Saturday, January 31, 2009

Trip to Jebel Dhanna

We just had a very relaxing, peaceful weekend at the Jebel Dhanna Resort Hotel. It took us about 2.5 hours driving time from our villa to get there - it's about 250KM west of Abu Dhabi. The outside of the hotel is like a lot of Arabic hotels - it looks quite plain, but inside it is quite plush and spotlessly clean. The hotel was pretty empty and the staff were falling over you to be helpful. The rooms were very nice, but really like a typical business hotel in style. The service was faultless really. Apart from 2 or 3 other couples it seemed like the hotel was mainly occupied by various expats from the oil & gas industry (well I am assuming this - I don't really think there is much other industry around). The beach was empty which made it lovely and quite - just what we needed. Caz did get rather burnt though! The umbrellas have call buttons on them for the waiters - perfect! (for lazy gits like me anyway). You used to be able to take day trips form this resort to the island of Sir Bani Yas, but this isn't possible now as you can only visit if you are staying on the island resort (which you can now fly to from Abu Dhabi).

One night in the bar we saw this oldish arab man come in looking a bit agitated, his hands shaking (we thought maybe he had Parkinson's or something), but he went up to the bar ordered a double vodka and downed it in one! He then straight after ordered a beer and then necked that! A younger guy (maybe his son) came in a tried to persuade him to leave. They walked off towards the exit but a few minutes later he came back ordered another drink and downed it. His wife then arrived and the three of them sat down. He ordered another beer. Necked it down. He went to the bar and had another vodka! Then the younger guy managed to get him out to the car! He must have downed 6-7 drinks in about as many minutes! I'm sure he will be struggling to get up to morning prayers at the mosque this! Was bizarre to watch.




We were there for our 5th wedding anniversary. The flowers I had ordered duly arrived in the room which was good. 5 years seems to have flown by! There is no way 5 years ago we would have thought we'd now be in Abu Dhabi! Here's a reminder of the day!





On the way home we couldn't avoid some bad driving - it wouldn't be the UAE without it! First, in the middle of nowhere an oil tanker had overturned - no idea how!










Then on the way back we stopped at an ADNOC petrol station and as we sat eating our bought garage crap we saw a 4x4 leaving with a trailer carrying a quad bike or dune buggy. Nothing unusual in that, but the right hand wheel of the trailer had completely lost it's tire and was just running on the metal of the wheel! We caught up with it several Km down the motorway and I managed to get a video clip....




video


Click here if you want to see the whole photo album from Jebel Dhanna http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/neilroberts01/JebelDhanna#

Thursday, January 29, 2009

This makes me so angry!



This is taken from today's The National newspaper here in the UAE. I was going to blog it straight from their digital edition but it wasn't working, so sorry for the poor scan. It can also be read here:-




I see this the whole time on the roads and it really upsets me. Small children and babies are aloud to just wander around the car, sitting on the arm rest between the front seats, faces pressed up against the front or rear windscreen, or even with their heads out of the sunroof or side windows. WAKE UP - THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

Often the adults will have their seat belts on, but apparently it's ok for your kids to roam free. I think it is under the misapprehension that allowing your kids to do whatever they like is good parenting, because you are allowing your kids to be happy. This is shown in the way they run riot and cause havoc in the malls too.

So in a country where roads deaths are the number one killer - I implore any UAE drivers reading this - please secure your children while driving. I am positive that if your god is a loving god he will not wish for a young life to be ended because you couldn't be bothered to follow common sense.

Rant over.

Off to Jebel Dhanna

We are going away for a couple of nights to a resort at Jebel Dhanna, which is about 250KM from Abu Dhabi.....it's our 5th wedding anniversay on Saturday ... awwwwwww

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bahrain pictures

I found a few pics I took on my last trip to Bahrain :-


I visited a company that provides car finance and their main showroom site had a really cool reception desk made out of an old car (I'm sure someone will tell me what car it is!)....






Picture of the Bahrain World Trade Centre taken from an office in the Bahrain Financial Harbour. I'll try and get some better pictures on my next trip. This building has it's own wind turbines built between the two pointed towers:-




Busy day....

