Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Talking About the Same Things in Different Countries

Sign pointing to the shopping carts and wheel chair ramp
As I have traveled in different countries and lived in different cultures, I have been amused by the different ways we say things but mean the same thing.  For instance, after moving to Hawaii, I went to the local Walmart and asked for a "buggy," you know--the thing you put your items into and push around the store.  I quickly found out no one knew what a "buggy" meant but they certainly had "wagons" for carrying around the items you want to purchase.   When I moved to Italy, I found the "carrella della spesa" is translated "shopping cart." In the UAE, the stores have a "trolley."

In Europe I also found that WiFi (wy-fy) is pronounced WiFi (wee-fee), very fast as to sound like one syllable.  In the UAE I hear it pronounced both ways.  It tend to use the latter here as I got used to saying it when I lived in Italy.  In the UAE, the cell phone is a "mobile" (pronounced mo-bile with a long i as in the word style) while in Italy it is "cellulare" which translates to cell.  

The other day I was watching a British television program and the woman in the show exclaimed over a large yard (or garden as it is frequently called here) telling her husband "you will definitely need a sit-on for this garden"---meaning a riding lawnmower.  And speaking of British, the trucks here are referred to as a "lorry."  Of course this makes sense as the British were the first westerners to come to Abu Dhabi to drill for oil.  They also made their imprint on trash across the globe as I find people of all nationalities here throw out the "rubbish."  When I tell my gardener (who I think is Pakastani) or the maintenance man (who I think is Lebanese or Syrian) to discard something in the "trash" the head goes sideways and the brow creases with lack of understanding.  I have to correct myself and translate to "rubbish."  Then, I get the head nod "oh yes, I understand."

When I landed in the airport in New Delhi, India, I looked for the exit signs to no avail.  The large "Way Out" signs were amusing.  And then, I happened to notice when I was leaving the airport rental car garage at the Abu Dhabi International airport, the exit signs were also "Way Out." I had never noticed until I returned from India.   I find this very amusing as I can only imagine this term being a southern expression.  Akin to a Southerner saying "fixing to" when they are getting ready to do something or "cutting off the light" instead of turning it off. (I have been severely teased about these two expressions.)

However, I have found some expressions that I believe are solely used in this region --- or I must say by Indian people who live in this region.   Here they "sieve the flour" instead of "sift" it, and the flour is "self-raising" and not "self-rising."  When someone asks for a "pay raise," they are asking for a "pay rise."  Makes sense I guess.   One wants a rise in pay.    My former Sri Lankan taxi driver, asked me if I was going "up and down" when we were discussing a trip I was making.  He meant "round trip."  My former Sri Lankan maid always called the vacuum a "Hoover" no matter the brand, and she carried a "box" instead of a suitcase when she traveled and put the "box" in the "boot of the car" not the trunk.  After letting down the window of the car, she would "pull up" the window not "roll up" the window.

Hereabouts the vegetables even have different names.  Green, red, and yellow peppers are "capsicums," and cilantro is "coriander." Capsicums is actually the correct name.  They became known in the west as peppers because Spanish explorers mistakenly believed them to be related to peppercorns. (not chilis).  Upon some google research, I found out that cilantro is actually referring to the stem and leaves of the coriander plant.

I make a point of recording these English language differences and find them quite amusing at times.  Some times I have to scratch my head and wonder.  And then, other times the expression will make perfect sense or at least I can figure out how the word came to be used in that way.

Difference.  It is what makes the world go round----and frankly, quite so fascinating.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Return to Abu Dhabi

I have returned to Abu Dhabi after a 2 1/2 month long sojourn to the US.   Because this country is changing so rapidly, even a few weeks away one finds a multitude of changes has taken place during the absence.  This trip was no exception.

Some of the changes I noted:

The massive road construction project about three blocks from my house looks completed but the new roads are not open yet.  And my husband tells me the amount of traffic turning into the one way service road the wrong way has increased substantially.  Unfortunately the new construction is doing away with a popular intersection that leads into our neighborhood.   A service road has been constructed running parallel to the main thoroughfare which happens to be one way ---out of the neighborhood.  Every morning my husband meets three or four drivers heading the wrong way---the new intersection is much farther down the road so going up the one way street is a short cut into the neighborhood.  He attempted to play chicken a few times trying to hold his ground and finally gave up the fight.  Too many cars are breaking the rules.  So he just moves to the right and makes the road a two lane!   Such is the life.

