Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Liquored Up

I picked up my alcohol licence today. The government gives every licence holder a monthly allowance and I'm allowed to spend 500 dirhams ($172AUD) a month on alcohol.

I have taken Australian citizenship, but never fear I can have dual citizenship so I remain a true black-and-white Kiwi. I can now apply for an Aus passport and once I've got that I can take my Australian licence and my Australian passport out to Al Basha and get a UAE drivers licence. See the post on 21 Jan for my whinge about the UAE drivers licence fiasco. The question remains though; how it is that having an Australian passport makes me a better driver? It baffles me completely, and having driven round Bankstown on a Saturday night I think its plain wrong.

On the dance front, Soirse from Melbourne (Soraya) is staying with me for a week before she goes to Morocco to do a two month dance contract in Casablanca. Most nights since she arrived she's been going with her agent to meet the managers of the hotels and restaurants which book dancers and she's also done 2-3 auditions. She's off to Ras al Khaimah today to dance at the restaurant for the next 3 nights. Ras al Khaimah (known here as RAK) is another of the other emirates about 1.5 hours drive from Dubai. Then its back to Dubai before leaving for Morocco. Looks like she has a contract in Dubai for a month following the job in Morocco too.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

The Empty Quarter

The Empty Quarter, Rub' al Khali in Arabic, is one of the largest deserts in the world covering 650,000 square kilometres including parts of the UAE, Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Last weekend we did a two night trip across the desert from Liwa near Abu Dhabi to Al Ain. It was quite an adventure. There were four cars, the Prado, 2 Landcruisers and a Pajero. We had a local guide Hafiz as this is not a part of the world to be taken lightly and a knowledgable local guide is essential. On the first day we left Dubai in the afternoon stopping at the Emirates Car Museum in AD for a quick look, a drool over the TransAms and then shortly afterwards headed up a side road which led into the desert. The tyre pressures were lowered to around 15psi and off we went. Desert driving (wadi bashing) is not for the faint hearted that's for sure. Some of the dunes we encountered over the following two days were incredibly steep and going down and up the other side was quite a rollercoaster but it was so much fun. I was very relaxed as I had total confidence in Colin's driving, as we slid sideways down another almost perpendicular dune, plus I thought "Ah well, if it comes unstuck at least I'll go out doing something I enjoy!"
All the cars got stuck in the sand at one time or another. The sand was very soft and there's a technique to driving on sand (I don't know anything about it, I'm just a leadfoot). The first night we camped in a place that wasn't too far out in the desert as we'd had a late start. The wind picked up and it was quite cold later in the evening as we sat around the campfire admiring the carpet of stars above us. A few of us tried to pick out some of the star formations, the saucepan, Orion's belt etc. Pfft! I think the Ancients had way too much time on their hands. The next day we were up early and spent the day racing up and down the dunes. We were lucky enough to see Arabian oryx. The Oryx is the native gazelle that has been reintroduced into the desert in the hope that numbers will increase. The second night's camp was only interrupted by a visit from some locals who just came to say hello. These guys know the desert like the backs of the hands and are able to rip up and down the dunes in the dark. The weather was a lot warmer the second night. Next day we started heading out of the desert towards Al Ain. We had a race across the sabkah salt plain and then headed back into the dunes. Unfortunately on a particularly steep dune the Pajero rolled after two of the tyres detached from the rims. The car engine then caught fire. Luckily Rob and Lesley got out ok and proceeded to put out the engine fire with sand. We had been tailed by a guy from the AD Environment Agency and he was amazing in towing the Pajero out from the dunes and into the nearest town. The Police report was made and after that we drove back to Dubai. Despite the excitement at the end, it was a brilliant weekend.

Please check out for the photos of both the car museum and the desert trip.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Roger Waters - Dark Side of the Moon

We went to see Roger Waters play at the Media City Amphitheatre this evening. The "warm up" music was Neil Young on CD but as the scene setter a video plays on the back screen behind the stage showing an old fashioned radio with music playing, a burning cigarette and a glass of Scotch. A hand appears on the screen to change the radio station and the audience hears a whole range of music and reacts by boo-ing Abba, singing along to Vera Lynn's "We'll meet again". The first half of the show was a mixture of Pink Floyd classics and music from his solo career. In the second half he did the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon. Brilliant show: he's still got it! Water's lyrics often deal with alienation and madness and through it all is the vein of English eccentricity that runs through all the Floyd's music.

