Monday, December 27, 2010

Back from the cold....

We just landed back from our Christmas trip home. It was lovely; family, the snow, fresh air and no travel problems whatsoever - amazing! When we left, Heathrow was only only operating a third of flights, but ours left on time and arrived on time - at Heathrow (many did not, they got diverted elsewhere). We picked up our hire car and travelled the M25, also with no hitch.


It was strange seeing England looming in the aircraft. Where we would normally be getting excited about the greenness of it all, the fields and trees - instead everything was white with snow. It has been about 3 years since I saw any real snow - so it was lovely, and great to breathe in some cold fresh air. 




We managed to see all of our kids while we were over which was great, especially as it was a surprise for most of them, we weren't expected home for Christmas. Caz was also able to share her mum's 60th birthday which was a great surprise for her too. Christmas day was with my family in Hemel Hempstead at the brother Ian's house. Everyone knew we were coming home except my mum and dad. We had a Skype link to one of my other brothers, Steve, and his family in Bristol as they wanted to see my mum and dad's face when they arrived and saw us there. It was a classic double take when my mum saw us - "what are you doing here!" Brilliant!


Caroline's daughter lives in our house while we are here, so we stayed as a visitor in our own home - weird. It was so strange to stay in our house, with our family round us, but with none of our things in it. Boxing Day was with Caroline's family in our house. I bought some logs so we could have the fire burning all day as it was so cold. Rochelle had so much food we could have fed the entire village, but we gave it our best shot to finish it off!









It was all over far too quickly and now we are back in the desert. Back to work tomorrow for me :-(

Oh well...only 9 days before the kids are out with us over here and I'll be off again - yippee!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hawkers in Abu Dhabi

I had a bit of a bizarre encounter today. I was heading back to my car after a business meeting at ADMA. My car was in the public car park in front of ADMA along the Corniche. A Mazda car with two guys in it stopped me for direction to Yas Island. They were Italian guys. The driver was very grateful for the directions and started up about a conversation about where I was from and what I did. He told me he was a fashion designer working for Armani and that he had just come from the Emirates Palace outlet and was on his way to Yas Hotel. I joked with him that if he was a fashion designer I should probably apologise for my suit! - which is definitely not Armani.

He was soooo pleased to be talking to fellow European who had helped him, he wanted to give me something. He looked at my and told me I was a European size 58 and that he had some samples left over - as he and his friend were not size 58 he would love for me to have one free..... ok yeah right... so now I was waiting for the catch. He continued. He had 3 suits my size conveniently, and he was leaving tomorrow and had promised his daughter that he would take her back an iPhone... so here was the deal.. take the three suits but just give me the money enough to buy her an iPhone.......

Of course I politely declined and bade him good day.

Now this kind of thing happens all the time at home, mainly in motorway services stations, generally trying to flog watches....but Abu Dhabi?, randomly in a car park on the Corniche?? Bizarre.....

Friday, December 10, 2010

Beating your wife the Islamic way

This is an interview with Bahraini cleric Abdullah Aal Mahmud explaining the "correct" way to beat your wife under Islamic rules.

I'm sure beating your wife is just the way to make her hot and want to have sex with you! (I think I"ll pass on trying it out) - maybe try not being such an aggressive bastard, that might help!




I'd love to hear some of your comments......



Burjuman Warning Sign

Burjuman is an upscale mall in Dubai housing most of the top designer brands.

Click to see a larger view.....


Monday, December 6, 2010

Abu Dhabi Big Band at the One-to-One

ADBB will be playing a gig at the One-to-One village in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday night from 8pm-10pm with free entry! All are welcome - come and enjoy the music!





Friday, December 3, 2010

World Cup Woes

Well it looks like I'll have to wait at least another 20 years for the chance to see the World Cup in my own country! By the sounds of it, the way the voting went we were never really in the running. Partly thanks to the BBC screening a documentary implicating some members of the committee in a "cash for votes" scandal about 3 days before the vote. Well done guys - good timing! We all know this kind of stuff goes on  (Qatar?/World Cup? - I'll come back to this one) but at least expose them after the vote!