The garbage bins have been replaced by new recycle bins---one for regular waste and another for recyclables.  This is a first in the UAE.  I am so glad to see this initiative.  Although I observed on my morning walks that no one is using them properly.  I think I am the only person in the neighborhood saving my plastic and paper and putting in the recyclable bin.

The gym added a couple of new high-tech pieces of equipment.  I especially like the new treadmill that has a video screen on the panel where you can watch a video of an area as you are running.  For instance, I played the video for the run on Haleakala on Maui.

 The views are breathtaking and the video takes you all the way to the summit.  I chose this one because I have been to the summit to watch the sun rise and then cycled down the mountain.  Click on the link to see the sunrise.  Spectacular!

Abu Dhabi is finally getting street names and building numbers!!!!!  After a couple of years reading about the project and the impending numbering of building and getting actual postal addresses, it is finally here!  The signs are going up in the city.  Not sure if the buildings are numbered yet but I love the new street signs.
 Also not sure if people will know how to use them.  It will be hard to change old habits……… "I want to go to XYZ store.  It's on Electra (also known as 7th Street and Sheikh Zayed the First Street), next door to Patchi and opposite Al Safad Restaurant near the intersection at the Skateboard building with the BMW dealership on the ground floor and KFC opposite the dealership")  Get the picture?  It would be easier to say XYZ store at 2020 7th Street.  But who will know how to get there now?

The weather is beautiful, and we have had some rain----which only happens a few times a year.  I took a photo of the cloudy skies the other day just because it is such a rare occurrence.  It was followed by rain (really a slight drizzle which reminds me of the rain in Hawaii).  Then, yesterday it really rained.  I actually turned on my windshield wipers.  Unfortunately, people do not know how to drive in rain.  It sort of freaks them out.  One person will be going 20 mph and another will be flying by clearly not aware of the dangers of wet roads that have no drainage system.  Accidents abound on rainy days.

Completed Residence 
A couple of new houses are going up in my neighborhood.  These were empty lots when I left a few months ago.  And then other houses that have been under construction for a long, long time are finally finished.

A new Mosque is going up near our house and the Minaret is now standing tall against the skyline. Will be interesting to hear the call to prayer again when this mosque is complete.  We do not have a
mosque close by our house, and we actually miss hearing the call to prayer every day.  Some times in the early morning or late evening when the neighborhood is still, we can hear the call to prayer off in the distance at a mosque in a distant neighborhood.  When we lived in the city, a mosque was only a few doors down so we heard the prayer call all day every day.  There was always something strangely comforting about it.

The Abu Dhabi International Airport has new taxis now.  The new taxis are more like a first class limousine service in a van.  They also have taxis equipped for the handicap and elderly, which is much needed in the area.

And then  some things never change……….

The crazy driving!  The crazy parking!  The roads full of construction!  The new buildings going up everywhere!

Such an experience to live in this part of the world!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

THE ABU DHABI EXPERIENCE, the Beginning in a Special Series of blog posts

I am starting a special series of blog posts that particularly addresses living in Abu Dhabi – the ups and down of every day life and especially the cultural aspects of living in the Middle East.  My son’s girlfriend Caitlyn, a student at Valdosta State University, recently asked me to participate in a school project that focuses on cultural diversity.  Since she has visited us in the UAE and found the culture interesting, she chose to make this her topic as she has an “insider” view of what it is really like to live here. 

I am extremely happy she asked me to be a part of her project because I am always eager to talk about my experiences here because they are so positive.  Everyone thinks living here is a negative experience in an oppressive society, and I enjoy the opportunity to tell others living here is not what they imagine. 

I invited Caitlyn to take a look at my blog, if she hadn’t already, in an effort to give her more insight (which she really already has) or use as a reference tool.  She promptly sent me a list of questions to start our discussion.  As I read through them, I had an epiphany.   Why not use these discussions as fodder for my blog postings?  Her questions really get to the root of what it is like living as an expat in a strange land.  I’m always looking for something to write about and keep me posting----something I fail miserably at--- so I decided to make this project a series of discussions based on the questions Caitlyn asks me. 

