Saturday, February 28, 2009


Today I actually played my first round of golf here since arriving! I played at The Abu Dhabi Golf Club which recently hosted a PGA tournament with some of the top European players. I played 18 holes (10-27; tee offs are staggered) with the CTO from one of my customers.

It certainly beats playing golf in the UK in February! The buggy was air-conditioned and had GPS on board showing the hole layouts and distances etc. We tee'd off at 7am which meant I had to miss out on my lie in on a Saturday - Caz said I was not entitled to moan about this as it was for pleasure reasons! It started off a very pleasant temperature and got warmer, but also windier. The wind got up so much that the atmosphere got very sandy and a bit unpleasant really. The first 9 holes were best forgotten, but the back 9 I didn't do too badly on (45 shots) - but I definitely need some more practice I reckon, so going to look for more opportunities to play.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

More misc......

Sorry about the quality of these pictures, they are just snapped from my phone, often hurriedly!

Abu Dhabi Securities Market

This is not like any other stock exchange I have ever been in! (and I have been in a few) It has a very chilled vibe about the place, not the hustle and bustle you would expect. Guys just sitting around in big comfy leather armchairs drinking coffee - and trading $4Bn a day! I think the exchange is really the only legal gambling in UAE :-)

Red Flag Men

This is seen all over the UAE -a Red Flag Man at roadworks. He is a human warning light system - I guess because he is cheaper! So, basically he stands there all day waving (not very vigorously after anything more than 10 minutes) a red flag to warn drivers that there are roadworks, which is totally pointless because by the time you see the man you are already in the roadworks!

Blackberry meeting

This might be why the world is in such a crisis! I saw these guys having a breakfast meeting and everyone of them was on his Blackberry. Maybe if they tried talking to each other some business might get done!

An exchange on a Friday

All the currency exchanges are busy on a Friday in the UAE as expats are queuing to send home what little money they can.

Palm Tree?

I think not! Just managed to snap this as I drove by. A telecoms mast cunningly (not very) disguised as a palm tree.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Went to IDEX today

The International Defense Exhibition (IDEX) is held every 2 years and is visited by military personnel, government ministers, ambassadors and others connected with the defense sector from all over the world. Why was I there? It's top secret - I can't tell you! Only kidding. ADNEC is a customer of mine and it's good to keep up with how they deal with different exhibitions, but also I had a few customers exhibiting there. It was certainly an eye opener. I've never had the opportunity to get up so close to so much military hardware. Some pictures follow with a link to all the pictures at the end (including some of and from the new bridge over 30th street).

Some vehicles I'd like to drive down Airport Road to sort out the idiot drivers:-

Some shots of the bike display team:-

The bridge:-

The full album:-

IDEX '09

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Emirati "mini-me"

Saw this well behaved young man watching the jet skis last week with his father. They do look very smart in their little kandooras.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What a ridiculous law

OK, so basically a new law has been passed that prevents companies from sacking local Emiratis unless it is for "extraordinary misconduct". The Government want to keep up the levels of locals employed and for some reason believe that this policy will “increase their productivity, performance and loyalty” - will it my butt! I don't know if I'm alone, but if I knew I could just do the absolute bare minimum with no chance of getting sacked and still taking home my full wage, I think I might just start to take it easy a bit!

I know that some Emiratis are paid very high wages for doing pretty low level jobs (and I'm talking like c£75k a year for an admin job!) so this policy is in no way going to encourage private companies to mug themselves by employing more locals than they legally have to. The Government also says:

"The new policy also stipulates that underperforming Emiratis could not be sacked but must be given more training or transferred to work more suited to their skills."

What like? Tea boy?

Debate over impact of Emirati job protection
Salam Hafez
The National - News
20 Feb 2009

Private-sector companies are more likely to employ Emiratis because of a new government policy that protects them from being laid off, a labour official said yesterday to counter claims to the contrary. Feddah Lootah, the acting director general of more...

Maternity Madness

Caroline has complained on more than one occasion that I have entitled the Blog "Neil & Caz" but basically I write it and it's nearly all about me! Well here's one of her stories. Caz works in a local maternity hospital as a midwife. She could easily fill a blog herself just on what happens there! Each ward has a "VIP" suite to which eligible expectant mothers are invited by Sheikha Fatima bint Murbarak (Sheikh Zayed's widow) on hand written invites in gold ink. Now when one of these local VIPs has a baby it is like nothing you will have seen before. Firstly the room is decked out in furnishing brought from home including (I kid you not) chandeliers (!), rugs, cupboards etc. When the baby arrives a big party is held in the room with all her lady friends and family. A massive feast is brought to the room and outside the room is filled with balloons, chocolates and other decorations. Like the examples below:-

Now, she thought she'd seen it all until this week..... Outside one of the rooms, in the hospital corridor, appeared a cage with two live white doves! They were left there all day and overnight with no food or drink and a small square of astro turf. Caz felt sorry for them and sneaked a dish of water into the cage! Anyway, here's the evidence:-

3 Days in Bahrain this week

Had another trip to Bahrain this week for business. I decided to hire a car this time instead of having a driver. It wasn't too bad to get around as everything is really quite compact in Manama. So I had the pleasure of driving that most coveted of car a Nissan Tiida -what a heap of crap! Bahrain is a relatively small market businesswise, but there are a few interesting projects going on which include one called Bahrain Bay (imaginatively) which is in the bay opposite the World Trade Centre. The first parts of the project are starting to come out of the ground now, but should be a pretty nice development when finished.

I took a few pictures while I was driving about. Linked to below.

