Abu Dhabi Weather

Sunday, July 31, 2011


I'm not a big smoker, but going down to the cafe in front of my apartment for a shisha is great. For those of you deprived folks who don't know what shisha is, let me explain. Shisha is a moist, flavored tobacco that is smoked from a shisha pipe or "bong" and is quite relaxing until you try to fall asleep. While you are smoking it and chatting with your friends, time goes very quickly which explains why I see people still sitting at the cafes at 5:30 on a Friday morning.

I don't smoke shisha very often, but when I do, I drink Turkish coffee which might explain the difficulty sleeping. Plenty of women can be seen puffing along on on a shisha pipe. Even friends who don't normally smoke have smoked while here and became instantly addicted. If you get the chance, try it, you'll like it. Don't be afraid. (If you do want to try it, here is a link to some pipes. Unless you're chicken.)

Friday, July 29, 2011


With the Holy Month of Ramadan starting in a few days, this seemed to be especially appropriate. Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and is an important part of the faith. Lest I display my ignorance by getting any further into the religious aspects, I'd like to talk about how Ramadan affects life in Abu Dhabi and what that means to me. (For a very interesting perspective on Ramadan, please read this Saudi Arabian woman's post.)

Ramadan is the 9th month of the Muslim calendar with is a lunar calendar. This means that the year is slightly longer than a standard year and the months shift about 10 days earlier each solar year. During this month, people aren't allowed to eat or drink from dusk to dawn. This has become an increasingly difficult challenge in recent years with the month of Ramadan gradually shifting to the beginning of summer when the hours of sunlight are the longest.

While, non-Muslims aren't required to fast, it is still illegal to eat or drink anything publicly. Don't even chew gum or smoke while driving because the chances are you'll be pulled over and fined. This makes things like exercise in 100 degree heat nearly impossible. Does this mean that I will be arrested for taking a drink while running on a treadmill in a public gym? No, but as a courtesy, you should ask those around if they mind you drinking. The chances are anyone exercising will understand.

It does mean that no restaurants are open during the day so plan ahead when you're going to be out. When out with small children who are not required to fast, bring your own food and drink. They can eat and drink, but it's best to be subtle about it.

Also, shops will have Ramadan hours specific to each shop, so don't count on being able to get much done. Mostly places will have hours in the evening after everyone has had their meal, but even that is kind of random.

Finally, while people try to be a bit more courteous during this month, most people are pretty cranky due to being thirsty, hungry, caffeine and nicotine deprived and probably tired from being up all night. Try to keep that in mind when dealing with anyone. Ramadan Kareem!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


To be honest, quality in Abu Dhabi is a mixed bag. There are five star (or even "seven star" hotels) where you'll be treated like a king. There are restaurants with fine cuisine from around the world. However, if you want your internet hooked up in a timely manner or that leak in your ceiling repaired, you might have to wait or have someone come back a few times to do a proper job.

You never know what to expect. Things could be done with care and diligence or they could be done in a slipshod manner that gives the impression of negligence. A good example of this was when we stayed at the Meydan Hotel in Dubai. The interior of the hotel was amazing. Beautiful design and spacious layout. Yet, we had to deal with something stupid like loose bathroom fixtures on the verge of falling off.

In Abu Dhabi on the Corniche, there are beautiful brick walkways with the occasional deep pit that will be there for weeks at a time. The problem has to do with maintenance. When something is initially built in Abu Dhabi, appearance is everything, yet no thought is given to the practicality of maintaining the elaborate pattern of bricks on the sidewalk or the super spongy surface at the playground that needs to be replaced annually.

Another issue is that the level of quality expected differs between the customer and the person doing the repairs. Many people in Abu Dhabi expect things to be repaired to developed world standards while the people doing the repairs have never lived in the developed world and have no idea what those standards are. If the water turns on when you turn the faucet, so what if the fixture is a little loose? In the UAE, laborers are paid developing world wages to do work at a developed world standard. Until that changes, quality will be variable.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Many people will agree that planning is not a strong thing here. Emiratis I have talked to admit that this is a cultural weakness. However, even I have to admit that there is a sense of organization to the long-term planning in Abu Dhabi. The Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 is the prime example of this. There are communities that are being built up now and others with a target to start construction after 2015.

There are plans to build replicas for both the Guggenheim museum and the Louvre. Reem island is being set up as a "city within a city" and is going to be the new business district.

Infrastructure is another aspect of planning gone well. The city was working on the roads of Yas Island and Sadiyat Island years before there was anything there. There are five lane highways that go out to what is now the Formula One track and Ferrari World but went out to nowhere. They still don't need five lanes, but at least the planners recognize that the need will be there eventually.

