Abu Dhabi Weather

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sand Sculpting Festival

Yesterday on the plaza near my place, there was some sort of sand sculpting festival. The sculptures themselves were pretty good, but I don't know why there were only four of them plus a few other piles of sand.

There was a tribute to the bid to have Bu Tinah, an island off Abu Dhabi, included as one of the New 7 Wonders.

Naturally, any sand sculpture festival needs a demonstration of Brazilian martial arts / dance.

I went there on late Saturday afternoon when I would have thought the whole event was wrapping up. It looked like the vendors who were selling stuff were just getting set up. Because people wisely don't go out in the day in the heat, this might have just been the second of two days of competition. Who knows? All I can say is that it was worth the admission price (i.e. free) so I can't complain. It seems like events like this are always popping up around here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Japan Fundraising

Today the Hilton in Abu Dhabi held a flea market charity event to help raise money for Japan. The bureaucracy that allows fund raising in the UAE has finally given the thumbs up for the Red Cross to hold events. As a result, there are numerous events being held over the next few weeks, and my wife will be going like crazy to help organize and participate in the fund raising process.

The Japanese international School will be holding a Garage Sale, Bake Sale, along with workshops for traditional Japanese arts like origami, Kanji art, and demonstrations of Japanese drama and kendo (kendo from 10:00 to 11:00). This is scheduled for Saturday, the 30th of April from 12:00 to 3:00 pm at the Japanese School near the corner of 2nd and 29th streets, near the French School and AISA.

Also, the Intercontinental is hosting a Ladies only coffee morning on Thursday, the 28th of April from 10:00am to 2:00pm. The cost is 50 dirhams and will include refreshments. There will be Japanese crafts for sale along with a silent auction for traditional Japanese items.

For those who don't have the time or inclination to attend these events, but would still like to help out, here is a great web page that lists all the organizations that are collecting money for Japan relief in Abu Dhabi.

For those that are disappointed in the recent lack of entries regarding fun family outings, ridiculous cars and excessive extravagance, please be patient. We've been busy trying to raise money for Japan. I'll do my best to get back to researching the best place to go ice skating in the desert as soon as I can.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holiday Leave

Recently at work there's been a little bit of a drama that fortunately, I'm not involved in. Part of the agreement that we enter into when we sign a contract with Abu Dhabi Men's College is that we get the two-week semester break and summers off. This is calculated by having employees accumulate days of holiday monthly throughout the school year. We don't actually have a choice as to when to take these days, but technically we accumulate them and then are told which days we need to apply for. Effectively, we just don't have to be here when the school is closed.

This system works fine for someone like me who started at the beginning of the school year. By the time the summer break comes I have enough days accumulated to take the summer off, or at least my balance of days is zero by the time classes resume. For someone who starts mid-year there is a problem with the number of days. All of the people that started January of this year are faced with the issue of having to go into holiday debt in order to cover the number of days for a full summer holiday. In the past it hasn't been an issue because by the time January comes around, these January hires are back to zero days of holiday leave. No problem, right?

This year the school has declared for various reasons that they no longer will allow employees to go into negative and their balance of vacation days must be zero by the start of the next school year in August. This means that those hired in January 2011 are out of luck. They can only go away for half of the summer. The other half they will presumably be teaching summer courses (for no extra pay) and creating resources for teachers to use.

Even people who have been here for ten years or more are having issues with this simply because their hire date was January rather than August. Keep in mind that this is almost half the faculty. The people who have been here a year or more are finding ways around the problem, but some are still waiting to confirm that their holidays as airfares rise. As for people who were hired in January of this year and were told they'd have two months off in the summer, better luck next time.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fog Alert

Mornings in the UAE can get pretty foggy with reduced visibility. This picture (taken from here) gives a good idea of just how foggy it can get. The Dubai police are looking into a state of the art fog alert system that relies on solar power to determine that the conditions are foggy and alerts drivers of low visibility so they can slow down and avoid big pileups like the 127 car accident a few weeks ago. In the article they mention that the police are looking for ways to "make the system easier and cheaper to install." I have a suggestion. Why don't people stop driving 85 miles an hour in limited visibility?

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I know a few non-Emirati women who are married to Emirati men and then are by default Emirati citizens. (My apologies if I have oversimplified this. I welcome any corrections in the comments.) However, I didn't know any native Emirati women married to non-Emirati men. I've asked about this a few times, but never really got a satisfactory answer. I was under the impression that it just didn't happen.

The National has written two articles about this, dispelling my preconceptions. As it turns out, Emirati women marrying non-Emiratis is on the rise. (This article gives details of the trend.) Unfortunately, for the women involved, they lose citizenship as do their future children. The thinking behind this is that "they are viewed as incapable of making decisions effectively, and in need of protection so as not to be taken advantage of by others.”