So Russia (have loads of oil wealth) and Qatar (have loads of gas & oil wealth) have got the votes. Well, I guess at least Russia have a football pedigree and have actually been to the World Cup before - but Qatar!? It'll be weird though seeing every other country's football team dying of mysterious food poisoning incidents leaving Russia to win in 2018..


Firstly, as we all know it is going to be 'king hot in Qatar in June/July - no seriously if you haven't experienced 45-50C (maybe more - it got up to 51C here this summer and it has been 55C here before) then it is difficult to convey how nasty it is, especially as it will be over 90% humidity too most likely. Now I know they are building these super "green" (yeah right, ok) stadia with mega air conditioning etc. - but what the hell do you do when you are not at the games? These are the times when fans relax in the parks/seafronts/street cafes etc enjoying the atmosphere and banter with other fans - drinking lots (and lots) of beer, eating hot dogs (not made from chicken) and flirting with the local girls!! Hmmm.... problems all round then!


They are going to have stadia in multiple places in Qatar, but really Qatar is, well, Doha. And Doha is really not that big. There will simply be too many people in a small place with nothing to do. Some of the stadia are apparently going to be dismantled and sent to poorer countries after the event. Now this is a good thing, because at least if they go to somewhere in Africa for example, they will get used - filled to capacity - if they stay in Qatar, they will be redundant. There will be no lasting football legacy for Qatar.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

UAE 39th National Day

It's National Day here in UAE, when they celebrate their birth as a nation, bringing together the 7 Emirates as one country. The National have done a great job of producing some good material about the history of the day. They are working on what they call the "History Project" which will culminate in next year's 40th anniversary. Take a look at their website.....

http://multimedia.thenational.ae/historyproject/


A nice touch from Google today....


Caroline is still stuck in the UK due to the snow (she was due back yesterday), so I am here on my todd for National Day. I'm just taking it easy with some time by the pool and may go to a cafe and read the paper in a while over coffee and shisha. I've decided not to go to the Corniche this year, having witnessed the madness the last two years! It is great fun and well worth watching at least once, but I can't face the traffic getting in and out.

You can see some pics from last year on my previous blog....

http://neilandcaz.blogspot.com/2009/12/38th-national-day.html


So, mabrook to my Emirati readers - enjoy your day!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Abu Dhabi Big Band Photoshoot

We had a professional photographer come into rehearsal last week to take a few publicity shots. Below are a few samples. I think she did a nice job. The full album is also linked below.









Friday, November 26, 2010

World Championship Golf

Caz had a class today so I had to make myself scarce from the house. It was tough, but I went to the World Championship Golf in Dubai (Race to Dubai). I met up with some of the guys form work and we had a great day watching some fantastic golf in the sunshine. The Earth course is lovely and I am hoping I get chance to play it one day.

This is Paul Casey warming up on the practice ground.......



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...and Miguel Ángel Jiménez - between cigars!


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Lee Westwood (current World no.1 and last year’s winner) shaking hands with Ian Poulter on the 1st tee.










And this is what they were playing for ..... oh and a truck load of money!







Thursday, November 25, 2010

Another visit to the mosque!

Not with us this time!

This from The National today........



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Our villa in Al Reef

I just took a few pictures of our back garden at Al Reef. I’ll do some of the inside next. We have got pretty much the smallest garden on the whole complex I reckon, but it will do for us.

The pool has had some use over the last couple of weeks while we had some family over and Caroline is now not working full time. It’s good weather now and nice to sit outside in the evenings in some cool air. Just need to keep to mosquitos at bay!

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weird cloud formations over Abu Dhabi


We went to the public beach on the Corniche yesterday. There were some really weird cloud formations that looked interesting. Unfortunately I only had my phone camera with me. If anyone knows what causes this phenomena I would love to know......



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Thursday, November 18, 2010

An interesting new service?

I saw this truck today. I think maybe it is offering some new phone service to vent your anger at the local bureaucracy....