While there are a few ---and I mean only a few----downsides to living in Abu Dhabi, I rarely talk about them because it defeats the purpose of having a blog promoting expat living in the Middle East.  However, I will give an honest assessment of my experiences---good and bad.  I make an effort to look at all the good things associated with living in a foreign land and make the best of things.  Even in my homeland, all is not perfect only different.  Everyone is not nice, everything is not just right, everyone does not speak English (any more), and some people are short-sighted.  I emphasis the word different because that is all it is.  Not the same.  Something new.  Yes, challenging at times (and maybe more often than not to some), but I have adjusted.  Everyone does eventually, some taking longer than others.  My adjustment period to a new place is about six months.  I begin to feel comfortable and know my way around “knowing the lay of the land” so to speak. 

My mantra is this when taking on a new country:  Go with no expectations.  Then everything will exceed your expectations.  By this I mean, do not expect too much and you will not be blindsided.  Then, most things will be a positive experience.  It’s simple. 

You would be surprised at how not simple people find this idea.  I believe if you arrive expecting to dislike a place, you will.  Plain and simple.  I have seen it over and over as we have traveled and lived in other countries.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

So, as I explore and dwell on the questions Caitlyn puts forth, some of my readers might be surprised at the quality of life, others not so much.   Read and form an opinion.  And I really, really hope it is a good one. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Hero --A Great American Patriot

For the last few weeks, I've had someone on my mind.

I have been seeing CSI New York on TV more than usual which sparked me to think about Gary Sinise, the star of the show.  I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Sinise on two occasions, once in Aviano, Italy at Hubby's flying squadron when Mr. Sinise was touring Europe and made an unannounced visit to the squadron, and the other time at a VIP event at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii just prior to a Lt. Dan Band Concert.

The video of his 60 Minutes interview is pretty incredible.  It's well worth watching.  You get to see the kind of man he really is when Hollywood is not around.  He's not about Hollywood.  At all.  Not even a little bit.

I love this man!  Despite his stardom, he's a humble man dedicated to making the lives of our service personnel better.  He quietly goes about his work.  He asks for no accolades.  He just does what needs to be done.  He has no problem asking others to help him.  He has a purpose and has staked out his claim.

He does so much for the military---it's actually pretty incredible how much time he devotes to representing the cause of military both active duty, retired, and disabled veterans.  The Gary Sinise Foundation celebrates two years of serving our military families and wounded warriors.  I cannot say enough good things about the work this man does.  He has an A List of corporate sponsors behind him who are dedicated to our military families.   Take a look at the Foundation's Blog and see for yourself what they have accomplished in two years.

The interviewer said to him, "you're a big shot actor, and this is what makes you feel important."  His response was, "it makes you get out of yourself."

 Mr. Sinise knows what is really important.  He believes you cannot forget your Defenders.

In 2009, Mr. Sinise filmed an exclusive documentary with Fox News entitled "On the Road in Iraq With Our Troops and Gary Sinise."  His personal goal was to shake 5000 hands, and go 2000 miles in seven days.  He did it.  It is a moving documentary.

I know Mr. Sinise will never know who I am or know how much I appreciate his work.  However, I want to tell as many people as I can about him and his Foundation.  He is a person that REALLY makes a difference and goes about his daily life doing good.  He's a Saint in my book.

Gary Sinise will go down in history because he believed in a cause---not because he was a television and movie star.  A few others went on before him --- Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis are two that come quickly to mind.  They cut the mold.  No one knew how to do it before them.  They got in and figured it out.  Mr. Sinise has stepped into some big boots and is doing just fine.  Actually, I think he has fined tuned it.

I feel fortunate to have met him and had the opportunity to shake his hand.

