Abu Dhabi Weather

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Post Office Parking

Monday, I got the notice that I had received a package from the post office. (Sometimes the people at my college pick packages up for me and sometimes I get a receipt in my college mailbox saying that I need to pick them up. I haven't noticed any sort of reasoning as to whether or not they pick it up for me or have me get it myself. They just do or they don't.) Because in most cases the package is something that my wife's aunt has sent her and the kids, I usually call her and give her the routing number so she can pick it up. Yesterday she was busy with the kids being off school so I agreed to pick it up.

It's been several months since I had to pick up a package and since then, they've instituted the Maquaf pay parking system. It's two dirhams for an hour. On the one hand, it's only two dirhams (about 60 cents) to avoid a 400 dirham (about US $120) fine. On the other hand, I only need about 5 or 10 minutes and what are the chances that the meter maid will come by while I'm in there, right?

I decided that it was worth two dirham for a stress-free wait because you never know how long something like that will take. As far as I could tell, no one came by issuing fines, but at least I wasn't biting my nails the whole time I was in there.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


The big news in Dubai yesterday was that Alain Robert, nicknamed "Spiderman," climbed up the outside of the Burj Kalifa, the worlds tallest building (Click here for the article. Or you can view it here). The French man's nickname comes not from the fact that he loves Toby McGuire (though I'm sure he does), but from his vast resume of climbing buildings. Unlike most countries where he is arrested for exhibiting his talent, Alain was paid to climb the iconic Dubai structure. He uncharacteristically used a safety harness, probably because "the man" told him to and he was being paid to practice his art. To be fair, witnesses claim that he never appeared to use the harnesses. For all we know they were for appearance only and were made of black licorice.

The stunt was done to open the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) conference "Education Without Borders." If you look closely at the back of his shirt in the picture, you can see the HCT logo, more evidence of him selling out. He began the climb at 6:10 pm despite some serious wind and completed the feat at 12:30 am, giving him a time of 6 hours and 20 minutes. Big deal. I did it in about 60 seconds. Why should I be penalized because I has the sense to do it on the inside.

Regardless of his rejection of modern conveniences such as elevators, I have to admire his skill and athleticism. Now we'll have to wait until they build a taller building somewhere to see his next record-breaking attempt.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Al Ain Men's College

Yesterday I had to go to a conference at the Al Ain Men's College for my job. I had initially intended on taking the bus but on my way to meet the bus, decided that I didn't want the hassle associated with the bus. Sure I could sleep on the way, but who knew what time it would actually get there and when they would leave. At conferences, the bus has been known to leave for home much later than the initial schedule. Plus I wanted to get to the venue early to get a chance to meet other teachers at other schools.

Well, sure enough, the bus coming from Abu Dhabi arrived an hour late. They left on time, but the driver got to Al Ain, pulled over to the side of the road, then said, "OK, we're in Al Ain," without considering that they wanted to be in a particular place in Al Ain. Sure, I could have avoided an hour and a half drive, but I did get to enjoy all the coffee and doughnuts I wanted and got a chance to catch up with some friends from Fukuoka.

The conference itself was helpful and the Al Ain Men's College campus was beautiful as you can see from the photos in this blog entry. As I've mentioned before, my family and I really like Al Ain and I would love the opportunity to live there eventually.

The drive home made me a little sleepy and I wished that I had taken advantage of the free bus ride. I was glad to have gotten the chance to look around the campus. While the Al Ain Men's College campus doesn't have the technology in Abu Dhabi Men's College, it has a more relaxed air about it and like the city of Al Ain, seems to have the more relaxed air about it that my family and I are looking for.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ice Skating

Although my kids like ice skating and practically every shopping mall in Abu Dhabi has an ice skating rink, I haven't been skating here. Sure it's expensive, but even so there is a fairly inexpensive ice rink in Zayed sports city. The real problem is that with one of me and two kids needing help, my wife was hesitant to ever take the kids. That problem was solved when my friend, Steve, from Wisconsin decided that he wanted to go ice skating in the desert and purchased some coupons on Groupon for us all to go.

