Abu Dhabi Weather

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Speed Limit

In recent news, Abu Dhabi has decided to raise the speed limits in order "to make roads safer." (To read a more detailed article about it, click here.) While this may seem to be a contradiction in terms, I actually understand the logic. To follow, you have to have a little background information on the driving situation in Abu Dhabi.

To begin, almost every road in Abu Dhabi has a speed limit of 60 kilometers per hour (37.5 miles per hour). Some are pretty wide and it is silly to expect people to drive that slowly on main thoroughfares. Don't worry. No one actually drives that speed, because it has become common knowledge that the speed cameras that monitor speeding are set to snap a picture of your license plate and give you a fine at 20 kph over the speed limit. That means that people all drive 80 kph (50 mph). I go as far as to set the cruise control on my car at 79 kph just to be safe.

All would be fine if that was everything to it. You see, there are also people who just don't care if they get tickets. They know that their cousin or childhood friend or whoever works in the police department will take care of their ticket for them. The rest of us have to wait until we go in to register our cars each year to find out how many tickets we have and pay them before registering our vehicles. The cost is 800 dirhams ($220) per ticket but in most cases, they halve the fines.

Furthermore, the locations of the cameras are also common knowledge. If there are no cameras around, some people tend to go as fast as traffic will allow. They zig-zag through the lanes, riding on the bumpers of cars who can't go any faster due to the other cars directly in front of them.

Due to the differential between people who don't want fines and the others who are in a special hurry, the government will raise the speed limit. For example, this photo taken on the road I drive down on my way to and from work each day (30th Street, Al Khaleej Al Arabi St, or Old Airport Road; all the same road, but three of the names this thoroughfare goes by ) shows the new about-to-be-revealed signs covered in blue plastic. You can't really see from the photo, but the new speed limit will be 80 kph. With the 20 kph added to allow for speed cameras, that means the new speed limit will in essence be 100 kph (62.5 kph). Let's see if this a) gets me to work any faster or b) keeps me safer.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

SAD Party

We got in contact with some friends who we haven't talked to since before the summer vacation and they invited us to come along to an event for the Strays of Abu Dhabi (SAD). Even though "SAD Dog Day" was meant for dog owners or for people who are looking to adopt a dog, their son just loves dogs and they thought that going to this would be a good opportunity for him to see people with dogs that he could pet. We went to catch up with our friends and thought our kids would like to see the doggies, too.

SAD is an organization that cares for and finds home for stray dogs in Abu Dhabi. The numbers of dogs that they help each year is growing. In order to help these dogs, they are looking for donations to pay for the expenses and for volunteers to help walk the dogs or to provide foster homes for dogs until they can be placed in permanent homes. If you would like information on how to volunteer, click here or to donate money, click here. In addition you can view profiles of the dogs that are available for adoption here.

It pretty much delivered what we were looking for. The kids got to see the dogs and enjoyed the fun activities like the bouncy castle and face painting. In addition, the money we paid for admission, food, and fun went to support SAD. Of course, we had to explain to our crying daughter why she couldn't have a dog. In that sense it truly was a sad party.

Friday, October 29, 2010


Last year a friend of mine planned trick or treating and a Halloween party in the building. He left Abu Dhabi earlier this year and around mid-October, I realized that the Halloween festivities weren't going to plan themselves. I was able to contact him, get a hold of his old email list, and arrange the trick or treating and Halloween party for tonight.

Unfortunately with the recent death of the Sheikh of Ras Al Khaima, we decided to postpone the trick or treating and party until next week. While some may think it is being over-cautious, it would only take one person to get upset and cause problems. While it causes some inconveniences with re-organizing it, rescheduling Halloween out of respect for the late Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi is the right thing to do.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mourning Again

Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the ruler of Ras al Khaima died this morning. He was ninety years old and one of the original rulers of the Emirates when the UAE was first formed. Although I had never heard much about him until today, by all accounts, he was a forward-thinking man who was loved by his people. To read a nice tribute about him, click here.

