Abu Dhabi Weather

Monday, February 28, 2011


Creators of the new Superbus hope to aid the UAE in its struggle to be environmentally friendly and spend ridiculous amounts of money doing it. This new form of public transport will take commuters from Abu Dhabi to Dubai in 30 minutes, traveling at speeds of 250 kph (150 mph). This vehicle will travel on usual city streets to pick up passengers and once on the highway, will travel on specially constructed "Superbus only" roads. If the project is approved, this will be the Concorde of buses. The main challenges will be finding trustworthy drivers to drive the bus at these speeds and keeping guys in Ferraris from treating the special roads as their own private speedways.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The 99

As a teenager, I loved comic books and read them voraciously. To this day, I recognize their value in getting kids interested in reading and in teaching values. Over the past several years, a man from Kuwait has been producing a comic called "The 99." It has been made into an animated series for kids and is soon to debut it's first Emirati superhero: Noora.

Much like the heroes Batman and Superman, the heroes of The 99 don't promote religion. However, this comic incorporates Middle Eastern historical events and Islamic archetypes. Since all of the comics I read as a kid were produced in the U.S., they tended to reflect the storylines of the archetypes in the States. One such example of this can be found with the aforementioned characters of Batman and Superman being orphans who received a calling to do good.

The creator of the comics stated that his goal, "was not only to promote good values for children worldwide, but also to reduce extremism and promote tolerance." I think this is a tremendous goal and a wonderful way to open the minds of not only the children of the Middle East, and to show the world a more accurate depiction of Muslim ideals.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

F1 Exchange

Those F1 fans who had big plans to attend the Grand Prix in Bahrain understandably must be disappointed that the race has to be canceled. Because the race is on March 13th in a little over two weeks, it will likely be canceled entirely and the season will start in Melbourne.

However, Abu Dhabi has stepped up and offered to switch places with Bahrain, making the Yas Marina Race track the season's opener and the Bahrain race the second to last race.

If that happens, not only will Abu Dhabi have to accomodate the fans on short notice, it also goes on the presumption that everything will be cleared up in Bahrain by November.

In addition, the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon is the day before when the race would be held. Ordinarily it wouldn't be an issue, but the cycling part of the race goes on one of the main highways to Yas Island and part of the race goes on the actual track that they would need to do practice runs. It will be interesting to see how things play out and if I get a phenomenal excuse to not do the triathlon.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


For all of my family and friends or anyone generally curious about this region of the world, there is no unrest in Abu Dhabi. I generally don't like to write blog entries about the absence of things here, but due to the growing number of questions I've had from people, I felt that I should address this issue. If I had no access to newspapers or the internet, it is likely that I would not know there was anything happening. Despite the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, and Wisconsin.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Alcohol-Free Coke

The radio program "This American Life" has revealed that the secret ingredient of Coca Cola is alcohol. The Coca Cola company is denying this as are UAE officials. However, Coca Cola have refused to comment on the release of their new product, Bacon Cheeseburger Coke, due to arrive in stores throughout the Middle East and India next month.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cover Schedule

The cover schedule is a phenomenon at Abu Dhabi Men's College that doesn't exist for the math department. The number of math teachers is small enough that one teacher has the list and if someone is sick, the other teachers get calls and/or emails to teach the classes.

The English department has a different system. Even though this is my fourth semester teaching at ADMC, this is the first semester dealing with the system. Apparently what happens is we get an email at 5:02 pm after most people have left saying that the list is up and people need to find three class periods during the week that they can agree to teach if someone is sick and needs someone to teach at that time. Then at 7:02am the next day before most people are there, we get another email saying thanks for the fast response and that most of the slots are taken. At 7:50am, the teachers who are unaware of the system (like me) read the email and put their names down for whatever is left.

While this sounds like complaining, I got the times I probably would have taken even if I signed up at 5:03pm last night. Two interesting bits of information, though. First, I was told not to write my name in pencil because someone who wanted that time would probably erase my name and write their own. Second, as I was walking away after having written my name, I overheard a coworker who also had arrived late saying, "Oh good, someone wrote my name for me." That's right, it's not just the students who act in their own self interests.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Madinat Zayed Race

Today was the big day. After getting a good night's rest in a very comfortable bed, I woke to start my 9:00am "fun ride." From what my friends who did this last year said, this was not a race. Well, this year it was a race. I actually appreciated not knowing that fact until about 20 minutes before the race or otherwise I probably would have over prepared.

