Watching the world

He is in a hurry!

When I need a break from everything, I take the camera and start making photos. After I took this photo, I just realised I should go out more often for some fresh air and worry less about the heat!

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November 21, 2012 · 20:53

Where are you from?

I have people come to me on a daily basis just to ask where I am from, from new friends, new work colleagues, but also random people, literally. Taxi drivers are the ones who are “intrigued” the most, but I was also asked once while crossing the street, or while buying stamps, paying for my gas, at the car wash, and i can continue .. but you wouldn’t believe me.

Today somebody thought I was Scottish. This was new. So I thought I make a list of places that people thought I must be from. You know, for my archive, so I don’t forget.

1. Scotland
2. Japan
3. Australia
4. Singapore
5. England
6. Wales
7. USA
8. Korea
9. China
10. Malaysia
11. Canada

When I tell them where I really from, their reactions are usually either one of these “What??”, “Really?” or “Can’t be”.

It never fails to amuse me.


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The great thing…

The great thing about having visitors is that you get to explore the city you live in, and the choice is not really there because as a nice host you usually take your guests out, venturing the city, while thinking hard (quietly of course, to keep the image that you are as good as the local) of any history of the building in front of you actually has, or when was it built and hopefully not asking one self what this thing actually was!

Luckily none of the above happened this week. I took our guests to see the grand Sheikh Zayed Mosque with their free 1 hour tour, which was worth every minute. Feeling so small in this magnificent building, surrounded by their tall white pillars, crafted with thousands of colourful flowers, and the present of water around the mosque made you forget of the heat and the desert surrounding it.

I learned a lot of things in that 1 hour. I learned that the mosque was big enough to accommodate 40,000 people but they usually use the small hall which fits “only” 7,000 worshippers for their daily prayers. The carpet that sweeped beneath my feet was the largest carpet in the world, handmade of course, in Iran by 1200 women. The interesting part was to know how they fitted the carpet and shaped it around the pillars. It turned out they had the carpet cut into 9 pieces and were then sewed together by the same women, inside the mosque. It weighed almost 40 tonnes and its colour depending on whereabout you are inside the mosque.

The 99 names of God were beautifully crafted on the walls, in shapes of giant flowers made of white gold and glass. The mosque was decorated with 7 chandeliers, all made in Germany with Swarovski crystals. Many parts of the mosque came from different parts of the world – like marbles from Italy, stones from China, India and New Zealand, and the architecture of the mosque was actually being inspired by the famous Indian Taj Mahal.

It really fits with Abu Dhabi, a multi cultural melting pot.

(Photo by Poco a poco)

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi opens daily.Image

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April 10, 2012 · 19:48

We live in an a…

We live in an area called “Tourist Club Area” or for short TCA. The place is not full of clubs, just in case you wonder, but one can find many small restaurants serving mostly Indian, Lebanese or Arabic delicacies. It is a very busy place that is always congested with cars and it is an Art to be able to find a park place here, because the amount of available parking places are about a tenth of the total amount of cars eager to park here.

So it is not uncommon to find cars parked on the side of the streets under the “No Parking” sign, in junctions (I kid you not), on pavements (goodluck pedestrians! who cares about you?) in the middle of the street (yes, daily heartattacks trying to swerve from those cars) and when that is already quite “long”, they then take the initiative and make another row, a second one. Yes, you hear me, still in the middle of the street.

But Crème de la Crème is those who park at the entrace/ exit of a building. I used to shake my head in disbelief and daydreamed of how much I missed seeing civilised people on the streets. Nowadays I just manouvered my car, take no bullshits from people who ask me to go back to give them the right of way (ehem.. it is a one way street sir, please go back and read the road sign) and push my way in the building whatever it takes. I live on the damn place, I have the right to get in!

Today is the most wonderful day ever. The giant black Silverado was parked nicely in the middle of the entrance. Behind it was a black Nissan sedan waiting patiently until whenever this giant beast decided to make a move. I came third, not having as much patience as this nice Nissan. Got out of my car, checked out the evil – no sign of a driver, no phone number left on the windscreen in case of emergency, engine was out, nothing. The black Nissan driver was an Arab gentleman who pointed out to me that he had no idea where the driver of the Silverado was, and that he was just waiting to pass. Meanwhile more and more cars were piling up behind me and no matter how loud they all honked, the owner of the Silverado was nowhere to be seen. Gone from the face of the earth.

I am usually quite a content alltogether type of person, but at that moment I could not hold it anymore. I yelped and yelled and swore (punishments by fine and jail terms in the UAE). Everybody decided to got out from their cars and “supported” me, looking in vain for the driver. Finally a lady came out from the bank, said “Upps..” and walked towards her mean-looking car. I went towards her and starting ranting –  I happened to have my small child in the car, I made sure she was aware that she kept him and all 20 of us, waiting for her in the heat so that she could finish her chat.

Not once have I swore here. But today my patience was out. No apology was heard from her. She just drove away.

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April 4, 2012 · 19:34

Some facts about Abu Dhabi..