Started my day in Abu Dhabi. Went to see a company building some workers cities to house many types of workers, not just construction guys. The first one they are building will house some 44,000 people, but they have plans to build 4 or 5 of them. So they are still expecting an influx of workers into Abu Dhabi. The area is trying to attract a whole range of companies from technology to manufacturing to media and so on. So while on the one hand it seems like things are alive and kicking in Abu Dhabi, I hear reports that up to 1600 people a month are cancelling their visa and going home. Hope yet for the housing crisis in Abu Dhabi?


Next I had to go into the City for a meeting. Airport Road was particularly busy. There were 2 police cars that were trying to get through the jammed traffic. There seems to be a general lack of understanding as to what to do in these circumstances. Loads of drivers just seem to sit in the queue as normal and do nothing. Meanwhile the police car (or could equally be an ambulance) is unable to pass. When the second one came through I had moved over to the left from the middle lane, straddling the lane close to the car next to me. The car in front had done the same. The two dozy drivers behind me, in front of the police car, had done nothing. After a while of nothing, I got so frustrated at the situation that I got out and motioned for the car behind to come behind mine so he could get through, which she did and the one behind followed. The police officer waved at me as he passed. Takes some good old British organisation eh?!


Next, I had to go up to Dubai. The meeting I had was very interesting and the company building was pretty neat. Below are pics of the side room I was taken into from reception. Very plush. And take a look at the video of the air conditioning!









video

On the way back home I was taking notice of the number of places on the motorway where the barrier was totally smashed in by accidents. One day I think I will count them! Trouble is there are new ones almost every day and the old ones eventually get repaired.

Road deaths are still the number one killer in the UAE.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Nightmare journey

Caz was actually allowed to finish an hour early tonight, so thought she would be home in good time. But alas, no. It took her two and a half hours instead of 40 mins. The problem being 30th Street (one of the main roads off the island) was closed off for the installation of a new bridge across by the National Exhibition Centre. This was well publicized that it was going to happen.....last Thursday. It never happened. But it did tonight with no warning. So every route off was chock-a-block. Some motorists apparently weren't keen to wait in the queues and made there own routes, including this guy Caz pictured deciding to drive up and over the pavement.


UAE Censorship

While at the mall yesterday, thought I'd buy a magazine to show the censorship you find over here. This example is taken from "More" magazine from the UK. Now, given that you wouldn't want your young teenage kids to be reading this publication, even in the UK, what you see below is a little pathetic and also somewhat confusing. As you will see below the offending parts of the page are painstakingly covered over with marker pen. Each magazine is scrutinized for "unacceptable" bits and then each by hand is drawn over. So here we go......


This is banned....





This is banned....







This is banned!!







....but apparently this must be ok?!!!!......


Dubai Mall

We were both actually off work yesterday, so we went to Dubai to see if we could find some bargains in the Dubai Shopping Festival. We decided to give the new Dubai Mall a try. It is a really nice Mall, very spacious and good selection of shops which they have tried to group together in some kind of order - which really helped me find all the gadget shops in one place much to Caroline's dismay! I did actually buy a gadget, I needed a new bluetooth car kit. The main complaint I have with most of the malls here is that the floors are too shiny! Nice that they are very clean, that's good, but if you are wearing normal shoes you are constantly slipping on the surface. It is actually easier to "skate" down the pathways than to walk! So, note to self; must wear trainers next time we go shopping.



The mall has an aquarium in it. It is really quite a huge tank with loads of fish in. You can pay to go into it ans there is a glass tunnel you can walk through. We, being skinflints, didn't and just looked from the outside - but you get a pretty good view anyway.

Friday, January 23, 2009

TGI Friday!

It's been a busy week and the weekend couldn't come soon enough. I have just about got used to Friday being the start of the weekend but occasionally I slip up and forget when I am planning. Caz was working again today so I had to amuse myself. Went to the Corniche beach. So here's a few pictures with comments.....



This is the ticket booth for the beach. As I blogged before this was installed because of the pervy Indians! I have to go on the "Persons" side if I am on my own.





The view down the beach. The tallest building left-most is the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority which basically invests the surplus oil profits and buys football clubs! The building going up next to it is called The Landmark and will dwarf the ADIA building. It will be 88 stories high. The blue one in the middle was the tallest building at one time. It's a Hilton apartment hotel. Caz and I stayed there for 3 weeks when we first arrived in Abu Dhabi.