There will also be varying lengths of mourning, depending on the Emirate. (For the list, see here.) In Ras Al Khaima (RAK as it's gernerally known) where he was the ruler for the past 61 years, will fly flags at half mast for the next 40 days. In addition, government offices will be closed for the next week. It's unclear if the RAK Men's College and RAK Women's College are included in that considering that they are government agencies.

In addition, a number of events including tonight's grand opening of Ferrari World have been postponed until November 4th as a sign of respect. While I think that it is a show of a high level of respect that the highly anticipated opening of a world class amusement park is postponed, I would probably be a bit annoyed were I here in Abu Dhabi specifically for the opening.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ferrari World Opening

After three years in the making, Ferrari World will be opening this coming week (Click here to read more about it in this article). I know that I've had a few posts about this, but I figure that this is big enough news to warrant a few entries.

Originally, the owners were hoping to open the park before last year's Grand Prix, but realized they were going to fall short of that. Instead, the opening was set for this year and it looks like everything is on schedule.

Some friends of ours went to an invite-only soft opening on Thursday night and had good things to say about the place. Apart from the anticipated long lines, the rides look like they are well thought out and were pretty exciting. One guy who said that roller coasters don't usually scare him said one of the simulation rides really got his heart pumping. The Formula Rossa, the world's fastest roller coaster was said to feel really short and not all that spectacular.

My main point of concern was: is it worth it to bring two young children and the answer was, "no." The cost is 225 dirhams ($61) for people above 150 cm (5 feet) and 165 dirhams ($35) for people below. That's a bit pricey seeing as how not only won't they be able to get on most of the rides, but someone will have to stay back with them.

Another point of concern is my weekly bicycle ride on Fridays. We usually ride around on Yas Island and take a few laps of Ferrari World. It's nice not having to worry about a lot of traffic. With the opening of the park, that might mean more cars. Hopefully, my ride will be early enough that I won't have to deal with that.

To add to the excitement in Wednesday's grand opening, Ferarri World promoters are planning a gala celebration in which they give out the costumes traditionally worn by the fans of Ferrari who follow the races around the world. That's right folks, line up at 6p.m. for the grand opening and you, too can get the red and yellow t-shirts, wigs and flags worn by true fans.

While I won't be fighting the crowds at the grand opening, I'm looking forward to going to the park in the next few months. I have friends from Milwaukee coming to visit in January and know that they will want to ride on the World's fastest roller coaster. It's funny how it usually takes someone coming to visit me to get me to do sightseeing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Car Registration Revisited

Today was the expiration date of the registration our SUV, the vehicle mainly driven by my wife. Having just gone through the process of renewal on my Jeep, I felt like I was an old hand at the process. The mistake that I made was to assume that things would remain the same from last August when I was last there.

First of all, I was planning on going after work but on the advice of a co-worker, went around lunchtime. While I don't know what the night-time crowd is like, it was crazy at daytime. All five lanes were packed. I suppose that I have to remember that the last time I went was Ramadan so people were sleeping in the daytime then.

Also, the procedure defied logic. As I pulled up, there were five long lines of cars waiting to get the inspection done. People were just pulling into the line and going inside to pay for the inspection. This time, thinking I knew the routine, I did the same, but the man at the counter wouldn't let me pay for the inspection. Instead, he insisted that I take a number. Last August when I took the number, they told me I didn't need one. This time they wouldn't let pay the 120 dirhams until I took one and waited for about 20 minutes. There was no line to pay for the inspection, only a line of cars to get one. In the meantime, my car was in a line of cars.

It seemed that I wasn't the only person in this predicament. A few people kept going into the building to check on the progress of their number, coming out to move their car a few feet, then going back in to check on the number. People who weren't in their car when the line of car moved, had cars pulling in front of them. The whole scene was chaos with cars moving from line to line to get a better position as spaces opened up.