1) It is the capital of the United Arab Emirates (or for short UAE). There are 7 Emirates in the UAE : Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, and Umm al Quwain. But most people cannot really say where Abu Dhabi is on the map, but for sure they have heard of Dubai.

2) Abu Dhabi has the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world. According to an estimate by the Economist it is worth about £550bn ($875bn) (source: bbc world news).

3)Abu Dhabi’s population is now over 1.6 million. Across the UAE, Emirati citizens make up ONLY 20% of the total population; the other 80% are expatriates from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and North America.

4)Arabic is the official language, but English is widely spoken. So far, we have not encountered any language barrier.

5)The weather in Abu Dhabi is mildest in the months of December (average 20.3° C) through March (average 22° C). January is the coolest month of the year, with an average temperature of 18.4° C. Summer here is extremely hot. People usually get away from the city, and we know why!


6) The local currency is dirham (AED or Dhs) which is divided into 100 fils and is pegged against the US dollar at $1: Dhs 3.6725.

7) Working days here are from Sunday (that’s right!) till Thursday. Friday and Saturday are the weekends.

8) Most retail establishments in Abu Dhabi are open between 10am and 10pm from Saturday to Wednesday, and stay open longer, sometimes until midnight on Thursday, Friday and public holidays. During the holy month of Ramadhan, the shops and restaurants are closed during the day, and only open when the fast is broken in the evening. We did witness in our first Ramadhan here, that the malls opened until 2 or 3AM in the morning!!

9) Everything is TAX Free here.

10) Considering it is a big city, crime rate is virtually zero. There are a lot of known cases of people lost their wallets and get them back without a dime missing. On my first week here, I was really concerned to see that our property agent left the car with her engine running, with her purse inside the car, to show me houses. Later on I found out it is quite normal here. Nobody would steal your car, because when they get caught the punishment is, apparently, very severe.

p.s. to add to the above point: we lost one of our phones in a taxi. Didn’t realise it until we got a phone call from the taxi driver, who took the initiative to call every number on the phone book to find out where he should deliver the phone. Thank God my name doesnt start with the letter “Z” ! The taxi driver came after his shift was finished to our home, and gave back our phone.

11) To the contrary of the popular belief, non muslim women do not have to wear a head scarf or a burka. But since it is a muslim country, women are advised to dress appropriately. As long as you do not go naked on the street, nobody will care. The UAE is a much relax place than other Arabic countries in the region. Here you can find women in bikinis on the beach, which you will never see in Saudi Arabia.

12) They LOVE their shopping malls! There are 10 malls in the city (I am not even counting the small, “not so flashy” malls) alone. It is heaven on earth if you love shopping.

13) Gas costs AED 1,72 per litre (about Euro 0,35 or GBP 0,29). So what do you do? that’s right.. people drive cars everywhere. In fact, the city is not really pedestrian-friendly place, so you have no choice but to have a car or use taxi (which is very very cheap).

14) On top of their love for the malls, the Emiratis love their big cars. Popular brands here are Lexus, Toyota Landcruiser, Prado and the Volkswagen Touareg. Whatever car you can think of, you can find it here. We saw a couple of Maybach sometime cruising down the street.

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Things we see in Abu Dhabi

The Corniche

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Hello Abu Dhabi!

Yes, finally we are here! and after a long painstaking few weeks of searching, we now have a home! and to top the good news, our container also arrived safely from Germany and was warm heartedly welcomed by the kids who were so happy to see their toys again.

The past few months have been quite a tough time for us. Starting from the fact we had to leave Berlin, our home, our friends. Looking for new tenants for the flat (though it was not a problem in the end as quite a few people showed interests), but still causing us worry whether we would manage to find somebody before we leave, refurbish the flat, and sorting out the stuff  – a)ship it b) store it or c) bin it – though quite a bit went to category c) ! And this all took place in a span of 4 weeks. Of course the children have to be taken care of too. They were aware we would be going on a “big journey” but the sight of boxes piling up to the ceiling, the constant commotion and the amount of people coming and going to see us were quite overwhelming in the end.

I had a ‘grand’ plan at first. I wanted to make sure the move went as smoothly as possible for us, but especially for the children. This consisted of my master plan with a detailed descriptions on every single thing, from when we flew out from Berlin, when the stuff are shipped, when we “crashed” our stuff (and the kids) at our parents and when we finally flew here. So I got into panic when things didn’t actually work as I imagined it would be. The place where we were supposed to move in had suddenly “not available” anymore and no matter how hard we tried we just couldn’t get it back. This resulted in us staying in a hotel room for a good 2 weeks, while looking frantically for an alternative place to live. Thankfully the kids took it easy and for them it doesn’t matter whether it was a one bedroom place or a palace, they are just happy when they are with the parents🙂

For now, we are just finishing opening all the boxes and getting used to the heat. In summer months (between July – August) the temperature can reach over 55 degrees Celcius here! Though I muss say at the moment the highest temperature that I have seen during the day is around 44 degrees, and everywhere you go there is always an air conditioning, so it is not really that bad.

More stories coming up. Bis dann!


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