There seemed to be some powerboat racing going on today.

















Covering up extends to the beach. I believe the water parks can look quite amusing!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's a bit chilly

The weather in the last week has been decidedly nippy! Especially in the morning and evening it's been about 9 or 10 degrees and we had a very cloudy, rainy day yesterday. Through the rest of the year you'd hardly believe you could get any rain or feel cold, but I actually put a warm jumper on yesterday evening!

I've been a bit manic with work this week so not been blogging as much. Some days I go from one meeting to the next, no stopping for lunch and then when I get home I have to do all the follow ups. So it's not unusual (ooh err sounded like Tom Jones then!) to end up doing 12-14 hour days. Tonight I finished around 8.30pm. Still, managed to get a $2M bid out the door today, so fingers crossed on that one.

I tried to take a picture of a company sign from across the road in the city today, but it didn't come out, it just amused me - it was called "Gulf Erections Ltd".

So today Obama gets inaugurated. May have to put the TV on and have a look, although I shall be well asleep by the time it all kicks off. All in all I think it is a good thing and he will be a better bet than the gun-toting muppet and his piggy-lipstick-sidekick-bird alternative. So here's to some world change - goodness knows we need it!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Golf Championship

Managed to drag myself out of bed to go and watch the Golf. I'd already bought the ticket so thought I'd better not waste it, even if the thought of staying in bed was strong! Actually, the ticket price wasn't too bad, AED125 (just over 20 quid). I'm glad I went though it was good. There weren't too many people there so I was able to get up quite close to the players at the tees and greens. I bumped into a few guys from work so I walked round with them most of the day. Some of the top European guys were there such as Casey, Harrington, Garcia, Stenson etc. Even old grumpy Montgomery was there, but actually he seemed quite jovial - maybe he's got another new girlfriend! Treated myself to a new cap as you can see. Caz hates me wearing old tatty ones so hopefully she will approve.



Came away quite tired from all the walking and drove home. When I got in the car I realised I'd caught the sun and as I had been wearing sun glasses all day, had quite a red nose in a neat sunglasses shape! I not sure it shows too well on the photo but click it and see. Didn't shave today either......


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Trip to Bahrain

I've had a two day trip to Bahrain this week. Bahrain is part of my territory for business and I've been there 4 times now. It's a slower pace than UAE and seems quite away behind in some ways, but more advanced in others. The place hasn't been developed to anywhere near the same degree, but then I think this has been deliberate. They don't aspire to be like the UAE or it's closer neighbour Qatar. There are now some larger scale developments coming, but on the whole the island has not been overly spoilt by development. Most of the hotels are business hotels, with only really one notable beach resort, although there are many being developed. The Bahraini people are very nice and welcoming and on the whole very down to earth (local people occupy jobs at all levels, including most of the taxi drivers). I usually use a driver to take me from visit to visit, as taxis can be a bit sparce in some areas out of Manama (main city) and I'm not familiar enough yet to drive myself.

I have used the same driver and his brother (Hassan and Ali) each time. This time I was greeted by Hassan with a kiss on each cheek (hmmm this is going to take some getting used to lol). He managed to take me to the wrong place for one of my meetings and we ended up on totally the wrong side of the island. I eventually got to where I should have been (one of the worlds largest aluminium smelting plants) an hour late. This was fine except it made me too late to go to my last appointment before I needed to go to the airport. So I phoned my contact to tell him. No answer. Left and tried again. No answer. So I tell Hassan to take me straight to the airport. Eventually get a text back to say he couldn't make the meeting anyway! Another Middle East no-show - but just as well this time.

One thing you see in Bahrain all the time, but not so much in UAE (although sometimes in Dubai) - Arabs in traditional dress drinking pints in the hotel bars! Bahrain is way more open than UAE and as there is a direct causeway linking Bahrain with the Saudi mainland, it becomes a playground for the Saudi's every weekend. Wine, Women and Song in a dish-dash!

