Could you imagine this chaos working in the Western world? I can't, we need our traffic lights, signs, cops and turn signals.

And finally Kathmandu, Nepal. I have experienced this personally during  a long weekend there. I hired a driver who deftly navigated the vehicular mayhem without a care in the world. He was in tune and did just fine.. I was in the back seat white-knuckling the grab handle above my head and getting sensory overload from the speed, congestion, horns, exhaust smells and the "coat of paint" proximity to our fellow motorists.

I am of the impression that these are not bad drivers, in fact I envy the skill demonstrated in such a hostile environment. I couldn't do it without a few dented fenders or spearing a moped. I would need a drink after (or before!) a few blocks at the wheel in these places.

On the other hand, some of the drivers in the UAE are just stupid. The roads are first-class here and there are more than a few that look at that as license to drive like maniacs just because they can. They tend to lack the concept of self preservation or responsibility to their potential innocent victims. One example of this is the red light runner captured on the video below, selfish bastard!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Now Libya.....

I thought the Colonel had things under control over there. I am wrong!!! Two Libyan Air Force jets defected to Malta rather than firing on their own people, good on 'em!

Geez, who's next?

Iran is behind all this stuff.

Very sad about the four Americans killed by pirates, looks like time to kick some Somali ass! They can't get away with that. Murder, pure and simple and the scumbags must be held accountable. They fucked with the wrong people and I hope justice will be swift and sure.

Maybe a few well-placed smart bombs will persuade these goddamn animals from doing this again, but I doubt they will get the hint.

 Eye for an eye

Turn their country into a parking lot, why are these piss ant pirates getting over on us. Attack and sink any boats that leave the ports.

I would like to see  an airsrike on that shitty country, I am upset with the murder of my fellow countrymen.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Of course I have watched with keen interest the events happening in the Middle East and North Africa for the last few weeks. I am a Westerner living and working in the area and can't help but be concerned of the ultimate effect it will have on my security and near-term way of life. I don't intend to sound selfish but I am only human and these thoughts naturally cross our minds about individual survival.

Seems a wildfire of popular protests have ignited in neighboring areas, the sparks blown about by the strong winds of dissatisfaction of the common folks, international press coverage, internet social networks and yes, maybe some international interference by another neighbor.

My Opinion of Iran's Government
First there was the ignition of tender wood in Beirut and Tunisia, then Yemen, Egypt, Libya and now Bahrain. If I forgot any, let me know, I will give full credit. Let us not forget the Iranian government's saber rattling of late which could have very well been the carelessly but intentionally dropped lit match.

During all this regional turmoil the Iranians are currently brazenly sailing a naval battle group through the Suez Canal, a stunt not done by them in decades. It is rare that one sees such a vulgar display of power during a very sensitive time in the area. It is easy to see they want to be  the power over here!

Add this to the public videos of missile launches, announcements of nuclear capabilities (threats) and the covert videos of the Iranian government's fatal suppression of dissent by their own citizens, I think it is not a far stretch to figure out they are one of the reasons for instability in the region. They have a lot of money to donate to radicals and I believe the Iranian government instigates some of these actions. The coincidence of outrage in multiple countries simultaneously cannot be ignored. It seems orchestrated.

That being said, the disgruntled common man in these countries have a lot to be pissed-off about. They had the same rulers for decades in the most part and have see their lot in life decrease as their masters prospered more and more. Big mistake on the rulers' part. This sets up a pressure not unlike what causes earthquakes when the tectonic plates of the Earth slip and we are seeing the results of that destruction and rebirth now. An earthquake occurred in Cairo and Mubarek is beached.

The people do have power and we are seeing the demonstration of that when the common citizen feels he/she has nothing left to lose. Somewhat like a cornered tiger, someone will get hurt. My own country was violently fought for and won by the Patriots back in the day against its oppressors, they got fed up with the bullshit too. The will of the people will always win out eventually. Civil (r)evolution is inevitable when there are inequities and leaders have to realize that or they will continue to be blindsided by the force of their subjects.

This leads us to the disturbing troubles in Bahrain. It is one thing when people fight across town but quite another when they fight next door and I can hear the yelling from my house. Bahrain is an easy day's drive from my billet in the UAE and it is a little disconcerting to see the conflict so close.