.... or it could be a spelling mistake?



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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Visit to LuLu Island

Today we arranged a boat to take us to LuLu Island to spend the afternoon there and then get picked up again around sunset.

LuLu Island is a man made island in front of the Corniche in Abu Dhabi - shown below. Marina Mall is in the bottom left of the picture and we took our boat from that marina. LuLu Island used to be easily accessible for the public, with a boat service operating very cheaply. Shortly after we arrived here they stopped this service as the island was due for development. It is still due for development, but nothing has actually happened! You can still go to the island if you can get there, so access is only by private boat or jet ski.


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We left the marina at around 12 noon and had a nice short trip to the island. Unfortunately, Caroline’s aunt didn’t take too well to the speed boat and we had to slow down before she was sick! It was certainly peaceful there and the water was lovely, the beach is a little shingly though. The only interruption to the peace was the occasional jet ski or boat going past, but it didn’t spoil things at all. There is a sign saying that you cannot “trespass” beyond the beach, but I did explore briefly the middle of the island where there was some disused cafes.

We took some food and drink and whiled away the afternoon taking in a few rays. Lovely!


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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dubai Visit

After a great weekend at the F1, we went to Dubai yesterday with our family visitors. The F1 was really good, but I did post plenty of pics last year, so no need again I don't think. I may put a couple of video clips up.

First stop yesterday was at Burj Khalifa. I booked online for us to go to "At the top" - it's best to book in advance as it is 100 AED, but 400 AED if you turn up on the day. I have wanted to go up to the viewing area on the 124th floor ever since it opened, so now was my chance. All in all I think they have made a pretty good job of making it an "experience", showing you the history of the development and construction and taking you up in a private lift. The lift travels at 10M/sec so it is a pretty quick to get up - but it did make my ears "pop".

We were very lucky with the weather as there have been quite a lot of dusty days lately, where the view would have been very poor. However, we had some great views. I think the thing that struck me most looking down, was just how obvious it was that ultimately we were in a desert. From street level you do tend to forget, but looking down from that height there is no doubt.


Here's a video I made.....


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Back online!

Etisalat managed to get us up and running today, so now catching up on a couple of weeks of internet starvation! More to come......

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Etisalat saga

I have been neglecting my blog lately as we have moved house and I still have no phone or internet connection. It's a long story maybe for another time.... watch this space!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Domestic Violence in UAE

I think the Arab world has some way to go in respect of human rights on this issue.....quotes are from The National today.

A man has the right to discipline his wife and children provided he does not leave physical marks, the Federal Supreme Court has ruled.

The judgment was made in the case of a man who slapped and kicked his daughter and slapped his wife.

According to Islamic law, a man has the "right to discipline" his wife and children, which can include beating them after he has exhausted two other options: admonition and then abstaining from sleeping with his wife. Although scholars differ in their definition of "beating", all agree it must not be severe.

Sharjah Court of First Instance fined the father Dh500
[c.£80] for abuse. The decision was upheld by the Sharjah Court of Appeals on February 14.

Dr Ahmed al Kubaisi, the head of Sharia Studies at UAE University and Baghdad University, said that under Sharia beating one's wife was an option to prevent the breakdown of the family.
He said it should be used only as a substitute to resorting to the police.
"If a wife committed something wrong, a husband can report her to police," Dr al Kubaisi said. "But sometimes she does not do a serious thing or he does not want to let others know; when it is not good for the family. In this case, hitting is a better option."
Cavemen are alive and well in the UAE.....


