No Arab loves the desert. We love water and green trees. There is nothing in the desert and no man needs nothing

(Prince Feisal, Lawrence of Arabia)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

A green and pleasant land?

"They used to say that agriculture has no future [in the UAE], but with God's blessing and our determination, we have succeeded in transforming this desert into a green land."

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

 This year, marked the sixth anniversary of the death of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the former president and founder of the UAE. He believed then, six years ago, that he had managed to successfully create a 'green land'. A green land of wealth and prosperity perhaps however the constant view of sand and dust within this ever growing building site would appear to contradict this.

 Unfortunately the city of Abu Dhabi is not quite the oasis the late Sheikh Zayed had hoped for however his grand masterplan for the area still remains - as every week a new road is finished, building opened, and tree erected. If only the government departments responsible for these changes knew how to communicate internally they could possibley create the land Sheikh Zayed dreamed of more efficiently.

 A couple of months ago PB and I were lucky enough to have a week long vacation in Beirut where we saw a sharp contrast to Abu Dhabi in the efficiency of renovation and construction. Beirut was, as most of you know, heavily bombed during it's civil war - evidence of which is still present throughout the city.

 Once the war was over in 1990, what was once Beirut's Central District was left for dead, flattened by over 25 years of fighting. Our guides books described what we were about to see as post-appocolyptic Paris. Imagine then, our suprised when Beirut's Central District, now reffered to as Downtown, more closely resembled the stylish fashion avenues of Rome or Barcelona. In only 15 years the part public, part private initiative, Solidere, has turned what was 'no mans land' into a bustling hub of exclusivity.

 On our return to Abu Dhabi we immediately longed for the Mediterranean vibe that flows through Beirut but quickly reminded ourselves that we can not compare the two cities as this country is a mere 38 years old. To compare it to those places in the world that we love is unreasonable and I have no doubt that in another 38 years, if that, people will be sad to leave this place - myself included.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

"Being born under an unlucky star"

'Laymen and professional researchers alike have often asked themselves whether the concept of "being born under an unlucky star" has any foundation in reality... An interesting survey suggests that the answer is yes. And what is more, this type of behaviour explains why some drivers are less able than others'

Be Smart, Drive Safe - Emirates Driving Handbook

As I sit and read the above paragraph, revising for my forthcoming theory test, it becomes no surprise that in that my year of living in this country I have been hit by an SUV whilst standing quite still, in a car-park, and have been in two taxi crashes, albeit minor bumps. 

When my friend, a man in the know, originally told me that he would come with me to my theory test and ensure I passed, I was dubious, however upon now learning that my manual on how to drive teaches of, not stopping times or general high-way code, "unlucky stars" and etiquette at a party (from a culture that isn't meant to drink!) I doubt very much that passing the theory test in this country will make me a good driver. I would also like to add that I have passed the UK standard test so I do know what this driving manual here fails to teach me.

The Arabian culture has altered my existence in many ways, not only for the chaotic driving where it is not uncommon to see a Lexus LX470 driving along the high-way on two wheels, or breaking to a halt to decorate the road with some doughnut like markings. Tomorrow happens to be Leilat Al-Meiraj meaning that the night before is dry (without alcohol for all of you living outside of Arabia).  This means that not only am I sitting drinking a bottle of Harveys Bristol Cream, alone, in my kitchen (I'm as surprised, as I'm sure you are, to have found a bottle of such nectar in my local liquor store), instead of my usual after work drinks, that inevitably turns into late night ongoings, but this bottle also eats into 5 % of my salary.  You see to buy alcohol in this country, if a resident, one needs to have a liquor license that, not only costs a percentage of one's salary, but also limits the amount you are allowed to buy. Now as a Brit, trying to survive the heat of the summer desert, it is often hard not to exceed the legal limit, especially when one doesn't earn as much as my liver would like.

Anyway, seeing as I have helped my cleaner return to the Philippines to visit her family for the summer, I feel I should use this night of sobriety to make the Penthouse look respectful again.

Until next time

Scarf Girl