Bahrain, A Days Drive, Yemen is Pissed Off and Close Too, I live in the UAE

Bahrain is an oil/natural gas rich kingdom and is a relatively liberal Muslim country, but not a member of OPEC.  No one wants for much. Apparently the recent rancor is due to differing sects of Islam. You see, the ruling class in the Kingdom of Bahrain is Sunni and most of the population is Shia. The Shia feel left out of the relative prosperity of the Kingdom and feel discriminated against by the ruling Sunnis. Most of the Shia sect are from Iran (some for many generations due to trade between the countries) and are the majority sect in that country. Call me crazy, but it seems easy to connect the dots.

Closer Look at Bahrain, Small but Important

Tanks in Bahrain

In addition, the US Navy's Fifth Fleet calls Bahrain home. That means huge tactical and strategic shifts of power in the region if there are significant changes in Bahrain.

As I said, I live in the UAE which is a leisurely day's drive or a 45 minute flight from Bahrain. The tensions in Bahrain are getting close to home but I am not worried for now, I am surprised it is happening there and hope cooler heads will prevail. Bahrain has alway been known as stable until now.

The UAE is one of the wealthiest nations in the world and the rulers are generous and good to its citizens, they seem OK. That is the key. I have been here since 2008 and it is a very well run country, I feel comfortable in the UAE.

There still exists a problem as Iran invaded three islands in the Arabian Gulf from the UAE in the 70's. Iran has fortresses built there now with anti-ship missile installations. The dispute is ongoing but has not been resolved to this day. Iran is the North Korea of the Middle East!

I am registered with the US Embassy and I understand there are contingency plans in case of emergency evacuation of American citizens. I may end up "haze gray and underway" on a US Navy ship again after all these years but I doubt it. I am not packing my bags yet but I am keeping much less cash in my local bank account just in case the sparks blow over this way.

One positive is that I have not seen any American flags burning in the streets or the POTUS hanged in effigy. I consider the lack off those very good signs

Travel Tip: On this (Western) side of the Gulf, the body of water between the Arabian peninsula and Iran is known as the ARABIAN Gulf, not the "P" Gulf word! It is considered very gauche and insulting to refer to it in the latter over here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Local Tabloid

Same as all over the world....folks like the sordid!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Al Ain Aerobatic Show 2011

Al Ain Aerobatics Show Entrance

I recently attended the Al Ain Aerobatic Show in Abu Dhabi’s “Second City”. I am no stranger to air shows and have been known to go to great lengths to see them. You see, I have been a “Wingnut” since a very early age and am naturally attracted to all things aeronautical. My father was a fighter pilot for the USAF and I spent some years in the US Navy as a flight officer. Even my current vocation is aviation related, you can’t keep me away from these winged wonders, it’s in my blood! People either like flying or they don't, there are very few in the middle.

I look at manned flight as a minor miracle. Flying is the rare combination of engineering, art and skill. As one who has experience in high performance jets, it is difficult for me to convey the sensations of speed, freedom and power to those that have not had the opportunity. Being able to loop, roll and go anywhere you wish in the vast three dimensional environment of the atmosphere has no rival in any earthbound activities. You can go from weightless one moment to seven times the force of gravity the next. Loud and fast is just icing on the cake! High performance flight is physically demanding but mentally exhilarating.


Temporary Control Tower

The weather at Al Ain airport was one of those perfect UAE winter days with a clear blue sky and a light cool breeze. Because my time was limited I did not get to see all the shows that day but what I saw was impressive. The Baltic Bees (Latvia), Saudi Hawks and Turkish Stars jet demonstration teams all put on a heck of a show and I was envious of them from my grounded perch. The aroma of jet fuel and the roar of the turbines made me yearn for the “wild blue yonder”. 

