Tag Archives: abu dhabi

The Remainder of my Thanksgiving abroad

I know that most American Thanksgivings involve football (American football…not the fake kind that they play here ☺) whether it be watching or playing. Unfortunately, the Emirates do not have any sort of American football. Never fear! I did go to a rugby tournament!
Never having seen a complete rugby match, it was quite an enlightening experience. We spent the day in Dubai sitting in the sun, watching match after match. I did see the U.S. play…and then lose to England, but it was still enjoyable.
I picked up a Scottish jersey, but other than that it was fairly uneventful. I would choose an American football game over rugby any day. The crowds are a lot more lively and intense.

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Because in case you didn’t know…I love food

So many of you have asked me about the food situation here. Like any place, there’s good food and bad food. The food in the hotel isn’t awesome, but it isn’t horrible. There is fresh fruit and vegetables which is always nice (especially vegetables and hommus…yum).

In the hope that we are moving into the apartments soon, I have downloaded several podcasts on food. I’m determined to return to the states with at least some ability to pull together a meal (despite the fact that some of you will never let go of some of my cooking hiccups: the pasta, the sausages, the mashed potatoes from last year’s LRub thanksgiving). I will come home with the ability to put together a meal…

Despite the fact that I still barely can put together and am living in a hotel, I don’t want anyone to think that I am going hungry! I have had a lot of arabic food, some indian, japanese (my favorite), and some weird fusion styles. But Abu Dhabi is not without some “great” american chains. Now, knowing that I will miss some, should you come visit me, you will get a taste of home with the following restaurant choices:
Sbarro’s Pizza
KFC (its gross here too)
-Burger King (apparently it’s exactly the same, but I dont eat there so I wouldn’t know)
-McDonald’s (they have Coke here too Mom)
Baskin Robbins (I was surprised too!)
Dunkin Donuts
Krispy Kreme
Bice (yeah, that restaurant that used to be in Northfield, maybe? It’s in the Hilton here )
Benihana
-Papa John’s (In the Oman airport, not technically in Abu Dhabi)
-Pizza Hut
-Subway
-Chili’s
Hardees
and of course Starbucks

Now with all these options, it’s impossible to see why everyone thinks Americans eat only Hamburgers washed down with a refreshing Coke product.

I do enjoy the taste of home, but the only place on the aforementioned list that I have actually been to is Starbucks. It’s exactly the same as anyone at home, except there was no Passion Tea Lemonade (it was very disappointing). But I know that it’s getting colder now and some of you love to get a coffee on the first snow and sit outside and enjoy the coming of winter (read: Megan Fletcher). I’m sure at this point you are thinking to yourself, “well Annie, Starbucks can’t exactly the same there because it’s almost Christmas and you are living in an Islamic state”. Well, you would be wrong! All of the starbucks have the red Christmas menu lists, complete with beverage offerings like “Toffee Nut Latte”, etc. They even have the fabulous red cups 🙂 and Christmas Blend coffee. The only thing missing is the faux snow from a can. So while I won’t be able to enjoy the falling snow while sipping my coffee beverage (most likely a cappuccino because they are so yummy), I’ll sit on a bench anyway at the Corniche looking at the Persian Gulf and thinking about all of you.

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A Lesson in dune bashing & sandboarding

As always, it’s been a very busy week. Last we left off I believe I was going on a desert safari. It was a lot of fun. We drove about halfway to Dubai and were really in the desert (because despite the fact that I live on an island…its really in the desert). There were tons of dunes and not a lot of buildings. We pulled off the road to a camel farm (for lack of a better term). It was just camels in a pen and chickens in the middle of some dunes. So we got to see the camels. 

Regardless of what anyone might tell you, camels smell WORSE than horses, but it was a similar scent. I did not participate in the photo op with the camels because a lot of them looked on the verge of spitting or bitting. I did however manage to snap a gem of a photo of one of the most intense female mullets ever. (I would try and post it here, but the internet has been exceptionally horrible lately, but you can find some photos on facebook. Rach – I promise I am trying to upload to shutterfly, but I can’t.)

