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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!