living in the United Arab Emirates

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Things we love about UAE

  • Arabic language
  • All female beaches
  • Family friendly
  • Home comforts readily available
  • Hearing the adhaan
  • Halal food!
  • Sun, sun and sun!
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Thursday, 13 December 2012

Who said that Abu Dhabi Doesn't have a Sense of Humour?

So, I've been snapping random shots of things that have made me giggle in Abu Dhabi over the last few months.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!


So, this didn't make me laugh in a nice way... but I did find it really strange that Borders just opened here in Abu Dhabi Mall, but it went in to administration and closed everywhere in the UK.
We have Borders, we have Borders, nah, nah, nah nah, nah!

A great product to buy if you want to give your man some Nice Feelings.

Who wouldn't want a pair of these snazzy pyjamas. Apparently they have a magical power that makes your head just a little bit bigger than your body... attractive, I know!

This was just a PHENOMENAL typo to make... especially for a huge chain store like LuLu.

Well, we ordered Subway I think, they delivered - and were courteous enough to include the above instructions. Needless to say, they most certainly did not doorbell.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Top 10 Myths about the United Arab Emirates

I absolutely love all of your brilliant questions, and questions that I receive through friends I've moved away from.
Here is a list of the top ten myths that circulate about the UAE.

1. All people in the UAE are super rich

It is true that the brilliant rules of the UAE allow a tax free income, but truly, out here in the UAE, you see people from all walks of life, making all sorts of money. Maids who work in the homes of locals or expats can notoriously make as little as 1000aed a month (about £169.00 at the current exchange rate of 5.9). It is even common to see locals from all sorts of the financial spectrum, some seeming to have a very healthy income, and those who have a modest one.
The workers from the sub-continent are sometimes paid a third of what a westerner could make. There is most certainly money to be made here, but you still have to live to a budget as you would in any country, you've also got to really try to stick to it as there are far too many places to spend it here!

2. The UAE operates Shariah Law
The UAE does not have Shariah Law completely. It does though, have a system that is loosely based upon it; true Shariah Law that is, not the 'interesting' varieties you see in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Laws are particularly strict here regarding certain offences such as drug dealing and drug use, drink driving, adultery and rape, but to be honest, as long as you're not participating in such criminal offences you've really got nothing to worry about.

3. Women are oppressed
This is one myth that is widespread and comes to the forefront of most people's minds when thinking about Arab or Muslim-majority countries. 
The UAE is widely considered one of the most forward thinking countries with regards to gender relations in the Arab and Muslim world. Unlike the UAE's neighbour, women here are allowed to drive. Women also make up half of the university population and are full participants in the work force. 
Emirati women wear abaya (voluminous black gown) and shayla (a head covering) but unlike Saudi Arabia or Iran it is not enforced but more of a national custom. You will even sometimes run in to Emirati ladies who do not wear the shayla or even the abaya.
Expat women are not expected or asked to wear abaya or shayla and are pretty much allowed to wear whatever it is they like provided that it is modest i.e. no overt displays of cleavage or short-shorts (unless it is in the appropriate place like a beach). Of course is also truly depends on where you are in the Emirates. Dubai is a lot less conservative than Abu Dhabi, and Abu Dhabi is less conservative than Sharjah. So, the best thing to do is to just adjust your clothing to wherever you're going in the Emirates so not to cause offence. 

4. Dubai is the capital of the UAE
This is usually the shocker to people. In fact, sometimes I'm even asked if Dubai is it's own country! Abu Dhabi is the official capital of the UAE. Dubai (the city) is much larger than Abu Dhabi city. 

5. The UAE is a no-alcohol zone
This is one of the greatest myths I've heard on my rounds. Alcohol is sold in hotels and in some stores in Abu Dhabi and Dubai (and other Emirates that have swanky hotels). Most other states allow the selling of alcohol, but like Abu Dhabi require a alcohol license (although, if truth be told, it is hardly enforced). Sharjah, I believe, is the only Emirate that is completely dry.
It is worth mentioning though, that during holy nights or special holidays within the Islamic Calendar hotels, bars and restaurants enforce dry nights.

6. Pork, what pork?
This seems like an obvious one but I do frequently get asked this question. Yes, pork and pig products are sold in the UAE. In Abu Dhabi Spinneys is one of the most well known establishments that sells pork. In fact, they even have a specific 'pork room' in the back of stores (quite like the back room in a video rental shop) which has a sign arching the door saying 'not for Muslims'. So if you're a non-Muslim, no problem at all, you'll be able to get your pork fix. Also, there are some restaurants that do have pork on the menu, but they're more upmarket restaurants. 

7. There are no churches. In fact, bringing or reading your Bible is a criminal offence
I have on occasion received questions a long these lines from frantic Christians. So please, don't worry your pretty little mind!
You can find churches out here in Abu Dhabi and in Dubai (I'm not sure about the other states as it'll all be dependent on whether there are large Christian communities in those areas that have a church). The royal family often gives gifts, funding or land to churches here. They're a monarchy that greatly encourages religious freedom as set out by their Islamic teachings and Shariah Law.
Having a Bible is also fine - so don't worry about that. You can wear crosses around your neck too. If you are worried about something it should be the proselytising law, where you could end up in hot water for preaching to those of another faith in order to convert them. The law stipulates though, that this does not mean talking about ones faith, or debating or discussing, but more like putting pressure upon, or trying to force somebody to your faith. Of course, this law also applies to Muslims who are trying to convert non-Muslims to Islam too. 

