Thursday, 14 April 2011

New Advetures

I have started a new blog about my travelling experiences. I've just returned from inter-railing through central Europe, if you'd like to follow what I got up to, check out my new page.

http://worldthefirsttime.blogspot.com/

Cheers!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Update

This blog has had over 1,200 unique visitors since I started writing it. That's 1,198 more than I expected (hi Mum and Dad). There are still people viewing it every day even though I haven't updated the blog in months. A big thank you to everyone who has read my ramblings.

If you've ever got any questions about life in Abu Dhabi please feel free to get in touch, it's always great to hear you. Thanks again.

Monday, 31 January 2011

An end to a journey

The blog has been pretty quiet for a while. That's because my secondment in the Abu Dhabi office ended and I've relocated home to the UK. I've since had lots of time to reflect on my time in the Middle East.

Looking back, it was the most amazing six month period of my life. It was scary, exciting, challenging and rewarding every single day. I had some great experiences and learnt a lot about the Muslim culture. What made it totally special was the people I met and the friends I made.

I was fortunate enough to meet some amazing people, who I would never have met had I stayed home in the UK. I learnt about the world through other peoples experiences. I also had fleeting moments with acquaintances which totally changed my my view on certain situations.

I found the experience to be totally fulfilling and I'm already looking for my next adventure. However I felt the full spectrum of emotions while I was there. I felt real loneliness when my girlfriend back home left me. I felt stranded thousands of miles from home and I hadn't known any of my Abu Dhabi friends longer than six weeks. In contrast, I had one of the best times of my life when we went on a road trip to Dubai and 15 of us booked an apartment. We got lost several times on the way, despite it being a fairly well worn path! We played drinking games, had great conversations (I'm guessing) and set out into the Arabic night. My friend was sick, I bust my nose and people got it on. Good times.

fuzzy duck.

Thank you to my friends, my acquaintances, the Emiratis, the expats, the taxi drivers, the spitting builders, the jet ski riders, the bread bakers and the philipino hareem that my mate nurtured.

It was a blast.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Fanzone

The main event in the Abu Dhabi calendar, the F1 Grand Prix, has taken over the city. There are celebrations all over the city and I went to visit the main fanzone, on the Corniche beach.

The F1 is Abu Dhabi is a big deal. A series of events have been running in the build up to the race. The 'Yasalam' festival has included a beach cinema, beach concerts and fanzones at different venues in the city.

The focus of attention is along the Corniche. The fanzone there is a heavily branded affair, as you would expect. There are lots of model cars, chequered flags, oversized racing helmets and pther racing paraphernalia. There's also the obligatory shop selling expensive Ferrari t-shirts, shoes and beach towels.

The main section of the fanzone is a little more interesting. The section is heavily sponsored by Mubadala and feels very corporate. However this has paid for a few little treats. One of these treats is the Yas Island Circuit simulator.

In the simulator, you sit in life size replicas of a Ferrari F1 car. There are three large screens in front of you which display the track, just like a computer game, but with extra peripheral vision. Once the race starts you are able to race around the Yas Island circuit. The replica car you are sat in moves, rolls and bumps in an attempt to replicate the real thing. I found the steering to be super sensitive and could barely keep the car on the track. My car was all over the place and I could barely keep the car in a straight line what with the car throwing me from left to right.

The second treat the corporate sponsors have paid for was my favourite. It's a similar set up, with you being sat in a replica car, with a screen in front of you. However you are actually racing remote controlled cars around a track in front of you, rather than a computer game. What's better, your RC car has a built in camera, so you get an in-car view on the screen in front of you. Racing against your friends RC cars was a lot more fun, and it was cool to have in in-car view.

It wouldn't take a whole hour to see everything in the fanzone. Whilst not the most amazing experience it was amusing. I wouldn't make a special trip to go see it, but if you happen to be on the Corniche you should definitely check it out.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Mission Impossible 4: On Set in Dubai

Hollywood is in the UAE this month as filming takes place on the Burj Khalifa, for the next instalment of the Mission Impossible franchise.

'Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol' is the fourth instalment of the series and is currently being filmed in Dubai. Some of the main scenes in the film take place in Dubai, particularly at the World's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

I have to say I enjoy the Mission Impossible films. They don't compare to the Bourne Trilogy, but they are entertaining when you don't expect too much. I have also got to mention that I am really impressed with Tom Cruise. He is doing all his own stunts which isn't common amongst your other A-list actors. It must take real nerve to abseil off the tallest building in the world.


I'm really looking forward to seeing the film once it's complete. The Architecture in Dubai would make the perfect backdrop to a glossy action film. Personally I would really like to see a post apoclyptic film set in Dubai in the near future, once the oil money has ran out. Think JG Ballard's 'High Rise' crossed with 'Blade Runner' - I guess we'll have to wait a bit longer for that one though.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

A visit to the Grand Mosque provides an opportunity to discover some of Islam with my own eyes and answer some of my questions.


Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is the eighth largest mosque in the world and named after the founder of the United Arab Emirates. It was opened to worshippers in 2007, however development continues in parts of the site and a completion date is still unknown.

A public tour commences daily at 10am. The tour is directed by local Emirati tour guides. All visitors are expected to obey Islamic standards in the mosque. As a result, no shoes are worn in the main prayer rooms and everyone should be dressed modestly. All women are expected to wear an abaya and cover their hair, whilst guys are given a snappy white dishdasha if they turn up in shorts and t-shirt.

The tour guide gives out lots of impressive facts about the mosque. Typically, they are very proud of the numerous world records the mosque boasts. The scale of the building is impressive. I'm always suprised that there are in fact seven larger mosques in the world - they must be something special. The thing I find most impressive about the architecture of the mosque is the sense of openness. Most mosques have few windows and do not allow non-Muslims. Here at the Grand Mosque, it is possible to walk through the mosque from one end of the site to the other. The only walls are found around the prayer rooms, whilst the rest of the most is built upon a series of columned walkways.
The are other little architectural touches which I enjoyed. There is a huge tiled prayer-courtyard in the centre of the mosque. The courtyard is under the constant glare of the sun and gets incredibly warm. This produces a problem because when Muslims pray they touch their nose to the ground. In order to prevent the worshippers burning themselves, special tiles have been created that do not absorb the suns heat, allowing worshippers to pray as they normally would.

The tour is great for several reasons. Firstly, admission is free which is not common in the UAE. Secondly, the tour guides are open to answer any questions and are aren't easily shocked or offended. Our tour ended with lots of questions about the abaya and the headscarf women wear. The tour guide was happy to explain why certain items of clothing are worn.

The final reason why the tour is so good I think is also the most important. The mosque is open to non-Muslims. Many mosques are closed to non-Muslims and as a result they are imposing on the local environment but offer no insight by way of windows or external activity. To me, mosques were small areas of the community where I wasn't allowed and didn't know what when on there. A visit to the grand mosque allowed me to see how mosques operate and to see the benefits the Muslim community derive from the mosque. It was an opportunity for non-Muslims to learn about what can sometimes feel like a insular religion.

In today's society more than ever it necessary to learn and understand each other's values and customs so that we can live harmoniously and further develop out own cultures.
living in the United Arab Emirates