Full text of the story here





Jet-skiing on the Breakwater

There are times when life feels really good... and today was one of those days for me. Yesterday we were bumming around Shanghai on the last day of our trip to China (more of that later), today I was jet-skiing in front of the Corniche in Abu Dhabi.... all sounds a bit “rock ’n’ roll” ! . I don’t take these sort of things for granted and do count myself fortunate that we have these opportunities. I did manage to take a short video clip on my phone (sorry about my digits getting in the way!) ....


http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=neilroberts02#p/a/u/0/TeR0WRKFT5A



I am currently going through my 1200 pictures and 100 video clips of our trip to China! ... so more of that very soon. Suffice to say for now that we had a fantastic time and loved every minute.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Trip to China

On Monday we travel to China for an 8 day tour - I can’t wait it will be so interesting. For one thing, it will be nice to get away completely from things here. It won’t be relaxing, but “change as good as a rest” kind of thing. We will fly from Dubai on Emirates to Beijing, do a couple of days there then fly to Xian. Xian is where the Terra cotta army can be found. After Xian we fly to Shanghai, then after a couple of days back to Dubai from there.

Everything is laid on and we should get to see loads of great sights - I think my camera will be overheating!

I’ll post again when we get back....


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pizza Burger - yeah ok, whatever!

We were out and about this evening and just wanted something quick to eat, so we went to Burger King in Khalidiya. BK in my opinion serves up a completely superior burger to McDs - and I do count myself as fairly knowledgeable on the subject! So, a Whopper meal with cheese and a round of onion rings it was!

Burger King have just launched the “Pizza Burger” - posing the question “Pizza or Burger”.........


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... now you may have superior burgers, but you ain’t doing so well on the intelligence front! I’ll go with the clown on that one any day. How is it anything remotely like a pizza?

This is a pizza.....

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In what way exactly is the PIzza Burger like a Pizza?? Oh... it’s round.......and sliced....

So I thought I would make some other suggestions for those great guys in the marketing department at BK.......

Announcing..... the Quiche Burger

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....and how about the Sponge Cake Burger

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..... or maybe the Cherry Pie Burger
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Anyway... this thing contains about 2500 calories which BK suggests as a meal for three with fries and drinks - so that’s 833 calories each, just for the burger never mind the fries and drink.

So, maybe we should just call it..... the Cardiac Burger !


Actually in Arizona there is a place called the Heart Attack Grill - it looks fantastic! (and has some interesting looking waitresses too!)

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Here’s the menu...



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Eat your heart out Burger King !!!!

( terrible pun I know )





Monday, October 4, 2010

F1 Tickets

My F1 tickets have come through! Woo hoo !!

I’ve got Mark , my brother coming over and Steve and Doreen, Caroline’s uncle and aunt. Should be a good time had by all!

Thinking of booking to go up the Burj Khalifa on the Monday as part of a day trip to Dubai.

Getting excited already about F1....



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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hakkasan

We had dinner with friends last night at Hakkasan in Emirates Palace. I have been to the London venue of Hakkasan and really enjoyed the food and the atmosphere, so I was hoping this would be replicated in Abu Dhabi. I wasn’t disappointed - it was just as good. The layout and decor was almost exactly the same as I remember it from London and once the restaurant had filled up it had a great atmosphere.

The food is gorgeous and really well presented. I started with crispy duck rolls, followed by crispy shredded veal in hot and sour sauce, finishing with chocolate fondant with banana ice cream - yummy!

Don’t hesitate - go!

Here’s a couple of reviews....


http://www.timeoutabudhabi.com/restaurants/features/16146-hakkasan-abu-dhabi-news-pics


http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g294013-d1809921-Reviews-Hakkasan-Abu_Dhabi.html


Friday, October 1, 2010

Al Reef Villa

Well after a week of phoning endless agents, visiting numerous villas and making various offers, I think we have finally secured a villa in a development called Al Reef. Al Reef is located next to the airport (although not on the flight path) and is a nice community development. We have had quite a stressful week trying to get things sorted, especially as it is next to impossible to get a straight answer from agents as to what is available at what price etc etc. The developer, Manazel, has an office there where you can arrange to rent directly. If you want to give this a go - good luck! Frankly, the guys in the office are next to useless, don’t have keys to half the properties and never get back to you on your questions. If you can get any sense though, they are probably the cheapest option. Many agents are also working the development, some of which are offering the villas at the same price as Manazel, others higher. We have made probably 5 offers this week, which have either been turned down for various reasons (e.g. “the owner has decided not to rent the villa now” - yeah, bollocks. “The owner will wait only a maximum of 10 days before you move in”. “the owner is holding out for a higher price” ) or never had an answer at all.