As it turned out, the local Sheikh took control of the ride from HCT and invited local high schools to participate. Because the Sheikh is involved, the police were very good about clearing the road on which the race was. I heard that last year the police were given medals for their help. Because of that, the police officers were fighting over who got to help with the race this year.

The idea is to gradually expand this race into a biking festival. In fact, Madinat Zayed has five festivals including the internationally known Camel Festival culminating in the Camel Beauty Contest. This is now the sixth festival.

I think it's great that Madinat Zayed is working to promote physical fitness by getting high school kids involved in something like this. I also think it's great that HCT promoted something like this so I could have the day off to go cycling.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Liwa Hotel

Sometimes by simply not putting up any resistance, you can find yourself doing activities that would usually require a lot of effort. Take for example, the bike ride that I am going on tomorrow in Madinat Zayed. One of my friends who I work with mentioned a ride organized through HCT for staff and students that he went on last year. He asked me if I would be interested and I gave him a non-committal "Sure." It started with a few forward emails and the next thing I knew, there was a hotel room reserved for me. Next, another coworker arranged for us to get a school van to drive down on Sunday.

With the transport and accommodation arranged already, I really had a hard time saying I couldn't go. All that was left was to find other teachers to cover my classes and to OK the trip with my supervisors.Some of my coworkers graciously agreed to cover my classes.
We drove down and arrived at 2:30 for check-in. The hotel itself looks pretty good, and has good amenities including a swimming pool, tennis court, and playground for the kids. Most importantly, it has free internet. I would say that this place was at its peak about ten years ago, but it is still a nice place to stay. Regardless, I can't complain when my school is paying the 1045 dirham (about US$ 300) bill for the stay including breakfast.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Masdar City

The UAE has been working on Masdar City, a carbon neutral area of Abu Dhabi, for the past several years. While the goal of having zero carbon emissions has gone by the wayside, they are still working to utilize clean technologies to cut the amount of energy used by the city. I've been hearing about this project since I got to Abu Dhabi a year and a half ago, but only recently realized that people can actually go there now.
The project is due to be fully completed by 2022 when it will reach its goal of 40,000 residents. Right now it is only a few blocks big and is in the pilot stage. There are a few restaurants and cafes along with a bank and an Etisalat shop. It is interesting to go to for a visit. We parked our car and got into one of the little automated taxis that took us to the entrance of the Masdar Institute.

Once in there, you can wander around the little town to look at the architecture and get a bite to eat at one of the restaurants or a coffee at the cafe. There weren't a lot of people there today, mostly people who were there to gawk at it like we were.

Without getting into things too much, I would recommend taking the trip out and wandering around for a little, if just to ride in the emission-free, driverless taxi. Go to view the city of the future.

Friday, February 11, 2011

More Gold Machines

There has been a lot of news regarding the gold vending machine in the Emirites Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. It is promoted as "the world's only gold vending machine." Clearly, the city of Dubai could not let that stand. While in Dubai, I counted not one but two gold vending machines which looked like they were being prepared for operation. Unlike Abu Dhabi which assumes that only the richest people who are likely to stay in a "seven-star hotel" would want to buy their gold from a vending machine, Dubai has taken a more populist view as to who would like to buy gold coins without the hassle of human interaction. They have put them at both the top and the bottom of the Burj Khalifa, the worlds' tallest building. That way you can buy your gold from the 125th floor. Or if you are on a budget and don't want to spend the 100 dirhams to go to the top, you can just buy your gold next to the ticket booth for the Burj Khalifa. The important thing is that now with these machines being in a shopping mall, they are easily accessible for people of any income to buy their gold. And that's what Dubai is all about.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New Cafeteria

This past semester at Abu Dhabi Men's College, there has been work to build an extension to the cafeteria. Over the semester break, the workers must have finished it. I think this is a fine example of the kind of fast workmanship to get a construction project completed. This addition really adds to the place, filling the cafeteria with natural lighting and extra space.

