Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sex and the City

A movie with the same title of this post was made a couple of years ago in which our favorite "Carousing  Cougars", Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha decided to wing their way to Abu Dhabi and relieve a few wealthy Sheiks of their dish-dash-ah's and dignity.

The fact is the UAE government forbade the movie to be shot in the country due to the sexual nature of the film. Production was in Morocco and some sets were made in that country that mimicked Abu Dhabi landmarks. This is obvious in the above clips. In the first one, mountains are seen in the background. There are no mountains in the Abu Dhabi area except that big rock near Al Ain. The second clip shows an outburst by one of the gals in a public place that surely would have resulted in jail time and possibly deportation in Abu Dhabi. The middle finger is best not used there!

 You might ask why the producers just didn't have our lascivious ladies travel to Morocco in the screenplay. That would make more sense, right? Most Americans don't know the difference between the two countries anyway. I suspect the UAE government was a major investor in the film in exchange for Abu Dhabi's worldwide exposure by the film. Ironically, the movie was never screened there.

  What got me thinking of this attitude about sexuality was a Post by my Blog- Buddy Neil. In UAE supermarkets and pharmacies, all kinds of sexual lotions, oils and condoms are prominently displayed.  Viagra, Cialis and other ED drugs are sold over the counter right next to the headache pills. A lot of Westerners who consider Arab countries as extremely prudish would be surprised at what goes on.

One Dirty Little Secret is that prostitution is rampant in Abu Dhabi, much less than in Dubai but common nonetheless. In just about any tourist hotel you can find ladies that "play for pay".  Some venues are more active than others. In the bar of one internationally branded hotel, I would get latched onto and my crotch grabbed by a girl(s) 5 minutes after walking in the door. It was Ladies' Night  all night, every night at this place. A co-worker had a phone number he could call and "special order" a girl and she would show up within the hour. I've heard rumors of brothels on the outskirts of town near the labor camps to service those guys.

 These women are not the "crack whores"  one would find at street level in many Western countries. They are regular women that are supplementing their meager day jobs as housekeepers and cooks.. Most are Fillipinas and Chinese but a large number of Eastern Europeans are showing up. This type of activity is about as open as can be without being obvious to the average citizen. The police and officials certainly know about it and seem to turn a blind eye. I have several theories for this:

1. Money. Someone in the high strata of the local society and/or business community is making a fortune and the word coming down to police is to ignore all but the most attention-attracting behaviors.

 2. Seeing how the vast majority of expats are men, the government is quietly allowing the sex industry to exist as an "outlet". In a country where it is illegal for an unmarried couple to co-habitate, dating is next to impossible due to the M/F ratio and local women are Verboten!, such "outlets" are normally few and far between.

3. A  combination of the above. The UAE is a very self-conscious country with a tinge of an inferiority complex.

If my theories are right, I think it is an example of forward thinking to unofficially allow the sex industry to quietly operate. It solves what could be potential problems although I think the money angle trumps any altruism from the government. Hey, I don't works and everybody seems happy with the arrangement.  Just like everything else in the UAE, things are very different when you scratch below the surface. Beware not to take so much rope that they can hang you with, however. Keep your head low.

Echoer Videos

Here are a couple of videos of how the Echoer app works:

This has me excited. It combines all the best features of Twitter, Facebook, and Google Maps into one original and unique app. Echoer is brand new and is just now debuting worldwide.

Try it! 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Echoer, A New Social Network

This blog is now being featured on Echoer .
This is the "next big thing" and is very popular in the Middle East and will soon take over a large part of the social networking world!

Do a "Like" on their Facebook page and learn more.

Be an Echoer

I am doing well back in the US but as a 4 year resident of the UAE, I am still interested and feel qualified to comment on the expat life in the UAE. Sometimes I miss mytime there and there were some good things about it.

Ramadan starts in the UAE in a few weeks and I wish all my Muslim friends Ramadan Mubarak.

I will have to admit I will not miss sneaking cigarettes, lunch, water, and other delights behind curtains during daylight during this Holy Time. Ramadan was always inconvenient for us Westerners but we were always thankful we were afforded a "Plan B".

Muslims fasted during the day but at night there was feasting and festivities. One of the most dangerous times to drive during Ramadan was near sunset when thousands of dehydrated and hungry Muslims were hauling ass home at sunset where food and drink awaited. One did not want to get in their way!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How Ironic...

I got this in an email the other day from ADNEC (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center) for an upcoming event in the UAE capitol city.

Bring the Kids!

 Geez, I guess I could have saved all the trouble and expense of actually moving to Las Vegas and experienced "Sin City" in my old stomping grounds of Abu Dhabi.....sans the scantily clad dancing girls, booze, gambling, colorful language and debauchery of the original Rat Pack of course. Frank, Dean and Sammy, we miss you!

Its interesting that this show is featured as Las Vegas style entertainment doesn't seem congruous to the morality of this Islamic country and I'll wager the show is "Sanitized for Your Protection". However, the music from that era is good and if the performers can succeed in parroting the sound, banter and mannerisms of the original guys, it could be an entertaining night.

What's next for ADNEC.......The "Ladyboys of Bangkok" revue"???