8. The Emiratis are the ruling class
Well, yes and no. The locals are most certainly the ruling class in that they are well taken care of by their government i.e. they can receive benefits, housing aid, free schooling, it is also mandatory that all companies reserve jobs for the locals.
But according to the law - on paper, everybody is equal before the law and all peoples are encouraged to report injustices or criminal activity even if the perpetrator is a local or an expat. 

9. Desert, desert everywhere
I was quite amazed to find that we were not actually moving to a desert. Abu Dhabi is surprisingly green, as is Al-Ain. The desert that surrounds Abu Dhabi city and Dubai is yellowish with lots of little plants growing all over. You've really got to drive out a little bit to find real desert.

10. If you move to the UAE, you must learn to speak Arabic
It's a really nice gesture to learn to speak Arabic if you're holidaying here, or living here, but to be quite honest there really is no need. The people who work in the shops, hotels, restaurants are usually Philippinos, Indians and Arabs - and they will all be more than proficient in English. We moved here thinking that we were going to be able to return to the UK fluent.... that has not happened. Not even slightly. 
It seems the only way we will be able to improve our Arabic here is to actually take a class (which they do have here!).

So that's my top ten myths about the UAE. Please feel free to add your own in the comment section. As usual, questions and comments are always welcome!

Have a good evening! 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Eid Holidays!

Recently it was the wonderful Eid holidays. It was great. We had a few days off, and decided to go to Fujairah. 

Fujairah is another Emirate. Remember, the Emirates are made up of seven states - including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah etc. etc. 

As you can see, Fujairah isn't a massive Emirate, but it has a lovely sea scape. We stayed in the city, which really seemed to me to be a pleasant, relaxed beach town. 

Now, we tried to organise this holiday back in September. We'd initially wanted to go to Dibba as that has a great reputation too. The only problem was, as early as mid-September EVERYTHING was already booked for the Eid weekend. All the hotels we were interested in any way.

So last CamelMan finds some hotel apartments. We'd never stayed in hotel apartments before so we were quite apprehensive. They were called Siji Hotel Apartments and as we drove up to them I was pleasantly surprised.

As we have an almost-two year old we were absolutely thrilled when we saw our room. It was a single bedroom, with a sitting area, dining area and a massive kitchen that had a washing machine, kettle, toaster, fridge/freezer and microwave... as well as all the relevant cooking pots, pans, plates etc etc. There was one bathroom, an en suite. They also have larger apartments in the hotel.

The usual hotel services are offered. They have a mini-bar, room service, cleaners come around, they have a restaurant and cafe, swimming pool and gym. What you would expect really, from any hotel.

We were only a few minutes from the beach, but not actually on the beach. 

On the way to Fujairah you have to pass through a mountain range. It's just so beautiful and such a change from the usual flat landscapes you get used to in Abu Dhabi. Don't expect the Alps though, the mountains aren't huge, they're large - but I think one could easily walk to the top of most of them.

The ocean is just beautiful - especially as you see these gorgeous mountains just running down in to the sea. The water is clean. As it was Eid weekend though, the beach was heaving - but we managed to find a semi-private area, where the little one could run around pretty freely.

Watch out for the crabs though! And by crabs, I'm not talking about those cute, tiny little friendly Little Mermaid crabs. I'm talking about massive, white, very over-protective crabs!  Luckily I had caught one out of the corner of my eye, all burrowed down in the sand - CamelMan would have maybe lost a little toe if not! Haha!

We visited one of the strangest and delicious restaurants there. It was called Al Meshwar - a Lebanese restaurant which stands in the middle of a green, completely detached from other buildings, and kind of has the shape of a large cardboard box that was lined with faux-rock, and crowned with pretend collapsing Roman-ruins (and yes, it does look as tacky as it sounds). And, though I snubbed it, the food was just amazing. In fact, I used to eat hummus all the time in the UK - but did not find a single hummus, in all the establishments I visited that I actually liked. BUT - oh my goodness me, the best hummus I've ever had in the UAE was from that tacky-looking restaurant! I ordered the hummus that was mixed with coriander and drizzled with pomegranate syrup. It was amazing. Enjoy!

Fujairah is great is you're in to water-sports, or just want to get away from the buzz of the city. I wouldn't recommend it if you like more of a party or a city that is more bustling. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and is lovely especially with children!

I will be updating this post with some more photographs.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Pearl and Caviar - A Review

It's most certainly all about Brunch here in Abu Dhabi. I find it is more popular here than in Dubai. 

We've been to quite a few, but I thought that I'd write about our most recent experience at the fabulous Pearl and Caviar, at the Shangri La Hotel, Abu Dhabi. 

This is a very small, very intimate little restaurant - it's chique and almost has a night-club like feel to it - apart from all the lovely natural light that envelopes you. By night-club, by the way, I really do mean that there is a live DJ, with his turntables, playing music and taking requests while you get your grub.