The rink that he bought the vouchers for was near our place so we went on Saturday. My wife has always used the excuse that she didn't know how to avoid ever having to skate. With Steve having brought the coupons, she had no excuse for trying.

Both my kids did fine and despite some trepidation, my wife was able to move around on the center of the ice by the end of the hour. My five-year-old daugher did feel the need to lead my wife back to the side and say that she should stay by the railing, though.

The staff were helpful in offering advice and it was a good time, but the skates were not very comfortable and the ice not very well maintained. For what it was worth, I was glad we went. Now that my wife and kids have the confidence to skate on their own, we might try going out to Zayed Sports City next time.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I've had a friend visiting from Wisconsin so I haven't been posting much recently. We went camping in a new spot towards Al Ain. Nothing spectacular happened. My daughter and her friend had some fun with the digital camera and here is a selection of photos. I only wish that I had access to digital cameras when I was a child hand have to wonder how my life would have turned out differently if I had. For better desert camping photos from a previous trip, click here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Earthquake Relief Bazaar

Today the students of the Abu Dhabi Men's College kicked off their charity bazaar for earthquake relief. The students worked hard to gather items for sale at the school to raise funds. In addition they had a bake sale and were selling traditional cooking to earn money. It was good to see that the students were working hard to earn money for a good cause. All the proceeds will go to earthquake victims...in Haiti.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ferrari World for Kids

Today I went to Ferrari World again, this time I went with my family. I went there in January with friends from out of town. (To read about that, click here.) Going to an amusement park with two small kids was definitely a different experience.

Even though they were too small to get onto the premium rides, there was enough there to keep them entertained.

Also, my wife and I were able to appreciate the ambiance while they drove in the mini city and over. While my daughter missed the height restriction on the mini Grand Prix track by a few inches, she was able to drive in the mini city.

There wasn't a huge variety of things for kids to do, but the things that they had could keep them entertained for hours.

Also, while the kids were busy driving around a mini city, I had a chance to wander around the scale replicas of famous Italian landmarks.

I had a chance to look around in the Ferrari museum to see some old and new cars while the kids were playing in the play area.

In addition, the atmosphere of the place was terrific. The price tag was steep with the cost for entry for the four of us being 780 dirhams (about US$210), but as a special treat for my son's birthday was manageable. Admittedly, it wasn't crowded at all and I'm sure wouldn't have been as nice if it was packed, but I can highly recommend taking kids there for the day as a treat.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japan Relief

As everyone knows by now, Japan has been hit by a terrible tragedy. Fortunately for my wife and I, our family and friends are located in the south western part of Japan. They are well away of the from the triple threat of earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear catastrophe. Unfortunately, many others are not and while the situation is mostly under control, they need help.

I've been hearing a lot of comments complimenting the Japanese people on how they have refrained from rioting or looting. My wife was confused by this. Ahhhh, the naivete of the Japanese who have no idea why a person would vandalize an unsupervised vending machine or loot in times of chaos. It's a sad statement of society when we have to compliment people for behaving in a civil manner.

With this tragedy, people in Abu Dhabi have been attempting to step up to raise funds for Japan. The Japanese ladies association and has been busy making traditional Japanese crafts such as origami Mother's Day cards and origami shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day. My wife spent loads of time making these things and arranging to raise money at a college in Abu Dhabi (not where I work), and selling them. The ladies raised loads of money in anticipation of the local Red Cross giving permission to raise money locally for the Japanese Red Cross for relief efforts.

Unfortunately, the local Red Cross has yet to give its decision and it doesn't look like they will anytime soon. It is illegal for any organization to raise funds locally for Japan without permission, so all the money raised for Japan relief efforts will now be given to the local university's Japanese Club. The Japanese Ladies Association also had a fundraiser planned in a local elementary school, but now it looks as if it will have to be canceled due to legal issues.

A similar thing happened in Dubai where people have been asking the local Red Cross for permission to raise money for Japan but are "busy" right now and will give an answer "later." According to sources, when the people who were trying to raise money kept calling to get an answer, they were told to, "quit calling or the answer will definitely be no."