Monday, April 16, 2012

Reflections of Re-Entry

OK, I have bashed the UAE for some things such as internet censorship, Sharia Law, telecommunications monopoly, banking and labor abuses and being a "Plastic Banana" country. The place sucked me dry after awhile. Now it is time to reflect on my thoughts of my own country after being away for over 3 years.

First of all, the US is very expensive. Food and ordinary items that used to cost 2X+ what I remember. What used to be an in and out at a grocery store for $50 now cost more than $100. Not only that, there are bills in my mailbox everyday from people and organizations that want money. Setting up a new household over here costs an exhorbitant amount of money considering deposits, leases, auto registration, utilities, taxes, etc. Everyone has their hands out and wherever I leak, someone has a bucket.

Second, there are retail outlets everywhere for anything one could want or hope for, acres (or hectares) of strip malls that sell everything from hamburgers to massages to bankruptcy lawyers. It is quite overwhelming but convenient, maybe too convenient. After the financial bubble burst, there are a lot of broke folks here and the last thing they need are more temptations.

Crime in the US is an assumed risk but I consider that as the price to pay for a free society. It was safe in the UAE but I am one of the last ones that seem to refuse to trade security for freedom.

That being said, driving in the murderous motoring maelstrom on the UAE roads just might entail more risks than the US crime rate would. 

Although the US is not perfect, it is still home to me and theoretically I have a say in the operation of my governmental representatives. In Abu Dhabi, I was a guest that could thrown out on my head just for flipping the "bird" to someone. That type of  stress in addition to the "saving face" culture where nobody can seem to lose wore me down to where everyday seemed an excercise in frustration. I can finally call someone an ASSHOLE and not be arrested for committing a crime against the State..

Anyway, no place is perfect. I enjoyed living in Abu Dhabi for awhile but it was not "home".I knew I had to come back to America someday. I was only a guest that could be evicted at anytime for any reason.

I am now settled in Las Vegas, Nevada, arguably one of the most exciting cities in the world and diametrically opposite of the faux venues in the UAE. Gambling, alcohol and debauchery are openly encouraged in "Sin City." and folks seem just as happy here as they are in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I guess that is because gambling, alcohol and prostitution are equally available in both places but those activities are not advertised as much in the UAE..

Even though I am living back in the US for now, I will continue this blog as people are curious and interested in working in the sandpit. I will continue to give advice to those wannabes. I have lived there and have lots of hints and advice.

I am building a new blog, to chronicle the good and the bad of the world's "Sin City". It will be up and running in a couple of weeks.

Thanks to the friends I met overseas. I appreciate you as the adventurers you all are. It takes big balls to do what we did and kudos to those who still live and thrive over in the Sandpit. I am glad I did it but I wouldn't do it again. Best Regards to my buddies and readers I left behind and I hope our paths will cross again. I will never forget you all!



Sunday, March 25, 2012

More "Adios Abu Dhabi"

I had a comment on my last post that said I was being "negative and bitter". Ok, maybe I was kind of tough on the UAE, after all, I lived and worked there for 3 1/2 years. Everything I said has passed through most expatriot's mind at one time or another. Maybe I got carried away by my new found freedom of speech and like a degenerate wino, I drank deeply from that bottle.

To be fair, the things I liked about the UAE are:

It is a very safe place, I could walk anywhere, anytime without fear of personal harm

Being of a Western persuasion, I received special service and attention, not that I consider that right but it just happened. I guess it was assumed I was of some importance.

Good infrastructure, at least in the cities. Roads were the best anywhere on Earth. The drivers are another story.

English spoken everywhere. After all it is the language of money and petroleum. No need to learn Arabic.

The Winter weather! Perfect Miami Beach style climate.

The things that bothered me about the UAE:

To me everything seemed "plastic banana", AKA fake. For example, The roads into the city from the airport are lined by nice date palm trees and lavish landscaping that extended perhaps 20 meters off each side of the road and then the natural landscape of the ubiquitous ugly beige sand began. The greenery is a facade to fool arrivals that this is a verdant country

Expatriot employee rights do not exist. Terms and conditions can be changed at any time. Unions are illegal and I won't even get into the Labor Camp abuse issues. Also, expatriots cannot ever become citizens and can be deported for the slightest of misdeeds.

No freedom of speech. I personally know of a popular local publication that was almost shut down because one of the contributing writers mentioned the body of water between the UAE and Iran as the Persian Gulf rather than the officially mandated UAE version, the Arabian Gulf. The editor was directed to remove all previously distrtibuted copies of the magazine and was threatened with a shutdown by the UAE government.

The Summer weather, 120F is excessive. Folks just stayed inside. The sky stayed a depressing light brown during June-Sept. Many people became alcoholics during this time.

Owing money is a criminal offence. Many dusty cars in airport parking garages due to this. People are forced to leave the country rather than being given the opportunity to pay back debts from abroad.

Sharia law insures expats will not get a fair shake in court.

Also, do not fall for the trap that Dubai is. With all the glitz and glamor, you are in a still in a Middle Eastern country and you do not want to run afoul of "rules" you may not even be aware of.