Presumably, the system is set up for people to park their car, go inside to get a number, wait 20 minutes until that number is called, then go outside to get their car in line for the inspection and wait for another 30 minutes. The problem is that once you realize that is how the system is set up, your car is already in line outside and you can't get out of the line because there are cars behind blocking the exit.

After the inspection, I had to take the receipt inside to get a paper saying the vehicle had passed. Then, I had to take another number to wait for another 20 minutes to show my proof of insurance, the vehicle inspection paper, and 100 additional dirham. That was all it took.

I would recommend to anyone getting a car inspection to renew the car registration in Abu Dhabi to go with someone. One person gets the car in line and stays in the car while the other brings the car registration card and 120 dirham into the building, takes a number, waits inside and brings the receipt out to the driver who should be just about ready to get the inspection. At least that is what should work this week. Who knows about what will work next week.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Recently in the news in Abu Dhabi is a story about how Abu Dhabi University dismissed 126 students for poor academic achievement. In this article, the school then apologized to the parents of the students. I got pretty annoyed when I saw the headline, but after reading further, I realized that the administration wasn't apologizing for the actual dismissal, but for dragging out the time it took to dismiss the students.

The students had been given three warnings about their poor academic performance then were allowed to continue for an extra five semesters after they should have been dismissed. In effect, the parents had to pay for an additional five semesters of tuition that they wouldn't have. (Abu Dhabi University is a private institution so not government sponsored like where I work, HCT).

While I agree with the sentiment that parents should be annoyed about two and a half years of tuition, I don't think that it was a scheme to get as much money out of the parents as the school could. Instead, I feel that it's the bad habit that schools have gotten into of saying, "OK, this is the last time. All right then, one more chance, but this is the real last time..." What's more, it's usually the parents that push for, "one more chance."

I understand that there are two sides to the story. I feel Abu Dhabi University has set a great standard for cutting loose these students who have been given a number of chances . I just hope that they don't back down on this.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fun City

I recently took the kids to an indoor amusement center in Marina Mall called Fun City. We were planning on going there for my daughter's birthday but because it was Ramadan, it wasn't open during the day.

This past weekend, we gave it another go. When we got there in the early afternoon on a Friday, it wasn't too bad. However, by the time we left it was starting to get pretty crowded. I think we got good value for our money. The rides were generally 10 dirhams each and because we were there when it wasn't crowded, we got to ride for a bit longer.

They had mini amusement rides including a pirate ship pendulum, merry-go-round, roller-coaster and bumper cars. The roller coaster wasn't working but I'd like to give the kids a chance to ride it sometime. In addition, they had little climbing play-gym areas for 20 or 25 dirhams an hour that the kids enjoyed.

The unfortunate thing was that in one of the play gyms, there were cannons that shoot foam balls. It looked really cool until you realize that about 90% of the equipment in that area didn't work. The kids had a good time so I didn't complain but it's a shame that they cant do some basic maintenance to keep things running. I felt that letting the kids run around in the climbing places was the best value for the money with a a few rides thrown in. We won't be going there every weekend, but it was pretty good for a treat.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Abu Dhabi Film Festival

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival just started this weekend. I'm not sure how many years it's been going on but it seems to be gaining notoriety. This year there are names on the Hollywood A-list (or at least a B+), including Uma Thurman, Julianne Moore, Adrian Brody, and Clive Owen. Also there are a lot of popular movie stars from the Middle East and Southeast Asia including, Freida Pinto, the female lead of "Slumdog Millionaire."

Last night, my wife and I went to the Emirates Palace to see a movie for the. We saw the movie "Never Let Me Go" which was based on a terrific book by Kazuo Ishiguro. As I've said before, it's funny how one of the highest praises for a movie based on a book is "It was just like the book," but there you go, it was just like the book and I would recommend it highly.

The experience was heightened by seeing it at the Emirates Palace Hotel, reportedly the second most expensive hotel in the world. My wife and I got to dress up all fancy-like and pretend that we were important and stuff. When given the choice of driving there in the new-ish SUV or the beat-up Jeep, we naturally chose the beat-up Jeep. Pulling in to the hotel, the staff waved us into the underground parking as opposed to the valet parking without hesitation.