The Mission:

“Freedom and security are precious gifts that we, as Americans, should never take for granted. We must do all we can to extend our hand in times of need to those who willingly sacrifice each day to provide that freedom and security. While we can never do enough to show our gratitude to our nation's defenders, we can always do a little more” -GARY SINISE

"It's very important that we give back to these volunteers who serve our nation because they're on the front lines for us, and they need to know we care," he said. "Perhaps one of the reasons that I've jumped on board so strongly for the USO, and for supporting the service members in this time of war, is that I do remember how our Vietnam veterans were treated when they came home, and we can never let that happen again."  Air Force Link, November 3, 2004

"Lt. Dan Band: For The Common Good" is an exceptional full-length documentary movie that rallies all who experience it around our flag, our nation, and the men and women who selflessly serve our country and daily place themselves in harm's way.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ramadan - The Holy Month

On our flight back from the US the other day,  I popped a piece of gum in my mouth as we began our decent into Abu Dhabi and offered one to my Hubby.  We both began to chew frantically hoping to reduce the pressure in our ears as we were lowered nearer the airport.  After a few minutes, Hubby tapped me on the shoulder and shoved a tissue into my face and gesturing with his hands to put my gum in the tissue.  We had forgotten Ramadan!  And chewing gum in public is forbidden during Ramadan.  Whew!  That would have been a bad thing to do.

Not that anyone would have said anything but it would have been disrespectful to chew gum in public.
So I pulled out my Ramadan Guidebook to remind me of the do's and don'ts during Ramadan.

A few rules to remember during Ramadan

Don’t eat or drink in the presence of Muslims during the daylight hours.  Muslims are fasting during daylight hours and are strictly forbidden to take anything by mouth.
Most restaurants are open only after sunset during Ramadan.
Don’t have food or snacks in plain sight during Ramadan.
Don’t smoke or chew gum in the presence of Muslims during Ramadan.
Don’t use profane words or gestures during Ramadan.
Most women will be veiled and covered throughout this time.
Muslim families will gather together daily after sundown to celebrate the end of the fast.  Don’t be alarmed if you see large groups of families gathering in homes or mosques.
Expect celebratory gunfire during Eid al-Fitr

Avoid the following cultural insensitivities:
Do not be seen consuming alcohol.
No Smoking in Public (you will be issued a citation and
  fined for smoking or drinking)
Profane or derogatory gestures.
Arguing and shouting.
Loud music and profane language.
Eating meals in the presence of Muslims during daylight – also you will not find a restaurant open during the daylight.

Some may think that Ramadan is oppressive, but actually it is not.  Yes, having to search for a restaurant that is open during Ramadan (usually one that can seal off the diners from public view) in the daylight hours is somewhat daunting and an inconvenience, however, Ramadan is not all that bad.  I find that I want to stay indoors during this time of year anyway because of the heat.  So I don't get out as much.   Ramadan is much harder for Hubby as he works in an office environment where he is the only American and Non-Muslim.  So, he must be very respectful and not eat or drink during the day.   The last two mornings I have prepared him a hardy breakfast with lots of protein in hopes of helping him make it through the day.  Fortunately, his work day ends at 2:00 and Ramadan hours have him going in to the office much later around 9:00.  

One thing that is nice about Ramadan is the focus on charitable initiatives.  Many charitable organizations around the country distribute Iftar meals (the breaking of fast meal after sunset each day) to the poor and needy.  Ramadan definitely highlights the spirit of giving of the season---much like western nations during the Christmas season.  

Two organizations I have read about recently is The Community Development Authority and the Khalifa Foundation.

Video: Healthy fasting tips - recovery after Ramadan     The CDA has a Ramadan campaign that includes serving Iftar meals, giving essential food baskets, and visiting the elderly.  The month long program is called Yestahloon (colloquial for "well deserved") and is held in collaboration with 23 social clubs and private sector organizations.  At least 1.5 million Dirhams ($408K) of donations will be used to reach the blue collar workers, families, and elderly around Dubai.  For example, one company provides money, another prepares the food, and another delivers it.  Volunteers do a ton of the work.  
                 The Khalifa Foundation hosts its fourth annual Ramadan Iftar initiative serving nearly 1.76 million Iftar meals  throughout the UAE during Ramadan.  Amazing.  1.76 million meals!  Empowering 600 Emirati families.  Here's how it works:
Lower income families are encouraged to prepare Iftar meals for Muslims and the foundation provides them with the ingredients.  The objective is to distribute 58,700 iftar meals daily.  This helps boost the family's income and encourage them to set up a business that will help with financial independence.  The foundation provides the ingredients and services.  They have inspection teams from the Foundation and the Public Safety making random visits to ensure food safety.