For example, prostitution  is prohibited but rampant in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The government and police turn a blind eye, but if you do something else for which you get caught, you are in a lot of trouble as the Ho charge will be added.

The UAE is trying and doing a good job for just being 35 years old, but the country is young and some things are going to be weird until lessons are learned. Again, there seems to be a huge inferiority complex and a real yearning to join/be considered a1st word country. The facades are in place but there is a long way to go before they are accepted as a leading global country and that bothers them.

The UAE has oil and money but it takes more than that to be a world player, more than shiny buildings and palm trees next to the road. I see the yearning to be accepted as an influential world power but the execution is ersatz and weak.

I am back in the US and there is a huge mess here as well but at least I can discuss it at will and theoretically my government says I have some self-determination....we shall see!


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Adios, Abi Dhabi!

After I arrived at JFK and went through US Customs and Immigrations, I went outside the terminal into the unseasonably warm weather in New York. I was eager to to contact my family and friends but immedeately found out that my domestic mobile carrier (Verizon) had cancelled my account for some reason. My Visa card proved to be inactive too.

So there I was without communications and USD$. I had a pocket full of UAE Dirhams and was lucky to find a booth to change them to the current coin of the realm. I was happy to finally be back in my home country but was unhappy that things had degraded to the point where the basic services one would expect were no longer available to me partly due to my absence from the domestic US mainstream banking and communication system for almost 3 1/2 years.

That afternoon, despite my problems I felt a huge comfort to finally be back in the US. I was home for good. I got on the hotel phone and solved most of my recent problems with the credit cards and phone. The next day I flew down to the Southeast to see Family and Friends. I went from JFK to Birmingham, Alabama to Fort Walton Beach, Florida, then back to Birmingham, then to Las Vegas, Nevada, then to Phoenix, Arizona, then to Tucson, Arizona, back to Phoenix and then Las Vegas. I was fortunate to get a good job in the meantime. I now currently reside in a suburb of Las Vegas and am cool with that.

My exit from Abu Dhabi was not so good. To start with, I had to give a 2 MONTH FUKKING NOTICE to my employer! I am sure that is designed to hobble any chance with a future employer. Then, I had a 32 point checklist to complete before I was cleared to leave the country. One of which was a letter from the bank stating I owed no money. If I did owe, I would not be allowed to leave the country and would end up in a shitty UAE jail just because I bought an X-Box on the credit card and was late on a payment. Don't do that, beware!!! That didn't happen to me but it could happen to anyone. Sharia Law rules over in the UAE and as an expatriate, you just ain't gonna win.

I was given 30 days to get out of the country. The employer took my passport, health cards and ID days after my resignation so I was not free to go anywhere When you arrive in the UAE, they take care of everything, when you leave they are much less helpful. I spent the entire month of January trying to get the official stamps and clearances to get out of the country. The stress made me sick and I couldn't even keep a soda cracker down.

I found out I would not get my passport returned until my day of departure, which I was concerned about. All went well at the airport and I relaxed as the aircraft's wheels left the ground.

To those that fantasize about living in the Middle East, think again. My pay wasn't that good and you are owned by the employer without any rights whatsoever. Contracts are changed by employers at whim You get rear-ended at a traffic light by an Emirati and you will be charged for backing into him/her.

I have more to say, and I will, but I cannot recommend living in the UAE unless you are part of an organization with a fat US government contract.

The Arab, Pakistani and/or Indian way of doing business is disgusting. Telling the truth is looked upon as a sign of weakness. Shake hands and count your fingers!

The traffic is deadly, customer service is non-existant, rude people are common and there are no street addresses. Hell, they won't even transport you in an ambulance if the paramedics think Allah has willed you to die.

The internet is censored in the UAE, just like China and North Korea so it is refreshing to tell the truth from the USA without using a VPN or face prison time. I have an opinion that ANY country that restricts the internet has something to hide or doesn't trust its citizens with unfettered access to the rest of the world. The UAE is fucked up in that way. The media is similarly controlle.

I discovered that the UAE ( especially Abu Dhabi & Dubai) are constructs of a very insecure patriachal group of Sheikhs who are desperate to earn respect from the Western world. They are way behind and are trying to play "catch-up". They also play the "my dick is bigger than yours" game. Arab men seem very insecure. There is plenty of evidence of a national inferiority complex despite the vast wealth.

Sure, the shiny facades, big buildings and the vulgar displays of wealth may impress the trailer trash, but the truth is that these folks are but 35 years from living in desert tents, washing their eating utensils in camel urine and wiping their asses with their left hand.  Don't be fooled, if you scratch a little beneath the surface, the 15th century is still alive and well in the UAE!

I saw many lives ruined over there, mine included, almost!

If you can, stay in the US, EU or Australia. Those places are not perfect by any means but are far better than most of the rest of the world.

Your freedom and life may depend on it. Life in the UAE was nice in a lot of ways, but one wrong move and you can be in a very bad situation. You can be imprisoned for merely flipping the bird or insulting someone.

I am going to start a new blog about Las Vegas. This is my new home. It is an exciting city and there is a lot to talk about so stay tuned and I will provide a link in a few days. Life continues!