Of course, not all infrastructure projects are implemented smoothly. Around the time I arrived, the city had just begun the Salaam Street tunnel project without any warning. One day the road was open and the next, it was closed, causing difficulties for many businesses which had no time to make arrangements for customers to access the premises. Hopefully, the organizers of the projects will consider the people the projects affect in upcoming planning.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


With all the fast food available combined with a general aversion to exercise, it turns out that there is a bit of an obesity problem in the UAE. While the statistics are nothing shocking, obesity is a problem usually associated with the US and it is easy to forget that the potential is pretty good for the same issues.

The difference here is that many Emiratis aren't even aware that there is a problem. In a survey done by a health organization, despite over 2/3 of the people questioned being overweight, 3/4 of the people thought that they were normal weight. In addition, 99% of the people questioned thought heart disease wouldn't affect them even though it is the number one killer in the UAE.

With the recent wealth in the UAE, Emiratis have everything done for them. In addition, there are few sports programs in local schools and little health education. Colleges are beginning to require some health classes, but by the time students reach this point, it's a bit too late. This article talks about some of the ways in which Emiratis are being made aware of the problem and programs that are being implemented to help people live a healthier lifestyle.

While getting people as a whole to move towards being healthy may not work, I have seen positive changes with some overweight students who are in the school's gym a few times a week. Even though it isn't that common, it is nice to know that people who want to change are being given the tools.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

National Identity Card

As I mentioned previously, a mobile phone number is practically a national i.d. number in Abu Dhabi in that it is needed as a reference for any service here. The National i.d. card is actually an i.d. and is necessary for services such as registering your car or checking into a hotel without a passport.

Last year, the UAE government-created agency, the Emirates Identity Authority decided that every person in the UAE would need a national identity card by January of 2011. Anyone without it would be denied vital services, the most vital being car registration. The card itself is a useful form of i.d. and had a chip that can be scanned for ease of use. The process of getting one, however, is not so easy and has cause a few big issues.

Luckily, I could see that there was big trouble ahead and got to work on it in May 2010. Even so, I had annoying problems. You can read about my experiences here and here. Eventually, they must have realized that having two centers in a city of over a million and taking 30 minutes per person wasn't going to get the job done so they allowed the process to be completed at typing centers around the city.

The form needs to be filled out online and the large population of poor immigrant workers and laborers don't exactly have access to computers. The influx of people trying to get their card before the deadline caused a backlog of work at the centers. This caused issues with passports and other sensitive documents needing to be stored on premises.

As of now, I don't know what the process involves. I'll have to find out. I recently read a blurb in the news saying that while children didn't need identity cards before, they are now required to have one. I'm not looking forward to doing this again. A few weeks ago, a coworker desperately needed to find someone to cover his classes because he finally got his appointment to get his i.d. card and had to go or wait weeks for another appointment. The Emirates Identity Authority has now determined that enough people have their cards (only about six months past the deadline) where that can require them for vital services. We'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mobile Phones

Without saying too much, about it, this is a country that runs on access to mobile phones. I'm not really saying much new that I haven't already said, but Japan has nothing on this place. I thought my students in Japan were mobile dependent, but here every student has at least on mobile phone. Most have several. Blackberry is a popular brand. One student had the others in his class laugh at him because he didn't know that there was a fruit called a blackberry. I'm surprised that there was only one. Upon seeing that one student had three phones, I asked him why. his response was that the Blackberry was good for messaging, the Nokia good for calling, and the i-phone good for playing.

The students are constantly accepting calls or messaging during class. I was strict about it at first, but I like to give them the benefit of the doubt. If I ask it tends to be an important call from the student's father or a call from the hospital about a sick cousin. While I realize that most of the time it's not true, I don't want to risk it. When confronted, students will say that it is part of their culture. (a little known fact: the dessert nomads used mobile phones for constant communication)

Even in going to the doctor, you need a mobile phone. The first question the staff ask is, "What's your mobile number?" It's like a national i.d. number and will be used to find your case history in the database.

To be fair, there are reasons for the students having more than one phone. A student who I asked said he had one phone that his employer provided, but it was monitored so he couldn't use it for personal use. I'm sure that mobile phone use has increased worldwide. I need to check my Twitter account and ask some Facebook friends first to be sure.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


What can I say about Liwa? Well, first of all, it's an oasis in the middle of the desert. It is a small town with nothing near it for two hours of driving. There is a large resort that has seen better days but is still fairly nice. I know a guy that will take me out on a dune bashing tour in the desert. There are a few forts that are nothing special but easily accessible. Camping is pretty secluded with some cool dunes, most notably the Moreeb dune which has an annual drag race up it.