The Baltic Bees from Latvia in their L-39C Albatross Jets

The Saudi Hawks Flying BAE Hawk Aircraft

Saudi Hawks

Saudi Hawks

Saudi Hawks

Saudi Hawks....One for the Ladies

Saudi Hawks Team Member

Turkish Stars Demo Team....Northrop NF-5 Freedom Fighter Jets

Turkish Stars-Low and Slow, Gear Down

Turkish Stars

Turkish Stars-The NF-5 is Capable of Supersonic Speeds

Play-By-Play Announcer on the Big Screen

In between these feature shows there were radio control model flights and some dirt bike stunts.  The RC models had actual jet engines and were incredibly detailed. They sounded, looked and smelled just like the real thing.

Incredibly Detailed Scale Radio Control Models

Just Like the Full Size Version
This intrepid pilot failed to get his jet started
Scale RC Model of Canadian Snowbirds Canadair CT-114 Tutor
Snowbird Fly-By

There was also an impressive demonstration by a solo UAE Air Force Mirage fighter aircraft. It’s comforting to know these guys are watching out for us.

UAE Air Force Mirage 2000-9

My Best L'il Buddy Capt. Jack D. Denham (R) with his Mentor from the UAE Air Force Just Before  Takeoff to get some bad guys

I had fun and that is what life is all about. There were activities for all. I was dreading a parking and overcrowding fiasco but that did not occur as logistics were well planned and executed. The only minor gripes I have is that there were some schedule inconsistencies and then I developed a sore throat from sunburned tonsils and a stiff neck due to looking skyward for several hours straight and there was no draft beer available. Small price to pay but we all have to make our sacrifices.

This Must Be A Logistical Problem When Nature Calls!
Desert View-Al Ain Outskirts

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Abu Dhabi Golf Championship 2011

I went to the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship the other day. The weather was appropriate as the cool temperatures, overcast skies and occasional drizzle were reminiscent of the sport's birthplace in Scotland. The climate was very unusual for Abu Dhabi as for four days in a row it was cloudy, cool and rainy. In all my time here I don't recall a series of days it was this way.

The Falcon is the State Bird of the UAE,,,,Hence the Design of the Clubhouse

I have a love/hate relationship with golf. I used to play at least twice a week back in the day. While I enjoyed being in the groomed beauty of the links, I got frustrated in the difficulty of the sport. One millimeter off on a swing and the ball careenes into the woods. There is nothing worse to a golfer's ears than to hear his ball bouncing off of tree trunks that are out of bounds of the fairway. It is almost impossible to find the ball when this happens and a snakebite is risked looking for it anyway. Best to take the penalty.

Go Left...Left...Left...Dammit!

Golf is unique as your competitor is yourself. You don't actually play against your partner, you try to best your last score despite who you are playing with. Of course score is kept, but golf has handicaps which means the less skilled are spotted strokes so in theory everything is supposed to be equal. Unlike football, cricket or baseball, there is no direct competition between you and your partner. It is you against the course.

An Unconventional Stance

I actually have not played in several years as I found I could get angry and frustrated without gripping a 5 iron and paying a green's fee. I have been known to throw a club or two after a bad shot and I discovered that despite the bucolic setting, other golfers tend toward the rude. They just take themselves too seriously.

This really can't be too comfortable, have the caddy hold the club

Some of the aspects of golf I enjoyed is that like bowling, one can play while smoking cigars and drinking beers. Unlike bowling though, you are outside and the whole world is your urinal. Yes, golfers pee in the woods but the cultured ones take their glove off first.

Then there are the golf carts. I have never seen vehicles so abused as these were when out of sight of the clubhouse or a course marshal. I have seen these in full tilt four wheel drifts on fairways, run high speed through creeks, driven up tree trunks and more. The original off-road vehicle. Besides, driving under the influence is overlooked on most golf courses.

Golf Cart...Abu Dhabi Style

So I quit playing. Because of this I am saving money and my blood pressure is way down. This doesn't mean I don't like golf, it is a game of finesse played in beautiful venues. If I had my choice, Ii would just take a nice walk along the fairways. There is nothing more peaceful than a golf course at sunset.

The Leaderboard

That being said, the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship pulled off another winner. I enjoyed being there as the location and people were great! A class act and a great spectator experience. There were activities there for all. They put on a good show and I recommend everyone attend future events. I have to admire the guys who play professionally, it is a tough way to make a living.