The food is delicious and to a great standard. The sea food, deserts, salad and roast station are to die for. You also have a nice selection of caviar, sushi and an awesome bread and cheese station. The drinks are great too - well, we don't drink alcohol but we do drink mocktails... so, we opted for those instead and they really were awesome. The best part about the day is that the waiters, quite literally, bring a barbecue to your table with seafood cooking over charcoal. You just pluck the calamari, king prawns, scallops, lobster etc etc, right off of it and on to your plate. It was scrumptious - they were just PERFECTLY cooked.  

I had initially been quite impressed with the staff and their attention to detail, but as the afternoon wore on and it got a little busier, I started to have to remind them top me up - they just kept kinda forgetting me. 

They have this beautiful little patio outside where you can go sit in the sun, have a drink, watch the jet skiiers go buy, oh, and just admire the gorgeous Shaykh Zayed Grand Mosque. The view  really is spectacular from there. 

And for those of you without children... well, you'll love Pearl and Caviar; no kids allowed (at brunch, anyway). 

My only bug-bear, if I'm going to be honest, is that for the amount we paid per head I was expecting a much more lavish variety of foods available. Sofra bld, which is just a few doors down is a little cheaper, but the food is as good, plus you have a much larger variety of foods from all over the world... plus beach and pool access. 

Pearl and Caviar is worth experiencing, and worth going to if you like a more intimate setting, good food... and no children!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Back to School... Back to Reality

Last week I and the little one went back to school. Baby Zanga was welcomed in to her new classroom, surrounded by new kids, and a new teacher. She took to it well, and seemed to thrive because she is no longer the youngest in her class.

I welcomed my new class, in to my new classroom (a fabulous classroom at that) which I am still frantically trying to finish decorating. A lot of the children in my class were in the year before luckily and so the English barrier is not dire... although there are a few who cannot understand me and I cannot understand a word they are saying. I've been assured though that by week six the children will be pretty much understanding most things and will be able to converse. It is quite a testament to a child's brain that they have the ability to pick up another language so fluently.

I received my last class at the end of January this year. The previous teacher had done all this hard work and I literally had just walked in to a classroom of children who had more or less become quite fluent. Both behaviour, commands, duties and instructions are all having to be communicated in a language that is so foreign to them. They're doing their best, and with little to no crying, so I am most impressed to say the least.

Camel man welcomed a new class today too. He is not seeming quite as positive. Haha!

Till next time!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Back and forth again...

After two months of being 'on holiday' it is now time to return to Abu Dhabi.

If I am honest, I am quite looking forward to it. Not because I did not miss the UK... as I certainly did. Not because we did not miss our family... because we certainly did. Not because we did not miss our friends... as of course, we most certainly did.
We miss Abu Dhabi because other than our friends and family, there isn't much for us here any more. It sounds quite melodramatic, haha, but what I mean is, we no longer, study, teach, work, or live here... our life, our work, our home, our things, our hobbies and past-times are now all situated in Abu Dhabi, and we have missed it.

So back to Abu Dhabi we go... we have a few more days of rain and then we will be back on the plane off to the sandbox. We'll catch you on the other side!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Bubbles, ungratefulness and rain (again)

Throughout the last 9 months I have consistently likened living in Abu Dhabi as living in a 'bubble'. This is true of course. The leering threat of a monetary meltdown, terrorism and full scale global rebellion barely even touched our Emirati bubble. Occasionally we would read the odd report of a maid falling out of the window, or murder, or massive car accident... but really, we lived in blissful unawareness.

I've now been back in the UK for almost two weeks. And I've found myself suddenly beginning to feel a little paranoid. I'm starting to leave my house feeling a tiny bit fearful... as if a 'yob' is about to jump out from around the corner, or that every major event I attend will be framed by a circumference of crazy terrorists trying to stop me having fun. It is wacky, and although I frequently digested the British news out in Abu Dhabi, the stories never quite touched me... they seemed so far away. It seems I have forgotten what it feels like to live in a constant subconscious state of fear. Just flicking through The Guardian today painted a very very grim picture of the future of Britain.... even with the impending joy of hosting the Olympics we are still being bombarded with the housing crisis, banks folding, conspiracies, child molesters, the threat of terrorism, 50 Shades of Grey (uh yes... bombarding indeed!), the Euro going under and of course the rising cost of petrol.

Ignorance is most certainly bliss.

It has rained the past fortnight. Quite literally. Occasionally we see a little sun - which is then followed by rain. I'm trying so desperately not to moan and gripe and be ungrateful, especially as I've lived in sunshine for 9 months (and will hopefully be returning to it in a few months time) but ... I mean.... really? 2 weeks of rain! Oh... and here is the punchline. They're predicting another 30 days of rain! Some families up north have really lost everything quite simply because flash floods are surprising regions. A day of rain passed last week, and it was estimated that we had the equivalent of one months rain in that single day.

I think we need to call the 51 weeks of rain we have year round 'monsoon season' - it'd then not surprise the tourists that come over to view our very great Britain!