With such a mediocre rating, then why do I love this place so much and keep going back? There's camping about an hour out of town between Al Ain and Abu Dhabi. There are plenty of resorts and five star hotels with much better facilities. There are plenty of desert tours that will take you on a wild ride through the desert. For me, the attraction is the link to the past, simpler life of Abu Dhabi and the UAE. The people out here may be under a centralized government, but this is the frontier. These are the true desert nomads out here. The Emiratis that you talk to here are more genuine and will offer to show you a part of their culture.

I found the same when a student of mine from another part of the UAE invited me to come to Dibba and showed me his favorite camping spot. There is a sense of genuine hospitality that I get when I go to Liwa and if you get the chance, you should go there.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I don't have that much to say about Khalidiyah apart from it being the section of town where I live. Naturally, it is important to me and a big part of what Abu Dhabi means to me. It is next to the Corniche and is on the side of town that is not quite so busy. There is a nice shopping mall nearby and a couple of parks within walking distance of my apartment. With Khalidiyah not being as developed as other sections of town, there is a push to develop it and it likely won't be as nice as it is now, but more people will be able to live here and wish that it is was less crowded and developed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


With the influx of people into Abu Dhabi over the past few years, not only is there a need for newspapers in English, a number of events and cultural magazines have sprung up to help people get the best out of the city.

The collective city of Abu Dhabi seems intent on proving it is not only a modern city, but is more modern than Dubai. Some of the best examples of this can be found in the local magazines. Time Out is a series of city guides that started in London about 30 years ago and is available in about 50 different cities. Time Out Abu Dhabi has been around for a few years and is a good way to find out about events. About three years ago, Abu Dhabi Week started and focuses on the people of Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi Tempo is a recent upstart and has a focus on the lives and opinions of the local youth. All three of these publications have their own niche and are good for what they are.

For people looking for the news of the day, The National focuses on the news of the UAE. I actually prefer the Gulf News because I find their articles to be better written. The Gulf News has much more regional news. Also, I've recently discovered that the National doesn't archive it's links. Al Jazeera English is pretty good, but I haven't really been checking them out. They seem to be a world news organization with a Middle Eastern perspective on the news. From what I've seen they seem fairly unbiased and are a good source of news to see what those outside the U.S. feel about certain events.

With all of the sources of information available for news and events of Abu Dhabi, I feel fortunate to have found my own little niche as a source of information.

Monday, July 11, 2011


 It would be silly for me to get into a big description of what Islam is in my blog when there are many, much more informed sources than me. (One of the more interesting articles that I found dispels common misconceptions of Islam and can be found here. For a list of books on the subject, click here.) I would, however, like to describe how Islam affects life in Abu Dhabi.

I don't live near a mosque, so I rarely hear the call to prayer. Friends of mine live directly across from a mosque with the speakers for the call to prayer directly facing their front bedroom. The 5:00 am call makes that room unusable as a bedroom. While I don't think I'd like that very much, I do enjoy hearing the call to prayer, especially when the person doing it has a good voice.

Naturally there are a lot of mosques in Abu Dhabi, but for non-Muslims, the religion isn't forced upon us. There are things like laws against co-habitation of non-married couples, and laws against Muslims drinking, but on a day to day basis, I don't notice. There is even a Catholic church here with services in a dozen different languages. So while Islam is an important aspect to many of the people here and is a visible part of life here, it is by no means the oppressive regime that it is often made into by certain media outlets.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Hamdan is a great part of town to walk through and a great place to find all the little shops. This is the place where all the people you see working in the restaurants and shopping malls live and shop. At the request of some visiting friends, we went to the Hamdan area of town for a walking tour.

We saw a lot of little shops selling cheap electronics and cheap clothing. There are tons of mobile phone shops and beauty parlors. There were a number restaurants selling good food at a reasonable price. It was a part of Abu Dhabi that I never really see. For me, the place to go to get goods is in the shopping malls or in the hypermarkets like Carrefore and Lulu. Of course that's fine, but if you need a new inner tube for your kid's bicycle, or even a bicycle that isn't overpriced and low quality, you need to seek out a shop where the staff specialize in kids' bicycles. Link
Because parking is insane, it's a good idea to park off one of the main streets and walk if you are going in. From what I've seen, it's a good place to find some good deals. Unfortunately, I hate shopping, so will likely never spend the time to find out.Link

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Believe it or not, in a city built in the desert, there is a ton of green space. Granted watering the grass daily with desalinated water isn't so environmentally green, but it looks pretty. Even the medians on the major roads are grass covered. The medians of the major highways are lined with palm trees. There are parks everywhere.