The show had it all, great music, pyrotechnics, satelites crashing, bubbles, songs that had the crowd waving their lighters in the air, political comment - we got our money's worth. Music on CD played as the crowd left after the show, there's no other rock musician in the world who would use George Formby's "When I'm cleaning windows"!

Rock trivia: One of Roger Water's backup singers is PP Arnold (still has a gorgeous voice) and Andy Fairweather-Lowe (Amen Corner) is on guitar/vocals in the band.

A clip from the Dubai show taken by Mansi5 is on YouTube at

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Hot air and soccer

Today we went for a hot air balloon ride over the desert. After all the rain we've had here recently the desert is quite green and the oasis are gorgeous. Brilliant experience despite having to get up at 4:30am!

A couple of weeks ago the UAE won the Arabian Gulf Cup in soccer beating Oman 1-0. In Bur Juman, the big mall next to where I work, there's a huge TV screen which is on all day and usually shows weird things like Scandinavian handball and Japanese cartoons dubbed in Arabic. On the night of the soccer final we had dinner at one of the restaurants in the mall that had a view of the screen. The whole area was packed with locals and when the UAE scored their goal the place went mad. At the final whistle everyone was jumping up and down screaming and cheering and then for the next four days Dubai went mad. Virtually 24 hours a day there were people in their cars driving round town tooting their horns, this carried on well into the night, a friend was still awake at 3am the first morning as the cars circled her local roundabout cars music blaring and horns tooting. Cars were spray painted in UAE colours with flags hanging off them (Mercs, Lexus, BMW nothing was sacred). Traffic would grind to a halt while impromptu parades took place and seeing guys sitting on the roofs of cars waving UAE flags while travelling at 50kms down the street became quite ordinary. It 's quietened down now thank goodness.

I went out to see Cirque de Soliel last week with some of the girls from work. Brilliant show.

Its taken me 6 months to find out that everyone has their private mail sent to their work PO boxes. Seems to be no big deal and everyone does it. Its due to there being no home delivery of mail and apparently all companies allow it. Our office driver picks up the post every day and hand delivers it to our desks, beat that Australia Post.

A friend of Colin’s won 2 VIP tickets for the Formula 1 Festival held last weekend in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is another of the seven emirates that make up the UAE and is about 1.5 hours drive from Dubai. The friend has no interest in motorsport so he passed the tickets on to Colin. We were sitting in the VIP stand only a few rows behind the ruler of AD and next to him was Bernie Ecclestone the boss of world Formula 1. The UAE soccer team were driven round the course on the back of a truck to a rapturous response and then were escorted to their seats at the front of the VIP stand. The main F1 teams were represented and while it wasn’t an actual race more of a demonstration, the drivers drove round the streets individually and did doughnuts right in front of the VIP stand where we were sitting. It was good but for me nothing beats the V8s. The V8s are coming back to Bahrain again this November. Yaah! Anyway, at the conclusion of the F1 Festival an Ethihad jet flew over the city very low and very slow (and very spectacular) so we could all see “Abu Dhabi 2009” written on the underside. Afterwards we went up to the Emirates Palace hotel where we watched the sheik of Abu Dhabi and Bernie Ecclestone sign the agreement that will give Abu Dhabi a round on the F1 circuit for seven years starting in 2009. The Bahrain F1 race will continue so there'll be two rounds in the Middle East each season. The Abu Dhabi government are not just going to build the track, but they are building an entire island to put it on. If you're interested, check out < > .