Finally today we have placed a deposit with Pink Properties. I know of stories where this has still not been the end of the story and the property has still been lost - so it’s fingers crossed. Although I think you ultimately pay a little higher for a property through Pink (as I think they are pretty shrewd and more commercially savvy), I can’t complain about the service, so hopefully all will be well.

So the next stage is to get hold of a contract, have my company raise the 2 cheques (6 months apart) that they require, pay a 5% commission to Pink and arrange our move in. To secure the place we have had to agree to take immediate occupation after contract signing, so we will end up with a few weeks overlap with our existing apartment. We go on holiday to China next weekend (more on that to come) so we wanted to have everything signed, sealed and delivered before we went - otherwise we would have had a very stressful 10 days when we got back. It is a pain though, because it will mean I will have to pay back to my company the money for the overlap - but c’est la vie.

In parts of Abu Dhabi the housing market is a little less hectic, and in Dubai it is so laid back it’s almost comatose! Al Reef however has proved to be a very popular location with expats and demand is high. Therefore it is a case of taking what is available at the time, with only minor negotiation, otherwise they are getting snapped up pretty quickly - at least the 5 beds which we wanted. I think there is much more choice of the smaller villas.

So, fingers crossed and we may be moving in soon!




Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chocolate Biscuit Wars!

I am in deeeeep trouble!

Did I come in very very late? - no

Did I forget her birthday? - no

Did I spill something on the rug? - no

So what was my crime??


..... I ate 4 of her chocolate biscuits!

OMG you would have thought I was Attila the hun! It was 4 biscuits!

....although it did come on top of me eating her chocolate last week! .... this was even worse!

So a quick tip for all you guys with ladies at home......

Unless you want a huge ear bashing, if they have anything with chocolate in/on/flavoured/next to/in the same room - do not under any circumstances eat it!!


This is a community service announcement offered by the Society for the Protection of Endangered Husbands



Monday, September 27, 2010

Housing Hamster Wheel!

OMG we are on the move again!! Aaagghhhh! This will be the 5th property we have lived in (4 here) in less than 2.5 years!

The full reasons for this will be revealed in the fullness of time, but basically we can get a 5 bed villa with a small pool for not much more than we are paying now. Whilst this does put us back out in a desert community, it is one that has a nice feel to it and will not be isolated like Khalifa City or Mohammed bin Zayed City, where we were when we first moved here. The development is largely expat owned and nearly 100% expat populated. We already know a few people that are either already there or are planning to move there. It will be really nice, finally, to have some useable outside space for relaxing or hosting BBQs etc. - just normal stuff like we would do at home that we have missed here to date. So if you know us here, expect an invite when we move in!

It does mean of course that we are once again going through the rigmarole of meeting with agents/developers, agreeing rental pricing, how many cheques they want (many still want the full years rental up front here - some accept 2 cheques. In Dubai now, it is common to give 12 cheques - such a different market there) etc etc. We just want to get the whole discussion done with and agreed, so we can then move on to stage B - raising cheques and signing contracts etc. Stage 3 will be organising removals and then transferring utilities/phone services - this can be a whole new set of issues and roadblocks!

We must be mad! ..........



Thursday, September 23, 2010

Antenatal Classes in Abu Dhabi

If you know anyone who is expecting a baby and looking for antenatal classes in Abu Dhabi, take a look at

www.b4babyandbeyond.org

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Al Manarat, Guggenheim

On Saadiyat Island there is a visitor’s centre called Al Manarat. It’s a project I was involved in at the construction phase so I have been following it’s progress for some time. There is a really good exhibition showing what is going to come on Saadiyat Island. It’s really quite interesting and worth a visit if you haven’t been. I wanted to see the large replica of the Guggenheim museum that is coming to the cultural district of the Island, along with The Louvre, Sheikh Zayed National Museum, Maritime Museum and Performing Arts Centre.