Lightning in Dubai

Here are some great pictures of the lightning in Dubai last night. They were sent to me by a guy at work, so I'm not sure who to credit with the pics - but it wasn't me I'm sorry to say! Not sure I'd want to be in the tallest building (Burj Dubai) in the world during a storm! (click the pics for a bigger view)








Sunday, January 11, 2009

JCBs and Candles

Our villa is not too far away from a labour camp. These are the god-awful pits in which thousands and workers (mainly from the Asian sub-continent) are housed by their bullying sponsor companies. Anyway, just next to said labour camp is a patch of desert that becomes a home to loads of diggers at the weekend. At home in the UK, these would probably get nicked! Here, however, they sometimes become a meeting point for some of the workers or even a place to have a quiet kip in one of the digger's buckets. I thought they looked interesting as they lined up like they were about to take part in some kind of military parade.






Last night we have a power cut for about an hour or so. Hasn't really happened much, once or twice while we have been out, but not while we have been at home. Most of the other villa occupants (not posted anything on the other occupants upstairs, behind in the maid's quarters and at the gate house yet - but I will one day!) went out, sensibly! We couldn't really be bothered, so I made for the candles. Gave me chance to take some nice piccies on my new camera though.



Friday, January 9, 2009

Abu Dhabi rents

Had some marketing bumf today from one of the bigger property companies in Abu Dhabi. You can basically get a mortgage on some of the newer developments for less money a month than the current rental prices. The trouble is that the properties aren't due for completion for 12-18 months, so you would need to be able to fund the mortgage and your rent for this period. Anyway, I looked at their website (http://www.lljproperty.com/index.php) and saw a table showing a current guide to rental prices. Scary stuff. Here it is below. Bear in mind the current exchange rates is around 5.6 AED to GBP. Normally landlords expect the whole year's rent up front too, so many people take loans out to pay the rent. Fortunately, my company will pay the upfront costs and take it back from me monthly, interest free. We have a 3 bedroom "apartment-in-a-villa" and that is costing 190,000 (+5% commission), so just over 200k per year. Legally they can put the rent up a maximum of 5% per annum, I think for the first 3 years, and then they can basically kick you out and find a new tenant at a much higher rental value.

Apartments on island

Studio from AED 100,000 per annum
1 bedroom from AED 180,000 per annum
2 bedroom from AED 240,000 per annum
3 bedroom from AED 320,000 per annum
4 bedroom from AED 400,000 per annum

Villa on island

4 bedroom from AED 450,000 per annum

Villa off island (compound)

3 bedroom from AED 340,000 per annum
5 bedroom deluxe from AED 630,000 per annum

Villa off island (private)

3 bedroom from AED 300,000 per annum
4 bedroom from AED 400,000 per annum
8 bedroom from AED 700,000 per annum


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Al Reem and Sowah Island from Beach Rotana

I was early for a lunch meeting today at the Rotana, so I thought I would go up to the 20th floor and take a look at the developments on Reem Island and Sowah Island. Reem Island is going to be full of apartment towers, villas, malls and a marina etc etc. Sowah Island will house the Abu Dhabi Finance Centre and the new Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange. I have a couple of pics I took today and I'll also post a few renderings of what it will look like.






I managed to blag my way into one of the rooms (it was being cleaned!) and took a quick video clip from the balcony on my phone. Sowah on the left and panning over to reem, behind and right.


video





This is Sowah Island. Abu Dhabi Stock Exchange is in the foreground on the podium (whihc is what you can see coming out of the ground above).














Some of the Al Reem development from the Tamouh (developer) brochure.









An offer I can't refuse!

Just had to post this. This is one of the best I have seen - at least he put some effort into the story! So.... in my email today...