As with anything in the UAE, I'm sure there is a very good reason why the local charities are taking the extra effort to carefully consider the pros and cons of allowing charitable organizations to collect money for the victims of this disaster. Individuals are welcome to make donations themselves. However, it is illegal for me to suggest that people make donations to the Japanese Red Cross through bank transfer. In addition, it is illegal for me to suggest that people who want to donate via credit card make a donation on the Hunger Site.

On a side note, I want people to know that it is illegal for readers to write suggestions in the comments section for places where those wishing to donate can help out, even if it is written anonymously.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Car Safety

Due to the number of children killed and injured in traffic accidents, in the UAE, the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai has been going into schools and universities to educate children on traffic safety. Here is a list of precautions that the RTA is suggesting:

  • Take ten steps away from the bus after getting down
  • Wait until the bus leaves, then cross the road safely
  • Go straight home
  • Do not allow children to put their heads and hands outside the car windows
  • Children below 10 years should sit in the back seat.
  • Always fasten seat belts even if it is for a short drive
  • Educate children about rash driving
  • Educate children how to cross the road from dedicated spots
  • Explain to them how dangerous it is to run on the roads

(source RTA)

While I applaud the effort, some of the ideas seem a bit elementary. The fourth one jumps out at me as a fairly obvious one, though I've seen some kids hanging out of sunroofs, so maybe it's not obvious to everyone. The seventh one raises questions as to why children are driving in the first place. I suppose that the RTA has to start somewhere and the point that they can make a difference is at an early age. The unfortunate thing is that these kids are going to learn negative behavior from their parents and undoing it through a campaign in schools is an uphill battle. Basically, these points can be summarized as, use common sense and don't drive like a jerk.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Korean Deal

Lee Myung-bak, the president of South Korea, was in Abu Dhabi recently to secure a deal to provide oil to Korea into the next century. According to this article, "South Korea is competing with China and India to secure energy and minerals reserves." The partnership between the UAE and South Korea is for the next 100 years.

This fits in with the land grab that South Korea is involved in. In 2008, South Korean company Daewoo entered a 99 year deal to lease half of Madagascar's arable land for South Korean food production. Unfortunately for Korea, the deal was later rescinded.

With the world population having just hit seven billion people, it seems that countries such as South Korea are seeing the writing on the wall and bracing for the shortages that are likely on their way in the next century. Let's hope for their sake that the Abu Dhabi oil deal doesn't go the way that the Madagascar deal did.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Abu Dhabi Triathlon (2011)

This year's Abu Dhabi International Triathlon was a raging success. The event was held on the same course as last year and sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. While last years' event drew some top talent, this year there were even more top athletes including Craig Alexander and Faris Al-Sultan, winners of the Ironman World Championships. The attraction was no doubt due to the $50,000 top prize for both men and women.

Like last years' race, the distances were long (3 klilmeter swim, 200 kilometer cycle, 20 kilometer run) and short (1.5 km swim, 100 km cycle, 10 km run). Unlike last year, there was an added "sprint" (750 meter swim, 50 km cycle, 5 km run). To me a 50 km cycle doesn't constitute a sprint, but there you go.

This year there was a lot more interaction with the top athletes. They buzzed by me a few times throughout the day. I made jokes about seeing how many elite athletes would swear at me for getting in their way. While I never got in anyone's way, the race was pretty tight and could easily have been affected by a slower athlete. The difference between 1st place and 4th place was 32 seconds. The difference in prize money was $40,000 with 1st place getting $50,000 and the 4th place athlete taking home $10,000. You'd have to be annoyed at yourself after that.

Also, I was a little disappointed that there were less giveaways than last year. I got some nice towels and a backpack last year, but not much this year. Apart from that, I felt it was a good event that is growing in popularity. Now, I'm exhausted and am going to bed.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Livestock Tagging

The UAE has begun tagging livestock to make it easier for farmers to track their livestock and obtain services. Too bad the officials didn't tell anyone they were going to do it or how it works. One man returned to his farm to find that all his goats and camels had been tagged without his knowledge or without an explanation.