We enjoyed the surroundings, unfortunately, the film experience as a whole would hae been much improved if people understood what the announcement, "Please turn off your mobile phones," meant. Sure, I can see forgetting, but by the fifth time that a phone went off during the movie, you'd think that people would do a double-check to make sure that their phone was really off. Well, I suppose that it is the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and what better way to experience life in Abu Dhabi than people not knowing to turn off their phones when they should.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Children's Beach

Yesterday, our swimming pool was being cleaned so I took the kids to the beach. The Children's Beach is right in front of our apartment with about a couple hundred meter walk each way to get to the free beach. Usually, being the cheapos that my wife and I are, we instead opt to walk the extra distance. I just wasn't in the mood for that on Saturday so we just went to the first gate we saw. I was happy to pay the 15 dirhams ($5) for the two kids and me. It's 10 dirhams for adults and 5 dirhams for kids 5 and over. The woman who charged us didn't seem to care when my daughter very clearly said that she was 5 years old.

Once we were in we spread our beach blanket in the sand next to the water. Unlike last year, there were very clearly marked swimming areas and boating areas. There also seemed to be a lot more amenities than the last time that we were there. When I use the word "amenities," I don't mean to suggest that they were free. Everything from the lounge chairs on the sand to the lounge chairs floating on the water had a price.

I did find it amusing that one guy, either not knowing or not caring that the floating lounge chairs weren't free, lay down on one of them. The lifeguards stood there blowing the whistles to get his attention, but of course he had his eyes closed and wouldn't have known that they were whistling at him to move along. Because none of the lifeguards wanted to actually go into the water and swim out to tell him, nothing ended up happening about it.

The kids and I had a fun time splashing around in the water and digging in the sand. The next time I go, though, I think I'll bring a newspaper and splurge on a 25 dirham lounge chair with sun umbrella.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Swimming Festival

Today was the first annual Abu Dhabi Swimming Festival held on the corniche near 34th street, about a five-minute walk away from my apartment. Because I've only been swimming once since my race in September, I didn't really feel like signing up for it. As it turned out, there was more to it than I'd originally thought.

There was a mile race then relay races and even 200 meter races for the kids. The finale was a 700 meter race from the huge flagpole over by the Cultural Village across the bay, over to the beach on the other side. Just doing that without having to worry about being run over by a jet-ski would've been worth it. I regret not signing up but now I know for next year.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Austrailian Rules Football

A friend of mine who lives next door helps run an Australian Rules Football club for kids. He's one of a few assistant coaches, but when he started helping out, he asked if we wanted to bring our kids along. Since it starts before I get back from cycling on Fridays, I left it up to my wife who would be the one taking them. She followed my friend to a park off of 15th street that I've heard referred to as "near the helicopter landing pad." They got there at about 8:00 because our friend is one of the people running it, but it starts at 8:30. It will start around 10:00 once the weather cools off.

As it turned out, the kids had a great time. Here is a picture of our daughter attempting to kick a ball. I guess it is a little strange that we'd take our kids to play a sport that I don't really have any sort of connection to. In the end it comes down to convenience. It's on Friday morning when we're free and we know one of the people helping with it. It's just good to get the kids out and having a bit of exercise in the fresh air.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


It's important to remember that in the U.A.E, adultery is a crime. Even if you aren't married, having sex with another person is still considered adultery. While it is not nearly as severe as in countries like Saudi Arabia or Iran, the consequences can be life changing. Two items in the news today are good examples of this.

In the first article (click here to read the whole thing), a Filipino woman in her 20's fainted. Once she was taken to the doctor, she was found to be pregnant. When it came to light that she was unmarried, she was forced to reveal who her boyfriend was. While the lady in question wasn't married, her Filipino boyfriend turned out to be. His wife and kids are still in the Philippines. As far as I can tell, both the woman and her boyfriend are being held. As is often the case, Asians are considered a lower class than Emiratis or even Europeans or North Americans so their punishment in crimes is often more severe.

