Monday, August 31, 2009

Days off in Abu Dhabi

I had a few unexpected days off. A scheduling misunderstanding. So I became a tourist quite quickly. The following is the new Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which is the 3rd largest Mosque in the world.

To go inside the mosque, women must be covered in the traditional "abayas" which are the robes, I cannot remember the name of the head scarves...

The reason for the black is so that no one can see through it. In fact, they were quite comfortable and I can see if you were a bedouin in the desert how it would protect you from the blowing sand and wind.

One evening, we went on a desert safari. The first activity was called "dune bashing." Translation: Get in a jeep, hold on tight and let the driver go crazy driving as if it were a roller coaster. Fun for the first 10-15 minutes but then the motion sickness took over. I remained nauseated for the rest of the evening.

I got to meet a camel and then even ride on one.

There was an evening meal followed by shisha. Not so bad. It had a bit of flavor to it, but no head rush, not like cigarettes. In fact, not like much at all.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What I am thankful for

1. Skype. Connecting me to family for free is amazing and wonderful. Here is what I get to see daily:
2. An unexpected day off spent at the Hiltonia Beach Club:

There was a beach as well (at the beach club) but we were warned about jelly fish. I still waded in a bit, it was nice, like a bath. Perhaps some pictures after my next visit.

3. I am really lucky to be working with a great group of trainers. Dang, they make me laugh. Work hard, play hard....lots of adventure here in Abu Dhabi!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Just another day in Abu Dhabi

My eyes are burning. Probably from another day of dehydration. An incredible place but I cannot imagine living here. Fascinating cultures to learn about, amazing things to see....but no f-ing way. Construction is everywhere:

This is our work site:

This is the biggest Mosque in the UAE (my photo only captures about 1/2 of it):

This is the Shangri-La Abu Dhabi hotel pool (loveliest I've ever seen):

This the opulant, over the top Emirates Palace Hotel (ceiling painted in gold, yes, real gold):

These fellows, rather, these Sheiks, are pictured EVERYWHERE (I broke rules taking this photo):
Our current itinerary:

Tonight we are off to a Brazilian restaurant, tomorrow a tour of Abu Dhabi, Saturday morning we go to Al Ain for a cultural experience of some sort, and in the evening we go on a desert safari and ride a camel to dinner (OMG). Sunday we go to an Iftar, which is the Ramadan feast that follows the breaking of the fast. Whew. These are the plans so far.

And I thought I was on a business trip.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Under construction

Just so you know, I'm not permitted to share any photos of the hotel construction on the internet. Its all under wraps until the grand opening. The Yas Hotel on Yas Island, is just one small project of many others that spread across a 26 mile drive along the waterfront.

Today I saw a model of the 10 year plan. Its outrageous. Talk about money. And yet, not much is spent on the facilities we are working in, or the lunch we are being served or the transportation that we are taking to and from the work site (picture a small bus with little to no ventilation, no AC and 115 degree weather. Now fill the bus with a bunch of sweaty people. Add motion sickness and stir).

The hotel we are staying in is very comfortable. The biggest snafu so far is that I don't have the right adapter for my hair flattener/straightener/de-frizzer. Do you have any idea how big my hair can get in this heat and humidity? Did I mention 115 degrees. Yup. Hot. Here's the view from my room into the street:
I hear the evening prayer but from where? Its a beautiful sound...and now, the Muslims can break their fast.

During Ramadan, which started two days ago, the Muslims fast, which means, that the display of food or beverage in public places or around Muslims is forbidden during daylight hours. So at our work site, if we are thirsty, we have to go into the kitchen, close the door and discretely drink water. And no smoking or music during this holy period. Not surprisingly, the first few days of Ramadan are the hardest as they have to get used to not eating all day. Even harder is when it falls in the summer and days are longer. Our students are nodding out, midday and can you blame them?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Comfort in knowing

Here is where I will be staying in Abu Dhabi, since the hotel I will be working in is still under construction:
Its the Rotana Hotel. It seems kind of nice. It recently got renovated and its pretty high tech and swank looking. And, in some of the pictures there are women in sleeveless tops, tank tops...hmmmm. Perhaps it is OK on days off, or just within the hotel walls?

All very curious. I feel a bit relieved to know that I am staying at a nice place. I figured I would be, but...its nice just knowing.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Abu Dhabi

If you thought the Central Valley was a long commute...try Abu Dhabi. That picture above is where I am heading toward the end of the month, the soon to be opening Yas Hotel on Yas Island. I will report more as I learn more.

By the way, have you seen where the United Arab Emirates is on a map? Its literally on the other side of the planet. No kidding.