I am always amazed at the enormity of these projects.  The Sheikh Zayed Mosque here in Abu Dhabi serves thousands of meals each evening for all the laborers in the city.  I have never been but I have seen some amazing photos of the event.  The city also provides free bus transportation from the labor camps to the Mosque for worship and Iftar meals. 

We are heading to a local restaurant with friends on Thursday night for an Iftar celebration.  It is a chance to celebrate with the  Muslim community and participate in an event that is a cherished celebration throughout the country.  Lavish buffets are served in restaurants throughout the community to allow the Muslim community to participate in their traditions.  It is truly a unique experience and one that expatriates love to share.  

Ramadan Kareem!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Biggest, Brightest, Tallest, Best in the World

Once again Dubai plans to put the country on the map by adding to the repertoire of biggest, brightest, tallest, and best in the world by announcing several mega-projects this past week adding to its laundry list of landmarks.   Sheikh Mohammad, Ruler of Dubai,  has approved plans for a 10 billion dirham ($2.7bn) development linking five theme parks to include the movie-based Dubai Adventure Studios and a theme park based around Bollywood movies (constructed by Meraas Development, owned by Sheikh Mohammad) ; the construction of the new Mohammad bin Rashid City, which will include a Universal Studios theme park and the world's largest shopping mall;  the Dubai Adventure Studios Fun Park; and the Dubai Trade Center Jebel Ali, which is expected to attract 25 million visitors; and The Bluewaters Island Project which will have the world's largest Ferris Wheel at 210 meters.  Most of these projects are expected to reach first phase completion in three years.

Dubai Adventure Studios expects to complete the main park by 2014 with a marine and aquatic themed park to follow as well as a night safari themed park.  Also a park catering to toddlers, preschool, and primary school children is planned.

Mohammad bin Rashid City, a sprawling mega-city with gardens covering 800 million square feet and costing $60 billion, will include 100 hotels, golf courses, a hub for the arts, and centers to develop small businesses.  The gardens are 30% larger than Hyde Park in London.  The city will also include the Mall of the World, which expects over 80 million visitors per year.  The mall is partly developed by Universal Studios.

Some of these plans are part of the revived mega-project Dubailand that was put on hold in 2008 after the financial crisis.  Many plans of the original project have been changed.  It is still not certain if the Universal Studios theme park will be construct with the mall as originally planned in 2008.

One of the most astounding projects announced was that of the new Dubai Eye, the world's tallest ferris wheel standing at 689 feet.  The ferris wheel is the center of the BlueWaters Project, a resort island project off the Jumeirah Beach coastline most famously known for the Burj Al Arab (the sailboat hotel).    Dubai Eye riders are expected to get a majestic view of the Dubai coastline.  The cost of this project is expected at $1.5 billion.  You can read more about Dubai Eye at the following links:

I haven't even touched on some of the other projects like the Dubai Panorama, a 17 meter high pedestrian bridge over Dubai Creek linking one part of the city to another.  The continued expansion of the Dubai Metro at a whopping $675 million.

The Etihad Rail is expected to launch their inaugural run this year.  According to Etihad Rail's website,  1,200 km network will extend across the United Arab Emirates, from the border of Saudi Arabia to the border of Oman. The network will run from Ghweifat to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the Northern Emirates with major connecting points in between, including Al Ain and Madinat Zayed. Etihad Rail will have an extensive national network with freight terminals, distribution centres and depots located close to major transport hubs, warehouses, and storage facilities across the UAE, including MussafahKhalifa PortJebal Ali Free ZonePort of Fujairah of and Saqr Port.  The Etihad Rail network will also connect with the GCC network and this - once fully established - will cover the five GCC countries of The Kingdom of Bahrain, The State of Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and UAE. 