That's why this next case seems to be that much more surprising. A British woman is facing a prison term and the loss of custody of her children after being convicted of adultery (click here to read the article). She and her Egyptian husband had recently had marital troubles. The truly shocking part of the story is that she has been convicted without proof and maintains that nothing ever happened. Her ex-husband and police burst in on her while she was having tea with an acquaintance. By all appearances, this is a case of her husband's attempt to frame her so he can get custody of the kids.

While both stories are out of Dubai, I think they are appropriate to how things are in Abu Dhabi. I would also have to say that they are an exception more than the norm. However, reading about things like this does wake a person up to how the country is run.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sewer cover

I don't know what it takes to destroy a sewer covering like this, but here is a picture of one smashed in pieces in the student parking lot at my college. This is possibly due to the extreme heat or a large truck or someone doing donuts in the parking lot but likely all three. It's been like this for about a week. If anyone has any idea what would cause something like this, please feel free to comment with suggestions.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Formula Rossa

Ferrari World is all set to open on October 28th, just in time for the Formula One race in Abu Dhabi. For people who have never hear of it, Ferrari World is the world's first Ferrari themed amusement park and will be located in Abu Dhabi on Yas Island. The plan is to have Yas Island be an entertainment center. Currently, it only has a Formula One track, concert venue, a whole bunch of hotels, and Ferrari world on it.
Every Friday morning I go cycling out past Ferrari World and get a close-up view of the Formula Rossa, the world's fastest roller coaster. It's top speed is 150 miles per hour (It is so fast that people are required to wear goggles to ride it. Not only does it hold the record for being the world's fastest, at 2 kilometers long, it is also the fifth longest. This past Friday, I took some photos of it using the crappy camera on my phone while slowly cycling past. I've never claimed that my photography was anything special and here are the photos to prove it. If you want better photos, click here, but I warn you that some of them are artist's renditions. At least mine are real.

Friday, October 8, 2010


In applying for graduate school, it only recently occurred to me that I need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). This is definitely something that I should have thought of in advance. It is a test that required by most American graduate programs and is produced by the American standardized test company, ETS. For ETS tests abroad, there are typically only a couple of testing centers per country giving tests other than the TOIEC and TOEFL. Luckily for me, there is a sitting of the test coming up in about two weeks in the middle of the work week. The testing center is in a building attached to the college I teach at. It's about a five-minute walk from my desk.

This is the second time that this has happened to me. When I lived in Japan, there were only two testing centers that gave the PRAXIS test for teaching licenses and I taught at one of them. Now all I have to do is find someone to teach my classes while I'm in a room a couple of hundred meters away taking a test.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

License Plate

Those who are only vaguely familiar with Abu Dhabi, may think that the only valuable export is oil. Those people are wrong. Abu Dhabi also has license plates. A few years ago, one collector bought the license plate numbered 1 for $10 million. Recently, someone bought a number 9 for 10 million dirham ($2.7 million).

As this article goes on to explain, people aren't buying the plates to put on their cars. They're buying them to put on other people's cars. "Good" license plates are bought as an investment to be sold at a later date for a profit. There are certain numbers that fetch a higher price like repeating numbers or palindromes. Generally the lower the number the better, but "lucky" numbers tend to be worth more. A week or two ago, I saw a plate with 22222 on it. At the time, I thought it was a neat coincidence. I now chuckle when looking back at my naivety at that more innocent time.

Some rental car shops buy them to put on the cars that they rent out. The cars with better numbers can be rented for higher prices. Emiratis expect to be given the lower numbers when renting a car. It seems that it's a sign of prestige. I suppose when most citizens can afford almost any car, there isn't much left to distinguish yourself. It just goes to show that anything can be collectible.