On another note, the Subway sandwich shop, a favorite of many of the teachers and one of the only healthy options in the cafeteria, has been taken out. Oh, well.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Al Ain Airshow

Yesterday we went to the Al Ain Air show. I had heard that it is pretty good and decided to go this year. I would love to fill this entry with beautiful pictures of daring air acrobatics, but taking pictures of speeding airplanes is pretty difficult and I'm not a very good photographer.

I was pretty happy with the whole experience. The airport was easy to find. The show was really good. There was a great kids area with a huge screen next to the grandstand so the kids could jump around on trampolines then come back to watch the planes both in the air and on the screen. I didn't get the chance to see the view from the grandstand, but I could see pretty well from where we were. At one point there was a pilot flying with a camera in the cockpit so we could watch the plane in the air and see the pilot on the big screen looking around to get his bearings.

Tickets were reasonably prices and as far as I understand, they are still good for today, but it's a bit far to drive again. If we lived in Al Ain, I'd probably go again today. I definitely recommend this for a day out when it's back n town next year.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


My wife likes to take public transport. From the time that we first moved to Abu Dhabi, she's been taking the city bus to find out where the various buses go. She would spend the one dirham to get on the bus and ride it to find out where it went. Within a month or two, she had the Abu Dhabi Bus system mapped out.

With me having time off from work, she was able to finally fulfill a dream: to take the city bus from Abu Dhabi to Dubai and back. Nevermind that we have two cars and that she could drive if she wanted. Even the friend that went along with her when answering her husband's question of why she didn't just drive said, "I think she just wants to take the bus."

The Abu Dhabi and Dubai guide book that my visiting friends left here says that the bus generally isn't for tourists as it isn't very convenient. Still, my wife was undeterred. After going to the Abu Dhabi bus terminal and buying the card necessary to get on the bus then paying to put the necessary fare on the card, she was off. She had been warned that the laborers who take the bus can sometimes have a ripe odor, but she said that it wasn't too bad. She got there with minimal difficulty and was able to get to the Dubai mall.

After shopping with her friend for a while they headed home. In order to get back to the Dubai bus terminal to get to Abu Dhabi, they had to change buses in Dubai at some point. In getting off the first bus, the card reader wasn't working, so they had to just get off the bus without scanning their cards. When the second bus arrived, my wife and her friend couldn't scan their cards to get on the bus. It's a cashless system so they couldn't just pay their fare. The upshot was that they couldn't get on the bus. They had to take a taxi to the Dubai bus terminal to purchase new cards as the terminal is the only place a person can buy them.

In the end, the bus ride was fairly cheap but the experience left my wife shaking her head. My wife summed up the experience by saying, "The guidebook says that tourists shouldn't use the bus but it should say can't use the bus. There's no way a tourist would be able to use the system." Ah, yes. Yet another argument for choosing Dubai for your next vacation.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


After an eleven-day visit, my friends have finally left. I enjoyed having them here and showing them around. Having visitors forced me to investigate what the UAE has to offer. With five days until I have to go back to work, I am looking forward to relaxing and taking a vacation from my vacation for the next few days.

The only thing on my mind is that I feel lucky that they were able to get out of the country without getting arrested. According to this article, some men were fined for taking photos of the Yas Marina motorsport racing circuit. Despite the fact that the circuit is a major tourist attraction, has been photographed numerous times, and that there are no signs prohibiting photography, the men were given 500 dirham and 1000 dirham fines.

The article also mentions that there were numerous other arrests for illegal photography including people who took pictures and accidentally got a picture of an embassy. One amateur photographer was taking pictures of airplanes taking off and landing and got a control tower in his picture. I understand prohibiting photography for security reasons, but the reactions to these cases seemed pretty severe under the circumstances.

Having just spent the past week and a half with people who have never been to the Middle East but are well traveled otherwise, I saw the country through their eyes. One friend of mine said that he had a hard time imagining how people who don't know someone living locally could navigate the country. With courts convicting people of photographing major tourist attractions and making bold statements about tourists drinking without an alcohol license, the UAE doesn't seem to be doing itself any favors in promoting itself as a viable international tourist destination. Stories like these only confirm negative stereotypes that alarmists have about the Middle East.