Dubai is soon to host the world's largest airport Al Mouktam International Airport, one of the many construction projects falling under Dubai World Central.   Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia giving details about the project:

Designed for the future, Al Maktoum International Airport proposes to handle all next-generation aircraft, including the Airbus A380 super-jumbo.[15] Up to four aircraft will be able to land simultaneously, 24 hours a day, minimizing in-air queuing.
The airport will include:
  • Five parallel runways, 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) in length, each separated by a distance of 800 metres (2,600 ft). Six runways were originally planned, but the number was reduced to five in April 2009
  • Three passenger terminals, including two luxury facilities; one dedicated to airlines of The Emirates Group, the second to other carriers, and the third dedicated to low-cost carriers.
  • Multiple concourses
  • 16 cargo terminals with a 12-million tonne capacity
  • Executive and royal jet centres
  • Hotels and shopping malls
  • Support and maintenance facilities: the region's only hub for A, B, and C Checks on all aircraft up to A380 specifications
  • Over 100,000 parking spaces (probably underground) for airport staff and passengers
  • Al Maktoum International Airport and the existing Dubai International Airport will be linked by a proposed high-speed express rail system
  • Al Maktoum International Airport will also be served by the Dubai Metro and a dedicated Dubai World Central light railway                                                                                                                Here is a short not-so-great video of the airport model displayed at Cityscape 2008:


All of these mega-projects come on the heels of the last five years of world economic crisis.  While the world has been reeling from the economic downturn, and Dubai was not exactly immune but weathered the storm, the UAE has been carefully planning for their future as a worldwide leader in the hospitality and tourism industry.

Nearby Abu Dhabi, where I reside, has its own list of landmarks.  Ferrari World, the fastest rollercoaster in the world; Yas Waterworld, the new largest waterpark in the world; the Formula One Raceway featuring the only hotel with a racetrack running through it; Emirates Palace, the world's only seven star hotel;  and The Grand Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world.

The rulers of the UAE fully intend to put their country on the map.  Actually, I think they have already succeeded!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Traditional Emirati Dance

As the UAE approaches National Day on December 2nd, traditional dance can be seen around the city at the various celebrations honoring the 41st anniversary of the federation of the Emirates.  This is a big day for the nationals in the UAE and their national pride is exhibited in many ways throughout the country.  One of the ways they celebrate is by getting together for their traditional dances.

The Ayyala is a dance performed by a group of men standing side-by-side with their arms linked together, and some hold wooden camel sticks or canes. This is commonly known as the "cane dance." These groups, which can be sometimes over a 100 strong, sing traditional songs and dance to the beat of a hand drum or singers.  This dance is usually done at  wedding celebrations,  National Day celebrations, and special events.

I  had chance to witness this dance in August on the eve of Ramadan during a date exhibition in the Mushrif Mall near our house.  John has seen this dance performed on several occasions as he has been invited to Emirati functions at the Officer's Club (women do not socialize with the men at these events).

Below are a few video clips of the dancing I witnessed in the mall:

Below is a youtube link of a professional video, kind of like our MTV.  This video is long but well worth watching as it has other aspects of the culture such as camel racing.  This one also shows the dance being performed by a large group of men.  The video features Sheikh Hamdan Bin Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai. 
This link shows a local group of men performing the dance.  It's a little bit different but equally as good.  It is more of what one would see in smaller Emirati city.
This link was filmed at a UAE wedding celebration at the Emirates Palace.
Here's another link of a dance performed at Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall.

The women also have a traditional dance, the Na'ashat where they dance in unison, gracefully swinging their hair from side to side.  The dance displays the beauty of the long, black hair that women in the region are known for.  I often hear it referred to as "the hair dance."  The dance is performed by Arab women in a group as dancing solo would be deemed improper.  The "Khaliji" dance has a certain groove to it and requires the Khaliji music and rhythms for it to feel right.  It includes head slides and circles, shoulder shimmies, hair tossing,  some hand gestures, and different footwork but very little is done with the hips that are hidden under the thobe, the colorful and glittery garment worn.  These dresses are now considered old fashioned in the gulf and not worn in daily life but they will appear in traditional dance presentations.

I have included a YouTube view performance of this dance, however, the dancers are not local Emirati women.  Many women in the Gulf would never agree to being filmed as it can be considered a blight on their honor to be revealed in public in such a way.  The video below is performance by the Kamal Ballan Khaleeji dance studio.  