After the drivers deflated the tires a little bit, we set off into the dunes. There were about 15-20 cars. Fortunately we had our land cruiser to ourselves (the 4 of us). Our driver also LOVED carving new paths in the dunes as we were dune bashing. Dune Bashing is off-roading in huge dunes, so we had so much fun because the driver was blasting some great music and we got to see lots of sand.

I sat in the back (perhaps not the best place to sit), but it allowed me to get some great photos of the setting sun. Perhaps the most eventful moment was when we almost rolled the car down the dune, but we survived. After driving for about 20-30 minutes, we parked the cars on the top of a huge dune so that we could get out and take pictures and such because the sun was setting and it was so gorgeous. We could also try “sand-boarding”.

Now as a person who has been snow-skiing once, hasn’t waterskied since she was about 10, and has never snowboarded, I was “eager” to try sandboarding. I wanted to sandboard to say that I could. I attempted, and fell. I attempted again, and fell again. It’s not as much fun as it looks, because you have to WALK back up the dune, when there is sand blowing over the top of the dune into your eyes. Not so fun, but we did it.

After dumping about 3 pounds of sand out of my shoes, we got back into the car and drove to what was essentially an open-air fort for a “traditional” meal. I got some henna with my boss and we enjoyed a belly dancing show. The belly dancer even pulled people on stage to dance with her. I was selected at one point and along with everyone else on stage, felt very awkward while she tried to have us mimic her actions. But we had fun :). The meal was quite good and then we drove back to Abu Dhabi.

As for this week, I have been in the hotel for over 20 days meaning that I just qualified for a Starwood bonus of 25,000 points, so yay! Other than that, I am very much looking forward to moving into an apartment as much as I would like to have some clean my room everyday (because somehow in the 3 waking hours that I spend in my room everyday, I manage to make a huge mess).

Today, I laid at the pool for a little bit because I figure that when I eventually come home I should look tan so that you all believe that I actually lived in the Middle East and not in some town in Northern Minnesota (like I normally look in winter).

I know that most of you are beginning to enjoy the lovely weather that visits Chicago around Thanksgiving. I’d like to let you know that it has been about 80-85 here during the day. I do love snow, but I am not missing the cold horribly yet (and I definitely won’t in January and February). I will miss the snow and twinkle lights however :(, so keep me posted on the snow situation with all of you.

Also, I have been loving all of your individual email updates on your lives :). It always brightens my day, so please keep those coming. I hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving and safe travels this week! Eat some extra mashed potatoes for me!

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Your questions, Answered. Installment #2

Becca asked: Is any of [Al Raha Beach] finished now? Or are they still building it? Is the goal 2030?
– Development is still in process. Some small aspects (mini projects, or foilos) are completed. The Al Raha Mall is completed (they LOVE malls over here), and the ALDAR HQ should be finished early next year. The entire development will take about 10 years to complete, so by 2017-2020.

Avery asked: Do you miss me yet?
– Yes I miss you all immensely!

Do most people wear western style clothes or is it mostly traditional clothing?
– There is a WIDE variety of clothing over here. There are full burkahs and dishdahs, in addition to jeans and t-shirts. The traditional clothing is usually worn by nationals.

Also what are the streets like? i invision like a new york complete with hot dog stands and stuff but i’m assuming it’s more traditional middle eastern food.
– There are no food stands on corners, but everything is really dirty here. Plus the sidewalk is completely uneven. There are holes, or dips, or steps in the middle of the walk ways.

Basically i want to know about the food situation over there. also what is the weridest type of food they have over there.
– There is pretty much every kind of food over here. The quality always varies. There is PHENOMENAL juice however. I am loving that of course. I have not experienced “a weirdest type of food” yet, but when I do. I’ll let you know.

Bobbie asked: Are the people you see in the hotel or city friendly?
– No one is unfriendly, but no one is overly friendly. I would say that it’s very comparable to Chicago.