Bahrain Pics Feb '09

Monday, February 16, 2009

OMG! Just when I thought I'd heard it all....

You have just got to read the letter in The National today titled "More trouble on the roadway" - Unbelievable!

The National - News
16 Feb 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Visit to Al Nayhan Mosque

We had a nice weekend with our friend Diane over from the UK. We did some of the "touristy" things and took the opportunity to visit the Grand Mosque, that we had been meaning to do for ages. The whole structure is beautiful and inside is literally awesome. Caz was a bit upset that the ladies room for worshipers was pretty bland compared with the men's - but hey that's Islam!

Pictures from the trip are here:-

Al Nayhan Grand Mosque Visit

We took Diane back to Dubai for the rest of her stay (she was staying at the Westin, which we did have to have a "nose" at - it did look really lovely. We may have to pay a visit ourselves one day.

On the way to Dubai Caz was driving so I took the chance to snap some of the places where the motorway barriers have been demolished by reckless drivers. I missed quite a few, but I am sure you will get the idea! I guess this is about a 60-70km (c.40 miles) stretch and I managed to snap 20 places - not bad, one every two miles!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Al Salam Street Developments (The National - News, 13 Feb 2009, Page 3)

This is in today's paper. Shows what they are up to.

Mind the gap on road to progress

The National - News
13 Feb 2009

ABU DHABI The two white 4X4s crunch to a dusty halt close to the edge of a very large hole in the ground. Two men climb out and take a few steps to the lip of the crater, three storeys deep and as wide as a football pitch. Below them is more...
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Some miscellany....

Nazi Neighbours??

Actually, no. This is on the doorstep of the Indian family who live in the maid's quarters at the back of our split villa. It's just a good luck symbol in Hindu culture, so no, they are not neo-nazis!

The road from Mussafah towards Mussafah bridge was chock a block yesterday morning. When it gets like this it's a free-for-all! Car come steaming down the hardshoulder to get past the queues and cause rows when the hardshoulder runs out!

Oil company visit

Had an appointment at one of the oil company's offices yesterday. Got in the lift to go up and saw that they obviously change the carpet in there on a daily basis!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tanks rolling in to ADNEC

(Sorry the picture is not very good, it was taken quickly on my phone - the tanks are in the middle of the background, click on it to get a better view)

There is a Military exhibition at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre later this month called IDEX. This is taken majorly serious. The whole of the road outside the venue has been closed for the last few weeks while they build various tank assault courses, build a bridge over the road to a newly built marina area which has been dredged deeper so navel frigates can dock for the show etc etc. The UAE Armed Forces take control of the venue from now until after the show as various pieces of military hardware arrive for the show. ADNEC is one of my customers so out of interest I have registered for the show, which meant I had to submit copies of my passport, visa and photo so that they could be vetted by the armed forces. Obviously I don't pose a major threat as they are going to let me in! I'm sure I'll be blogging the event - without pictures, they won't be allowed I guess!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Police - a waste of space

Despite a so called campaign to clamp down on dangerous drivers ,the Police continue to ignore speeding drivers and dangerous manoeuvres. I have seen people speeding straight past them (like below) driving too close to the car in front and even undertaking on the hard shoulder - right next to a police car, and....nothing!

Here's an example...

First of all you can see that I am doing about 150kmph (93mph). The limit is 120kmph, but everyone knows that the speed cameras are set at 160kmph. So, the car ahead of me in the same lane is a Highway Police car. You will see a white car come past me in the outer fast lane, probably doing c.170-180kmph (105-111mph). You can judge from the second shot of my speedo showing nearly 160. the Police car pulls into the inside, slow lane and just let's him speed off into oblivion! Bloody useless...

A lot of the problem is that none of the Police are local Emiratis, they are mainly Lebanese, Palestinian or Sudanese. In this society all other races are inferior and to a large extent the locals can do as they please without reproach. The police dare not accuse a local of doing something for fear that "they know someone" who will get them in trouble for something "they haven't done". I know of a British girl who was hit sideways on by a car that had gone through a red light. The driver of the other car was a local lady. The police were called. The case went to court eventually and the British girl was deemed to be at fault! Justice seems to depend on where you come from.

There was also a case of an American guy who was nearly run over as a pedestrian. I guess as a reflex action he flipped his finger at the driver. Maybe not nice, but in any other country not exactly a major crime. Anyway, the car pulled over and out came 4 young Emirati lads. They tried to bribe him by asking him for a fair amount of money to not tell the police. The American, naively, decided to call the police himself under the misapprehension that they would help him. But what happened? He is arrested and ends up in jail for 3 months for making a rude gesture!

Oh goes on (unless you die on the roads)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pictures from today

Taken in and around the Shangri-La, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi.

In and around the Shangri-La

Away from the glitz

Not too far from where we live there are many labour camps housing some of the vast armies of workers who are building this city and it's infrastructure. Most of them are from the Asian sub-continent, predominantly India and Pakistan. The housing is provided by their sponsor companies as part of their work contract. Accommodation is pretty stark and most of them live 8 or so to a room.

Fridays are for most of them their only day off from the 14 hour days. I took some pictures around and about the labour camps today. Most of the men were friendly, but some looked deeply suspicious as to why this white man was amongst them with a camera! A fair reaction I guess.

One thing they seem to have that is lacking in the rest of the place is a strong sense of community. We often feel somewhat isolated, but they have created a real community feel about the place, where they are "all in it together". Fridays are spent either chatting and chilling out, playing sports or going to the shops or markets.

Tomorrow, the hard graft will start again for their £25 a week!

Take a look at the pictures linked below....

Workers Day Off