This is another theatrical performance of the hair dance and includes singing as well.

Again, this performance is a production that includes mixed company.  Notice in the beginning of the video as they scan the audience the Emirati on the front row.  These are the Sheikhs and VIPs.  

The music most often associated with this style of dance is called Khaliji (some research revealed another named called Samri).  This is a 2/4 rhythm, Dum Dum Tek.  It if most often played with layers of percussion and added embellishments.  Traditional instruments include the oud, def, and tabl, but today modern arrangements use more varied instruments such as orchestration and synthesizers.  Syncopation, a deliberate disruption of the two or three beat stress pattern, or a note that is not on beat,   and rhythmic clapping patterns are also a highlight of the music.

Hope you have enjoyed this blog and have taken the time to view the videos and enjoy the traditional dances of the region.  I love the music here and love to watch the dances.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Back on the Bandwagon

I am back on the bandwagon.....I haven't posted to my blog for six months now----since I got back from Holland.  I don't have many excuses except the BIGGEST just gets in the way.  I've been traveling and catching up on life in the UAE.  Between the two I just let my blogging die.  

Sooooo, I'm back to it again.  I've so much to blog about that I don't think I'll ever catch up.  Hot summer in Abu Dhabi, my grandson turned one in August which warranted another visit back to the US, a stopover in Europe was absolutely necessary on the way, another photography expedition in India during the month of October, and most recently our annual Thanksgiving blowout. (By the way, I didn't get photos AGAIN!  I'm always too busy playing hostess and miss taking photos of the party.  This year I even set out my camera on a table so I wouldn't forget.  I forgot!)

I recently joined a Writing Club and attended the first meeting.  What JOY!  I so enjoy communing with like-minded people who appreciate the written word the same way I do.  The group shared readings of their work and it was so wonderful to see so much talent around a small table.  I look forward to continuing and be inspired.  This Club meeting inspired me to get back to something I truly enjoy and just let it flow.

I also joined another little club that I know I am going to absolutely love.  I was invited to join a small group of ladies who speak Italian and want to practice a bit.  They meet for lunch every Tuesday somewhere in the city, preferably an Italian restaurant, and speak only Italian.  Marie, a native Italian raised in Montreal, Canada who has a strong resemblance to Donatella Versace (no kidding!),  has assumed the role of insegnante teacher for the group by fluently correcting, prodding, enunciating, translating, and smiling a lot through gritted teeth I'm sure as we butcher her beloved Italian.  Sometimes I am overcome with the language and begin to speak it when I see it on a menu i. e. when I ordered my meal in Italian and responded to all his questions (asked in English) with a Si, Si, Si, (yes). Marie gently reminded me that he didn't speak Italian.  :)  I look forward to lunching each week with these lovely ladies and indulging in a little of my favorite culture.  

I'll be writing more about the happenings in Abu Dhabi and the surrounding area as usual, and also posting a bit about my trip to India.  I will try to put into words the wonderful experience of India but it will be hard.  India is something you cannot describe and give understanding to another.  One must experience it personally to grasp all of the nuances that make up such an incredible place.  (and I only traveled in a tiny little piece of the country!) 

I know I've promised before to post more regularly.....and I always seem to get caught up in life and neglect my duty.  So I won't promise to do that but I will promise to do my best to be a better blogger.  
Enough said!


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bicycles in the Netherlands

I have become fascinated with the bicycles here.  They are so interesting. Bicycles are the equivalent of cars here and they are designed for transportation.  People tend to personalize them as well.   Here's some pictures of bicycles that strike me. 

I've seen these with the canopy over them carrying children

I love the bright colors!

I don't know why exactly but I really liked this one.  Maybe it was the leather seat. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Netherlands

I am off again on yet ANOTHER adventure as I travel back to the ole USA to visit family and friends (mostly my grandson).  I am hanging out in The Netherlands for a week taking a photography workshop with nationally acclaimed landscape photographer Efrain Padro in conjunction with AWAI (American Writers & Artists Inc).  They have a travel division that hosts photography expedition all over the globe.  I chose this one as I could stop over while enroute to the US.  I have been a member of their organization for a couple of years and never been on one of their expeditions so this is a trial for me.  Yesterday I met the organizer as she arrived the same day as I did to do some scouting for the photography ahead of the participants arrival on Sunday.