It seems that this is a way for the UAE government to help the farmers produce home grown meat. Theoretically, the system sounds pretty good. It helps the UAE keep track of the number of livestock. Farmers are able to get free vaccinations and feed subsidies. It would help prevent the spread of animal borne diseases.

The only problem is that in typical UAE fashion, the agency in charge is slow to get information out and is giving answers that people don't understand. What is the procedure for selling the animal? What does the farmer do with the chip if the animal is slaughtered for meat? What happens if the animal just dies? Because the chip is under the skin, it needs to be removed by an official. I can imagine the wait to have someone come to take the chip out. With the efficiency here, you'd be lucky to have someone come out in a few days. Having a dead animal carcass rotting in the 100 degree summer heat for a few days would cause anyone to lose faith in the system.

What am I thinking? I'm sure everything's well planned out.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Water Shortage

It looks like the UAE can expect a water shortage in the next ten years. The article mentions that the countries in the Middle East, North Africa (MENA) region will have to work together to avoid conflicts over resources.

Well isn't that a surprise? It seems that the parks and green spaces in the middle of the desert are sapping resources. 60% of water desalination in the world happens in MENA countries It looks like the countries are going to have to create some sort of sustainable policy towards water in the next several years. Sure, the fountains at almost every intersection look nice, and make the place more livable, but at what cost?

Saturday, March 5, 2011


A man living in Khor Fakkan, UAE is seeking a name change. When his father named him a year after the Libyan revolution, the name, Muammar Gaddafi was a source of pride among the Arab population. Nowadays, not so much. The Sudanese man is named Muammar Al Gaddafi in honor of the Libyan ruler and is horrified to be associated with the actions of the crazy man in charge of Libya. He is undergoing the lengthy process of changing his name.

The article goes on to mention that when Muammar (not the nutty guy ordering the army to shoot protesters; the other one) was studying in Libya for a short time, teachers would never punish him for misbehaving. Now things have changed. It seems that the Libyan leader has ruined the name Muammar Gaddafi in the manner that Adlof Hitler ruined his.

On a side note, here is a wonderful quiz to test your knowledge of Muammar Gaddafi. There are ten quotes and you have to say if the speaker is Muammar Gaddafi (the one pictured above) or Charlie Sheen. I got 7 out of 10. See if you can beat my score. I you get all 10 on the first try congratulations on your crazy person knowledge.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Support for Oman

One thing that can be said for the recent protests in Oman, it seems to be bringing the leaders of the UAE and Oman together. Even though travel between the UAE and Oman is pretty free (to the point that most auto insurance policies in the UAE include Oman), there has always been a little bit of a rivalry between the two countries. However, according to a recent article, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs (basically the Vice-President of the UAE, the future President of the UAE, and the President's minister) all visited with the leader of Oman to say that they back Oman and will do what they can to keep things from getting out of hand. They also agreed to put previous differences aside, though I doubt that Oman plans to give Burami back.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


With the weather starting to get hot, the camping season is gradually coming to a close. Some friends invited us to go camping this weekend at a spot we have been with them before. There is a great spot just over the UAE border in Burami, Oman with some wonderful scenery and some great hiking. I was excited at the prospect of going camping with some friends in a favorite spot of ours until I read this article saying that there have been protests throughout Oman, including Burami. In addition, my wife got a message from the Japanese embassy telling people to stay away from Oman.

That's right, the stupid government protests in Oman had to go and ruin our fun. I suppose it's not so much the protesters to blame, but the tanks being used to disperse them. Unlike most of the other protests in different Middle Eastern countries, the goal is not to get rid of a corrupt government. Rather, in Oman, the people are trying to call for jobs and reform.

I have to stress that through this all, there is no indication in Abu Dhabi that any large scale protests are happening in the region. It seems that the UAE has done a good job of managing its resources and spreading it's wealth fairly evenly. I'll just have to keep my outings within the UAE borders for now.