In a second article, an Emirati woman tells her story of marrying a Scottish-Egyptian man. She expresses her very real concerns about her desire to pass on her culture to her children despite them not being Emirati citizens. She goes on to talk about the lack of equality between Emirati men and women with regards to with international marriages.

This seems to be a law that is on the verge of change as most people mentioned in the article don't have any strong feelings in support of it. The bureaucracy regarding international marriages in the UAE make marriage in Japan seem free and easy.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

WOMAD 2011

I think I have figured out what it takes to keep me entertained as far as world music goes: drums. I went to the opening night of the three-day WOMAD (World Of Music, Arts & Dance) in Abu Dhabi. As with last year, it is a 15 minute walk from my apartment and has two large stages set on either end of a beach. I took my daughter to see group called The Dhol Foundation from the UK and India. There was lots of drumming so I thought it was pretty good even though they brought local schoolkids on stage. I took my daughter home and by the time I came back, I caught the end of a pretty good group whose name I don't remember.

After that I went to see a Samba band that a lot of people liked, but there weren't as many drums so I found boring. Next, I saw a woman from the UK named Paloma Faith who had a nice voice, a good enthusiasm onstage and a female bassist in fishnet stockings so that was all right.

Even though it was past my bedtime, I went to see a group from India called "The Manganiyar Seduction by Roysten Abel" that a lot of people had been talking about. They were all in a tiered structure with light bulbs around it. Have a look at the picture to get an idea. There was a lot of drumming, but they took a long time to get to it. The set was basically one long song. Each time a new musician joined in, they opened some new curtains and lit up some more lights. The singing was all right, but a little repetitive. A lot of people in the audience were cheering for one singer in particular, but that might have been for his fantastic handlebar mustache. The whole thing was a pretty good spectacle with the conductor going mental during the upbeat parts. I was tired so I left at a part with no drums without seeing what was waiting for me on the top row.

And that sums up my feelings about world music.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

127-car Pileup

A few people have indicated that I obsess with driving and cars here. It's hard to ignore the safety risks. It's even gotten to the point where visiting friends will make casual remarks of all the near accidents that I avoid while driving and I don't have any idea what they're talking about.

Yesterday on the main road between Abu Dhabi and Dubai (the green arrow indicates the approximate place) there was an accident involving 127 cars that was due to foggy conditions and drivers driving at excessive speeds. (Note, I previously mentioned that the accident was a 95 car pile up. At the time I wrote it, the article that I used said 95 cars. Thank you to Mutsumi for sending me a link to an updated article.) Another article in lists major accidents in the past several years. This article lists the major causalities of the accident.

This isn't the first time this has happened. A similar accident happened in the same area in March of 2008 which involved 60 cars, 3 deaths, and 350 injured (see here about halfway down). Both cases were due to excessive speeding in foggy conditions. The print version of the National (I can't find the article in the online version) blames yesterday's pileup on one driver who was traveling 140 km per hour (about 85 mph) with a visibility of 50 meters.

Thankfully, not as many people were hurt as the accident three years ago. However, this is sure to put a damper on the Abu Dhabi Transit Authority's zero road fatality policy for 2011.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Credit Card

About a month ago, I got a call from my bank offering me a credit card. As with practically every other credit card offer I've ever received, I naturally said, "yes." Today, almost a month after getting the call that the card was ready, I went to the bank to pick it up.

Because I dread doing anything official here, I was expecting the worst, but was pleasantly surprised. After the woman who was helping me couldn't find the card, I told her to forget about it because I wasn't interested in coming back. She went and talked to someone and as it turned out, the reason she couldn't find the card is because I had qualified for a platinum card with a 44,000 dirham limit.

As with anything in Abu Dhabi, a lot of things require a leap of faith. All I had to do was sign a check for 44,000 dirhams (about US$ 12,000) for the bank to hold on to in case I left the country suddenly without settling my debts. After getting over my initial trepidation with that, I asked a few more questions and found out that the first year is free and after that there is a mere 1000 dirham (about US$ 275) annual fee. Though, I could cancel it at any time. That was enough for me to say no thank-you.

Immediately, the woman helping me brought me into a large office with a very pleasant Emirati woman behind the desk. She offered me some water and coffee and explained to me the benefits of having a platinum card. She assured me that I could cancel at any time. Even the branch manager, a really friendly guy who had helped me earlier, came in a joked that he would be disappointed if I didn't take this great offer. Naturally I reconsidered, signed the big check, and started the process. What could possibly go wrong?