Can men order drinks in restaurants?
– Anyone can order a drink in a restaurant assuming that you are in a hotel. Most restaurants outside of hotels don’t even sure any sort of alcohol. Additionally, there are notations on the menu of items that contain alcohol. (Like beer-battered fish or a pasta in a white wine sauce).

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Is this really my life?

As always (because perhaps 2 weeks is now a long enough period to make that blanket statement), it was an incredibly busy week. I’m still enjoying it though because I would always rather be more busy than less.

On Thursday night, we celebrated “Go-Live” with some champagne as I mentioned last week. But then a couple of us went to a roof-top club/lounge at the Crowne Hotel. It was much more chill than we expected, with everyone sitting on white beanbags and low couches around the roof pool. But the weather was gorgeous, so we grabbed a table and gazed at the stars and just got to know everyone a little bit better.

On Friday, several of us went to LuLu island. It’s an island just off the coast of Abu Dhabi. It’s part of the city. It’s just an island that is all sand and beach with some sand dunes. The most wonderful surprise about the experience was that the beach was not crowded at all. There are huts and cabanas scattered across the coast of the island and everyone has their own space. We cooked out and overall just relaxed. I swam in the Persian Gulf and the water was great. It was very warm, but not like I’ve heard it gets in the summer here (hotter than a bath).

Friday night I went to Dubai with some others. The drive wasn’t too bad. It took about the same amount of time it would take to get to Milwaukee from Chicago (1.5-ish). Driving into the city was so radically different from Abu Dhabi because Dubai is further ahead in development. Dubai felt more like a “real” city. It felt like you were driving into a city, whereas in Abu Dhabi it’s more like you are driving to a city and all of the sudden you are in residential areas, and then bam! you are in a city. Needless to say, it was very cool.

We went to Le Meridian. As I’ve told many of you, the club/bar scene is completely within the hotels in the UAE. We went to a beach-side restaurant bar and then hung out on some lounge chairs on the beach looking out to the Atlantis on the Palm Jumeriah. Le Meridian is next to the Westin Hotel at the base of the Palm Jumeriah, so it was a really cool experience thinking, “wow, I’m at the Palm Jumeriah in Dubai”. It was definitely a moment for me.


We were all so tired and not entirely feeling the bar because it was SO crowded that we decided to head back to Abu Dhabi. One of the guys I was with however wanted to drive to the Burj Dubai since I hadn’t been to Dubai yet. Its crazy how tall the building is. You can see it from miles away. We got close to it, not as close as we would have been able to during the day however since we work with some clients who are working on the building.


After we got this photo of the tower (which you will notice can’t even capture the entire height of the tower. You have to look almost straight up to see all of it.), we headed back to Abu Dhabi for a much needed rest.

On Saturday, I went for a walk around the city. The weather has really gotten gorgeous here. It’s in the 80s during the day and 70s at night. It’s really lovely. I know that a lot of you have asked to see photos of the city and such. I promise I am trying to post those photos, but the internet is so shoddy here that I can’t upload the photos in batches and I have to load one at a time. Once I have a block of time to do so, I will (Rachel…).

As for last night, we went to Royal Meridian in Abu Dhabi to 2 different clubs. It was a really interesting experience because I leaned over to one of the woman I was with at point and said “where are all the women?”, to which she responded “welcome to abu dhabi”. Most everywhere you will go there are tons of men, and not nearly as many women. Now for me, it’s great because I never have to pay cover to get into a bar/club and I can just walk to the front of the line (like I did last night. It was a great feeling 🙂 ) But it’s a bummer since I work with a bunch of guys and we all want to go out together.

Additionally, the clubs are always smoky, so I feel like it’s freshman year of college again when we would go to the bars before the smoking ban was passed in Oxford. But we had a great time dancing to A LOT of house music (another completely different thing that I will need to touch on at a different time). After all the dancing, we sat outside lounging and smoking hookah. It’s really been a surreal experience.