When the weather is nice, there are a number of parks and fields to take our kids. Even at the side of busy roads, there are places to park your car and playgrounds shaded with trees for the kids to run around. All of the shrubbery is beautifully landscaped as well. "Turning the desert green" seems to be a motto of Abu Dhabi and it is one that they take seriously.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The people of Abu Dhabi place a large emphasis on family and community and the commitment to the layout of the city shows this. During the nicer weather, it's common to see the parks and beaches filled with large family gatherings cooking out and enjoying each other's company.

In addition, there are any number of activities and events targeted towards families and children. During the Formula One Races, they set up a huge screen and show movies on the beach. WOMAD is a great event for families as were the Football Village and and F1 Fan Zone during the Soccer Club World Cup and the Formula One races.

There are a number of organized sports leagues for kids. Ice hockey and Australian rules football are just two of them, but I know people who send their kids to tennis, ballet, and karate lessons. Abu Dhabi is a safe place for children and a great place to raise a family. I have to say that the family friendly atmosphere of Abu Dhabi is one of its greatest strengths.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Early on in the history of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan decided that education was important so he helped to set up a system of free, government-run institutions to educate the next generation to lead the country in developing its natural resource, oil. Today, we have the Higher Colleges of Technology which has men's and women's colleges in each of the Emirites. In addition, there are a number of private institutions such as Zayed University and Khalifa University. It's a great attestment to the vision of Sheikh Zayed that he realized the importance of educating the people in order to wisely use the wealth that was given to them.

Years later, there may be a little bump in that road because it seems that you can lead a horse to water, but if he already has everything he could possibly want without getting a degree, it's hard to get the motivation for him to study. Many of the students have been brought up never wanting for anything so they don't exactly have the drive to study hard to succeed. They'll likely succeed no matter what they do.

Another thing to remember is that the idea of education is pretty new to this region. Most of the students' grandparents were likely desert nomads. Even if a family recognizes the importance of education, they really would have little idea of what is involved with formal education and what teacher expectations are.

High schools aren't preparing the students for post-secondary studies, either. A recent study found that 90% of high school graduates in the UAE are not prepared to start a Bachelor's program. A large part of this is due to the pressure put on teachers of other nationalities. Student essays are filled with stories about how students complained a test was too hard and the teacher was required to write another one, how students complained about a teacher and he was replaced, or how a student undeservedly passed because his father was the teacher. With this going on, it's no wonder that students are unprepared for the reality of teachers in college.

As I was unofficially told, our college preparation program is not just preparing the students by educating them, we are the first line of people meant to teach the students life lessons such as turning up to work on time, doing their work , and dealing with others in a respectable manner.

Of course, it should be said that I'm dealing with low-achieving students. Many of the students in Bachelor's programs who are serious students. In a addition, I have a few students who are wonderful to deal with and are genuinely interested in learning and bettering themselves. It is good to know that His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan had a vision for the future.

Friday, July 1, 2011


One of the things that friends who have visited me in Abu Dhabi have commented on is the driving. I've talked about this to the point of obsession so there isn't really that much more that I can say, but I'll summarize here: Driving in Abu Dhabi is pretty bad. I've heard from friends that it's much worse in other Middle Eastern countries. One friend who has lived in New York said it is similar to driving there. I can believe it. I understand that driving in other places is worse. That doesn't change the fact that there are reckless people on the roads of Abu Dhabi who needlessly create situations that cause accidents.

A very good example of this happened last April when the driver of a car going 140 kilometers an hour (85 miles an hour) in heavy fog hit the car in front of him and caused a 127-car-pileup. The fact that a driver was going this fast wasn't as much the issue. The issue was that three weeks later in similar conditions a coworker was driving and had a number of people pass him at what he estimated to be 140 miles an hour. The same thing happened in 2008. People aren't going to learn.

I have any number of examples that it isn't worth getting too in-depth in: people turning left from the far right lane, drivers deliberately side-swiping another car because they didn't like something the second driver did, people tailgating at high speed on the highway to intimidate drivers, I've seen some pretty impressive driving. This was enough for me to determine that I wanted to have a gas-guzzling SUV for my wife and kids. Even my Jeep feels like it doesn't have enough metal protecting me from the front bumper of some guy's land cruiser but it will do.

Many people attribute this phenomenon to the variety of cultures bringing different driving customs to Abu Dhabi into one big melting pot. That may be so, but I have a theory that explains a majority of the problem: a lot of people here drive like a**holes.