I spent the day yesterday strolling around the city, checking in my hotel, taking a canal boat tour, and being....well....cold.  Since I live in 100 degree weather, I am a little sensitive to weather below 80 degrees!  Had to regroup and bundle up a bit to enjoy the rest of the day after arriving at 6:00 a.m. into Amsterdam.  Uneventful train ride in to the old city of Leiden,(pronounced Lye-den) the home of Rembrandt----you know that famous man who put the Dutch on the map as great artists---along with that guy Vermeer---of The Girl with the Pearl Earring fame.  (which happens to be one of my favorite works of art of all time)

Weather is overcast and wind chill has been a factor.  Now, I have been in colder weather....and really this is not bad.  I am just not used to colder temperatures.

I've enjoyed lounging in the cafe in Hotel Rembrandt, my residence for the next week.  Tiny room but with a wonderful street view. I can even play peek-a-boo with the canal down the street.  Wonderful little cafe with a great breakfast.  Town square is with in eye view of the door.  Bicycles, bicycles everywhere.  Dutch use bicycles like we use cars.  Not much vehicle traffic on the roads here.  Bicycles and boats are the norm.

I saw a young lady riding a bike like the one above with four little children riding in the cart on front.  I couldn't manage to get a photo of them before they coasted off around a corner.  Then, later I saw this bike just like it.  It might even be hers empty of the children.  It was parked in front of the pannenkoekenhuis which would make sense.

The local market is right next door to the hotel and it is bustling with people all day long.  The local grocer is busy all day moving the fruits and vegetables around and helping the customers who stop by to shop.  

 The main square is located on a canal and has boats moored.  It makes a very picturesque scene.
This week the photo group is heading to Alkmaar Cheese Market.  I am excited to see it.  It dates back to 1622 and the original method of selling cheese is still exhibited every Friday in Alkmaar. (click on the word Alkmaar and see a video demonstration)  The cheese is suppose to be delivered by boat and sold in the old traditional style of the Dutch. 
I found the flowers!!! Tulips in particular.  Of course I already have a hundred shots of the tulips in the town square.  They are planted in big pots hanging out with rose bushes.  After a small misting of rain, they had water drops on them.  Makes for incredible photos!  Particularly like this photo.  Can't wait until I go to Keukenhof Gardens this week.  Oh my.....I just can't imagine what bliss!  I love photographing flowers. You can watch a video of the gardens by clicking here.  Lots of preparation goes into getting the gardens ready to open in the spring.
I love the architecture.  Much of the architecture of New York is greatly influenced by the Dutch.  The typical New York "brownstone or walk up" is a Dutch style.  The one thing that strikes me the most is the lack of shutters.  When you are in the countryside and seeing stand alone houses, they look rather plain because they have big, beautiful windows without shutters.  

 The Pancake House is a staple in The Netherlands.  They serve delicious pancakes all day long.  Not our typical American variety.

These damn things are EVERYWHERE.   I found as I travel that more countries have them trolling around.  This driver was scooting along so fast I couldn't get a good picture of him quick enough.  Just his backside! 

 And these are EVERYWHERE too!!!  The Golden Arches are familiar now to all cultures.  This one is right on the main square!

Found a great Greek restaurant just a few doors down yesterday. You can see it in this photo on the far right.  It's called Rhodos.  Scrumptuous is all I can say.  Extremely friendly staff.  Met the manager and chatted with him a while.  And know me...I met a charming couple sitting next to me having a late lunch.  They live around the corner.  She's American and he's Dutch.  They have lived here in Leiden for 7 years.  She works for an expatriate company who has an online website devoted to expat living around the globe.  Fate is awesome is all I can say about that!

Will continue to explore Leiden for a few days and then on to Amsterdam for the rest of the week.  Tulips, windmills, boats, canals, cheese, the grote markt, the vis markt, houses, countryside, and typical everyday life in Holland await me.