Today, I am going on a desert safari with my boss, my boss’s boss, and 2 other people from work. It should be a really great time because rumor has it that will be going dune-buggy-ing and perhaps sandboarding (snowboarding on sand). And perhaps some camel riding and definitely a “local meal”. I’ll make sure to let you know how it goes 🙂

– a

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Your questions, Answered :)

So a lot of you have asked me questions this week that I want to make sure get answered. (And maybe I’ll try and do this once a week…we will see)

Becca asked: Do you have a roomie in your hotel room?
– No, I do not. My room is to myself with a gigantic king-sized bed. When I move into an apartment (which will be who knows when), I will have at least one roomie (another woman from work) but I will have my own room and bathroom.

Avery asked: Is cosmo banned?
– Avery, I am not sure on this question. To my knowledge no, but I haven’t really looked for magazines. I will keep you posted

Christine said: You only work 4 days a week.
– No, I work 5. But essentially, I work 7 days a week, every hour that I am awake. I live, work, eat, hangout, etc. with people from work, so we talk about work A LOT.

Christine also asked: How’s the weather?
– The weather is getting really gorgeous. It’s about 73 in the mornings, but it gets into the high 90s in the afternoon. But it’s really nice when the breeze blows

How are you going to survive without your fall attire?
– I have not come to terms with the magnitude of that conundrum yet.

What IS the tax on alcohol and do you need me to send you some wine via the post man?
– Thank you for the offer. I will let you know if I need that :). And I have not tried to buy alcohol in the city yet, only at duty free in the airport. I will keep you posted on that

When do you come home next?
– I am not sure yet. At the earliest, May.

How is the actual job?
– As I said earlier, very very busy. But I enjoy the work a lot.

What is the exchange rate?
– The durham is pegged to the dollar. It’s about $27 for every 100 durham

Poppy asked: What is Halloween like over there?
– Since most of the country is ex-pats, there were several halloween parties, but it is not big at all here. I did see one Halloween display in a window however.

Mrs. H asked: Was it strange to be so far away [for the election] and what do people say [about it] there?
– It was weird to be far away because we were watching the polling numbers come in while we were launching all the new projects on the same day. I wish I could have been in Chicago for all the energy. But everyone is enthralled with what was and is going on. I am saving several of the newspapers I get every morning for the articles about the election because the stories in the paper are different than we would see in the US.

That’s all for now. If you have more questions, please ask!

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Musings on Driving, Parking, and things related to cars…

A blanket statement could be made about driving over here: you need a death wish.

Essentially, there are no rules:
There are speed limits, but NO one follows them.
There are turn lanes, but you can turn from any lane.
There are parking spaces, but you can park anywhere (any when I say anywhere, I mean pretty much anywhere!)

The traffic situation over here is interesting to say the very least. All roads are at least 3 lanes in each direction; most are 4. Everyone drives way too fast, swerves in and out of traffic and changes lanes without signaling. People turn left from the far right lane. They go straight from the left lane. And the roundabouts are my favorite because who knows what is going to happen. Additionally, people sometimes dart out into the street and cars swerve to get out of the way (sometimes). Everyone drives for themselves and doesn’t care about anyone else on the road.

Now that said, driving with someone (like some of the people I work with) who LOVE driving like this, it can be fun. It’s almost like you are in a video game…

Back to parking.

When I said people park anywhere I was not kidding. The generally accepted rule is that you can park anywhere so long as you are not really blocking traffic. So on the side streets, people park ON the center lane because cars can get by on both sides. Earlier in the week I saw an SUV just pull up on to the curb and parked with the front 2 tires on the curb and the back end sort of in the street. So you have to be creative…

Now at this point, I’m sure some of you are thinking…hmm there must be a fair amount of accidents here. And it’s true, there are. I have seen several in my short week here. The thing to note about the accidents however is not how often they happen but how they are handled. The one rule about driving that is followed is that if you are in an accident you CANNOT move your vehicle until the police get there. AT ALL. Meaning that if you get into an accident in the middle of the intersection, you stay right where you are…in the center of traffic. So that’s part of the cause of the traffic problems here. Blockages are caused by accidents…enough said

Plus…all the cars are covered in dust that will never come off…

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