Monday, October 4, 2010

University Prep

In the news yesterday, there was an article about how 90% of U.A.E. high school graduates are unprepared for University. The recently hired Provost of the Higher Colleges of Technology, the schools I work for, was quoted extensively in the article. There are a number of statistics given showing the number of students who need to complete college preparatory courses before they are suitable for studying at the university level. These are generally the students that I teach.

Unfortunately, while the article is full of examples of students that need these "foundations" courses in Math and English, along with descriptions of the students' situations, not much is written about the causes of the problem. The only mention of this talks about how students go from wrote-learning in high school to an environment where they have to analyze data and think critically (sound familiar to anyone in Japan?). Having taught rooms full of students who couldn't sit still for more than 10 minutes at a time last year, I don't know if I would attribute this situation to that entirely, but it is one reason among many.

One thing that the online article misses which was in the print version, are opinions from four Emirati students. Two of the students felt that the foundation programs were a waste of their time a third thought that he knew the Math, but since he studied it in Arabic in High School, the program taught the the Math in English, which he needed for University. The fourth felt that it prepared him for the change in teacher dynamic required for university.

Personally, I find that the students I teach this year are much more able to sit and study than the students I had last year. At first, I thought it was because I was teaching a higher level of student but after talking with other teachers who are teaching the lowest students, they all agree that that students this year are much more respectful that last year.

Overall, I thought the article was well worth a read, especially for people who are considering coming to the U.A.E. (Click here to read the article.) Also, I give the people who released the data, the credit for realizing that there needs to be a change.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Handicapped Spot

In one of my classes, there is a handicapped student who walks with a special cane. Because of this, the school created a special spot for him outside his classroom. They had to cut some hole into the brick, cement some posts around the spot with chains and a lock to keep others from parking there.

After the school went through this effort, he got transferred to my class, a few hundred meters away. Since then, the classrooms have been exchanged so his spot is right next to his classroom again.

I don't want to give the impression that I'm complaining about the student, because I'm not. In addition, I think that it's great that the school would go to these lengths to make his life easier. I just think that it's a sad state of affairs that the school would have to do anything more than paint a sign on the spot to reserve it for a handicapped student.

When I told my wife about this lack of courtesy, she told me about the time a few days ago when she saw a car double-parked in front of a handicapped spot at a supermarket. The space was empty, but the car was blocking it so when a person with handicapped tags tried parking there, all they could do was circle around the parking lot waiting for the car to be moved. The thing that really gets me about that story is that the person didn't even have the guts to actually park in the spot and risk a fine. Instead, they blocked the spot for their own selfish convenience, completely missing the point.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Since I lived in Japan for 12 years, any kind of connection between Japan and the U.A.E. catches my attention. Even though this event is out of Dubai and not Abu Dhabi, it's still interesting to see this particular news item. On November 29th there is a World Game Championship for video gamers and naturally there will be a cosplay contest. For those of you out of the loop when it comes to all things geek, cosplay is where people dress up and act like their their favorite Japanese animation characters. This is the third year that the cosplay competition is being held in Dubai and the numbers are growing. This year, anime enthusiasts will compete for a 3000 dirham prize (about US$820). It's good to know that even though I left Japan, I can find its influence locally.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Yesterday and today was a charity event to benefit diabetes research called Beat Beethoven. The idea is that entrants have to finish the run or walk before the music stops 32 minutes later. The event raised money through the entrance fees and donations. Last night was the 3 kilometer family walk. This morning was the 6 kilometer "elite" run and after that the 1.5 k children's walk. The draw of this for me was that the start and finish were about a 5 minute jog from my apartment. I was proud to say that I "Beat Beethoven" with a time of about 27 minutes in 26th place. Directly in front of me was a 15 year old high school student whose 17 year old brother was a few minutes ahead of me.

It's nice that the city is organizing these charity events. In addition, even though the run was a bit hot, it's saying a lot for how cool the weather is becoming that they could even hold a 6k run at 8:30 in the morning.