The Cultural District will be a really exciting, vibrant part of the city and I am watching it develop with interest.

These are my pictures of the model taken today. (I believe they are dismantling it today to take it to some other unannounced venue)

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Trip to Damascus Video

Trip to Damascus

It’s been a manic week at work so not had chance to blog this until now. We had a good visit to Damascus for the Eid holiday.

We stayed right in the heart of the old walled city, which from the rest of the country has a higher population of Christians. It was an interesting contrast to the UAE as there was a strong mix of religion and cultures. We heard the Friday sermon and prayer calls from the mosque and the church bells on Sunday.

This is a picture across the city from the roof our our hotel. A nice juxtaposition of the Mosques and Churches.


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The city used to have a city wall with 8 gates. The gates are still in place but most of the wall is destroyed. There is one part between Bab Touma and Bab al Salam. On this stretch you can see that houses have been built into and on top of the wall over the years. This guy has made an interesting entry point!


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One of the other gates is Bab Kisan, which is renowned as being the location where St Paul was lowered in a basket to avoid a baying mob whom he had upset with his preaching.


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There were some interesting souqs, the main one being Al Hamidiyeh - which I have to say most sold a load of tat, but did have a shop selling really nice ice creams! The place was absolutely heaving which made our passage through somewhat tiresome. There were hoards of kids about in groups, most of whom it would appear had never seen a white/blonde girl (caz) in real life - given their staring and adolescent drooling!


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The more interesting souq we wanted to look at, Madhat Pasha, was close for Eid. The very few shops that were open gave us the impression they would have more art/antiques/crafts etc. The architecture of these souq is interesting, with the holes in the roof creating nice shafts of light pouring in. I am told by a Syrian friend that these holes are the result of firing from a previous French invasion!

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Within the city there were some great tight little street to explore, like warrens running though the whole place. Every now and again you would stumble across what looked like a nice restaurant and hotel tucked right out of the way.


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The Umayyad Mosque was very nice (can’t believe we came from Abu dhabi and visited a mosque!) - it is described as the first monumental work of architecture in Islamic history. After Mecca, it was a central gathering point for Muslims. Inside it didn’t seem to have the same reverence as you find at the Zayed Mosque in Abu dhabi. Kids were running around inside causing mayhem (they seemed to play a game of “who can get past the security man with a stick” at the entrances!) and it seemed to be used mainly for people to escape the heat and sleep!

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There were various remnants of Roman rule, including this Roman arch.


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There seemed to be lots of old cars around; American, French, Italian. This old Citroen (I think) caught my eye, as well as the Fiat Mirafiori which is the same as the one I learnt to drive in 26 years ago - even the colour. (for anyone that knows him, it was Stuart Wards’ car - but actually was a Super Mirafiori, woo hoo).

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This sign got my attention too - not something you see in Abu Dhabi very often

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While out and about one morning we stopped at a local coffee shop. This was the english side of the menu. Highlighted are a few interesting selection!

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So, I thought “in for a penny, in for a pound” - I’ll order them! So here is my fried sheep’s testicles (chopped with about 6 chips) and the sheep’s brain fatteh, which is basically a yoghurt over the meat. The testicles had the texture of tofu about them, but didn’t taste unpleasant and the brains were just a slimy mush really, that didn’t actually taste of anything, only yoghurt. I think this will be a once in a lifetime selection, if out of choice!

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On our final night there were took a trip up the Qasiyoun mountain, where there are coffee shops and foodstall and you can see down over the city. Again it was packed, it is a very popular destination. It is cooler up there and has some nice views. I didn’t have my proper tripod or remote, so I wasn’t especially happy wiht the picture result, but you get the idea. Pretty much all the green bits you can see are mosques.

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All in all, we enjoyed the trip, but we did come home exhausted from all the walking. If we had more time I would have liked to explore more of Syria, maybe another time. Although I think I would like to do Lebanon next - I have plenty of would-be tour guides amongst my customers who hail from there and of course believe it is the nicest place on earth!

My full album of pictures can be found here :-



Trip to Damascus, Syria