Dear Sir,

I am writing this letter out of a genuine desperation to find a reliable partner in an unfolding transaction. I have been unjustly treated by my former boss in an earlier transaction, so I seek your help,attention and genuine co-operation to our mutual benefits and I believe that you will not let down the trust and confidence I am about to repose on you.I work as a junior executive in a consultancy firm. My name is Mr.Michael Ojo.My boss is in business with one of the greatest business Mogul of all time in West Africa. We are talking about Alhaji Couchari Diabate.The president of Couchari Diabate Agro allied group farms. The owner of the biggest cattle, sheep and pigs farms in West Africa and The Biggest fish farmer. This is the man they call the food basket of Africa. His Cocoa, Coffee and Palm tree plantations are the biggest and his vegetable oil plants are located in the 16 West African countries.our company made a very big financial breakthrough when we made contact with Alhaji Couchari Diabate and began to supply him his cow medicines He had informed us about the huge amount of money he spends on the purchase of a particular but very important cattle medicine. Precisely, he buys US$5,000 per carton. He asked if our organisation can source for a cheaper supplier.We did market research and discovered that we can buy these medicine in Europe for US$2,000 per carton. We moved a proposal to Alhaji Couchari Diabate, to supply him at US$4,800 per carton which they accepted. As these supplies progressed and my boss was doing fine, I requested my boss to give me my entitlement as he promised earlier. He was so upset that he sacked me without benefits after a long time of dedicated work for him. Now my boss supplies this Business magnet an essential vaccine for his livestock at the price of US4, 800.00 per carton, and sometimes supply up to 2000 or 3000 cartons.I have called back to the Couchari Group and informed them that I will introduce them directly to the Manufacturers of the vaccine from where my boss buy at the rate of 4,200 per carton. Briefly, I am contacting you because I have explained my plight to Alhaji Couchari Diabate and he has stopped further dealings with my boss. Now I received a letter from the Couchari Group, requesting two thousand cartons supply of this essential vaccine. The President of the Couchari Group invited me to his Presence and I confirmed my word to him, and he promised me his confidence and to deal only with me if I can do this. HOWEVER I TOLD HIM THAT THE MANUFACTURERS RECEIVE 80%ADVANCE PAYMENT BEFORE THEY WILL SELL THE VACCINE.The reason why I contacted you for this deal now is that, I know where my boss uses to buy this vaccine in Europe. The Price of the vaccine is US$2000.00 per carton in Europe. I will need you to contact Alhaji Couchari Diabate and inform him that you are the manufacturer of the vaccine and that you will sell to him at the price of US$4,200 per carton. You will inform him to make 80% advance payment as is the Procedure. He will not hesitate to send the money after negotiating with you to carry out the supply.If your organization is interested to be my partners in this transaction, please contact me immediately in my above private mail box, so that we can discuss on how to execute this lucrative deal.

Yours sincerely,
Mr.Michael Ojo.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Who'd have thought it...

...that I'd been in the UAE eating pork scratchings! ...well Filipino pork chicharon actually, but same thing. You can get pork in Abu Dhabi at Spinney's. They have a separate pork section for non-Muslims. The big store in Khalidiya sells proper pork sausages and back bacon - at a price! But sometimes it just has to be done! I got the scratchings from our local Spinneys in Mussafah, but they have crap bacon and no proper sausages - however I did find the chicharon last night . Caz thinks they are disgusting, but I love 'em.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Stood up

I guess my customer must have thought the subject of Data Centre design was boring too, as he and he team didn't turn up! Actually this is a regular occurrence here and I'm starting to get used to it. Having confirmed yesterday that the training was still on and also having spoken to him this morning re parking availability, we arrived, sat in reception for about an hour waiting and were then called up to meet the department secretary. She called someone else, he arrived and informed us that they were very sorry but something had come up and the meeting would have to be postponed. Great. As I say, this is nothing unusual around here. My company CEO from the U.S. has been stood up twice by the same customer for organised meetings. Anyway, we did some other calls instead, so wasn't a wasted day.




On the way to one of our calls saw this on Salam Street. Just another day on the roads of Abu Dhabi! How he got there, I have no idea. Another example of the driving skills of the Taliban Taxi Company.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Airport run

We took the kids back to the airport this morning. Was sad to see them go, we've had good fun this week. Mind you, the kitchen is now totally devoid of any food, like a swarm of locusts (or is it loci?) had descended and finished off anything in sight, except the tin of biscuits I bought specially which we will now have to eat and make us even fatter! The kids were mainly nocturnal this week, so I am guessing they will probably be asleep on the plane.



Observation of the day: Gaza/Israel - where is Tony Blair? Wasn't he supposed to be fixing all that?


Set up my new camera. Here a few of my first shots:-










Well, back to work tomorrow :-( . I've got a full day training a customer on how to design his Data Centre - thrilling I know. Caz is working two night shifts this week. House always feels really empty and boring at night when she's not here, so not really looking forward to that.


Got some sleep to catch up on tonight.