Last Friday was the combined Waitangi Day/Australia Day celebrations in Dubai. Normally it is held out on the lawn overlooking the marina near the Mina al Seyahi hotel for those who know the area, but this year, to everyone's shock, it was rained out. And it wasn't light rain, it was serious Auckland type rain that flooded the car park and had the down pipes overflowing. Naturally it took more than a bit of serious rain to stop the intake of beer and food, though they had a typically convoluted Dubai system for buying the beer. We had to stand in a long queue to pay Man A for a little ticket for each drink. Man A then handed the ticket to Man B standing next to him. Man B's job was to yell out the drinks order to Man C who was standing right next to *him*. Man C then produced the drinks from under the counter and handed them over. This system did not survive the onslaught of thirsty Kiwis and Aussies for long and had to be adjusted fairly quickly to the standard 'pay your money - get your drink' system. There were some gourmet treats for us Kiwis, pineapple chunks, Jaffas and they even had Afghans! No pork and puha but that would have been difficult for some many reasons!!

On 6 Feb one of the lawyers at work made a Waitangi Cake for Kathryn and I. Kathryn is the other Kiwi in the office she's from Christchurch. Only here for 3 months but its been great to have another Kiwi around the place.
I heard the most brilliant comment about the Burj al Arab recently. It was described as “looking like a place that Elton John designed for Michael Jackson”. Yep! It really is that bad!

Tuesday, 6 February 2007


Last night we went out to DUTAC (Dubai Community Theatre) to see a Palestinian music group called Dal'ouna. The event was a fund raiser for Bethlehem University and the evening started with an address by the Vice Chancellor Br Daniel Casey. Br was at pains to stress that while the university is in the Catholic tradition it is open to students of all faiths.

The instruments played are a mix of traditional Arabic and Western and their music is also. Dal'ouna plays folkloric Palestinian music, classical Arabic songs and some compositions by the group's founder Ramzi Aburedwan, interpreting them all in their own style. The group's lineup varies depending on which musicians are available to tour. All the musicians were virtuosos on their respective instruments but for me the percussionist's solo was a highlight. Some pieces had a very smoky jazz feel. Two young singers were featured; Nour who has the most impressive, mature voice and Ouday a young man with a pure, clear as yet unbroken voice.

Thursday, 1 February 2007

You've been in Dubai too long......

This has been around in various forms for ages but its very funny and yes, a lot of its true:

You know you have lived in Dubai too long when:

-You're not surprised to see a goat in the passenger seat
-You think the uncut version of "Little House on the Prairie" is racy
-You serve coffee in a thimble
-You need a sweater when it's 80 degrees Fahrenheit
-You expect everyone to own a mobile phone
-Your idea of housework is leaving a list for the houseboy (Sad but true.)
-You believe that speed limits are only advisory (What? You mean they're not? When did this happen?)
-You expect all police to drive BMWs or Merc's (That's because the Lambos are in the workshop)
-You know whether you are within missile range of Iran
-You believe that the definition of a nanosecond is the interval between the time the light turns green and the time that the guy behind you begins to blow his horn
-You can't buy anything without asking for a discount
-You have more carpets than floor space
-You expect all stores to stay open till midnight
-You understand that 'wadi bashing' isn't a criminal act
-You make left turns from the far right lane
-You send friends a map instead of your address (If someone asks for your address you'll probably say something like "The apartment block with the blue shutters next to the Ali Bin Ali supermarket opposite the mosque")
-You think it perfectly normal to have a picnic in the middle of a roundabout at 11pm
-You know exactly how much alcohol allowance you have left for the month
-You never say Saturday instead of Friday or Sunday instead of Saturday (The weekend here is Fri/Sat)
-You accept that there is no point in asking why you are not allowed to do something (Sigh.......)
-When you expect queues to be 1 person deep and 40 people wide
-When you realize that the black and white stripes in the road are not a zebra crossing, just bait to get tourists into the firing line
-You know what night is ladies night at every bar in town (Tuesday!!!!)
-When you carry 12 passport size photos around with you just in case (Ha? I only carry 4)
-When you can tell the time by listening to the local mosque (The muezzin at my local mosque is tone deaf. He couldn't hit a note if it came out and hit him first.)
-When you think it's a good night if there are fewer than 10 men for every woman in a bar
-When Habibi isn't just the ex-president of Indonesia
-When you overtake a police car at 130KM/HR
-When a problem with your car AC or horn is more serious to you than a problem with the brakes
-When you can smoke a shisha in public without expecting to be arrested
-When you think $5 is expensive for the latest Playstation game
-You think Pepsi begins with a 'B'
-You think only men should hold hands in public
-You think shopping malls are covered souqs