Friday, 26 December 2008
We spent Christmas at home in Al Ain this year. It had a pretty rough start with Ron being doubled over in pain and having to be admitted to hospital. Apparantly he had a kidney stone/s and it caused him excritiating pain for a few hours late on Christmas Eve and early into Christmas morning. So at 1 am we found ourselves on the way to the hospital through a very thick fog! A few hours later and after an injection for his pain we were sent home with instructions to follow up in the morning! So the better part of Christmas Day was spent in thehospital having tests done. Anyway the stone must have decided to dissolve, move or explode (!) and by the evening Ron was in fine form to go to Christmas dinner at gail and Peter Mapham's house.
We had a terrific night with them and Mark and Liz Steven's, Tracy and David Davies and our dear friend Brian Minns. The photos show us all enjoying ourselves - and a fabulous dinner!
Friday, 19 December 2008
On arrival we were met by some guys from Ulusaba who greeted us with a bottle of champagne and asked us to sit and take it easy while they prepared our transport to the Rock Lodge. The lodge is where we are staying and it is perched high on a kopje above the plains with spectacular views across waterholes and bush, over looking the other part of the resort – the Safari Lodge, which is located on the edge of a small waterway leading to a dam with hippopotamus and crocodile in residence!
The views were gobsmacking! We spent some time on a tour of the lodge – beautifully fitted out in true safari style, just like you see in the movies! The staff all came up and introduced themselves personally to us, with a handshake and a welcoming smile from everyone. They remembered our names the whole time we were there and addressed us by them at all times – of course we had difficulty remembering all of theirs! The service was nothing short of spectacular and every little thing was no trouble at all.
We had booked 3 days of ‘full board’ which we expected would cover our room and meals and tours etc. We were pleasantly surprised to find this also covered all our alcoholic drinks, laundry (though we didn’t need to use it), internet, sunscreen, insect repellent, and generally all facilities other than the health and beauty spa. The food was gourmet, the wine excellent. We even had our own private wine tasting from Sir Rick's cellar. We locked our wallets in a safe and never had to put a hand in our pockets for a thing. Here are some pics from around Rock Lodge. If you go to our album website at www.picasaweb.google.com/cherylandron you will see more photos of this fabulous place and a couple of short movies.
Of course you go ‘on safari’ to see wild animals – and mostly particularly the Big Five – elephant, lion, water buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. We were not disappointed and were stunned and amazed that the animals can be seen at such close quarters. We had lions and leopards within a few metres of us. The elephants actually came right up to the transport. Here are our best photos of the Big Five.
We also saw some other fabulous animals and many of them had their young with them. A zebra that was only a couple of days old, a newborn wildebeest, monkeys, hyena, giraffe……and the list goes on.
One of the highlights was visiting the local village of Justicea. We were greeted by young people and taken around to see various sights and activities in the village. There was traditional dancing, gumboot dancing, some women making maize porridge, a boys choir and a mixed choir. We had a lovely time, though a bit rushed – I would have liked the opportunity to talk to people. It was clear that this is a regular tour occurrence in the village and they had a program to present. All in all, a very special 3 and a half days.
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
We 'did' the Emirates Palace and the Grand Mosque, the malls and shops, some local restaurants, a jazz club and city tours amid the crazy traffic - and that was just the Abu Dhabi bit! On to Al Ain to meet friends and acquaintances and sip wine and visit the (you guessed it) malls, and the souks and the livestock market. All the while chatting and laughing and generally having a great time. On to Dubai for henna tattoos, a dhow cruise, and walking the souks and (once again) the malls. We had a glorious time even though most of it was spent battling the Dubai traffic.
The highlights were the Emirates Palace, The Grand Mosque, the dhow cruise, lazy day at the Hilton with friends, henna tattoos, the textile souk and the waterfront in Dubai and the Madinat at Jumeirah City, a visit to the Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah - oh yes and I shouldn't forget the Islamic Arts Institute! The malls were fun but paled into insignificance when compared with all the rest and with numerous bottles of white wine, good food and hours to chat. Photos are on the Picasa site at www.picasaweb.google.com/cherylandron
So this time we decided to go to South Africa. The lovely travel director (Cheryl) organised a fabulous 7 days. 3 in Capetown, 3 in a safari lodge. The lovely Cheryl has also told me that the first 3 days are my job! SO……………..
I loved Capetown ( at least in the summer anyway). We arrived late-ish in the afternoon on Saturday the 6th December. We were met by a driver from the hotel and taken to a gorgeous boutique hotel (The Ambassador) on the west coast of the cape. We came into our room and looked directly over the pool onto the Atlantic Ocean.
For us, who have been starved of sea views and the soothing sound of the shushshussshhhing surf for sooo long, it was delightful. That evening we caught the hotel shuttle into the Capetown waterfront zone. For the Sydney-ite readers, it’s a bit like Darling Harbour, but with a working harbour alongside. Restaurants galore, a few daredevil rides, buskers, lotsa shops and souvenir places etc. we found a nice balcony, ordered our wine and then the food (got the priorities in the right order) and enjoyed the ambience of being able to drink and eat outside, looking at the view and passing parade.
Next morning we did the Capetown tourist things – up to Table Mountain and a red bus tour. Table mountain is over 1000m above the town. You get about 300m high on the road. The rest is walk it (no chance) or cable car. See the photo for an idea of what this is like. Up there it is quite spectacular – like being in a helicopter with a total view of the town – and a bit scary as well – there are no high barriers separating the pathways from the drop – just a few little stone walls.
We again spent the evening in the waterfront area – a lovely restaurant called the Green Dolphin. Good food, good wine, and a jazz band. Sheer bliss!
Day 3 is wine tour day. Cheryl had lined up a private tour and guide. Gail (from Cape Sensations) was a walking encyclopaedia on Capetown and environs and particularly the Stellenbosch area. All in all this day we visited 9 wineries, and tasted at 5. Lunch was at another winery and superb. I’ve been lucky enough to visit most wine areas in Australia, and a few in France. I have to say the Stellenbosch is equal to or better than any of these. The scenery is beautiful – valley views, mountain backdrops, blue sky --- and good wine! My definition of heaven. Another attraction is that the wines are so cheap. A good wine at the cellar doo can cost as little as 40 - 60 ZAR – equal to about $4-6. A top wine can cost as little as 90 – 150 ZAR ($15). Most of the tastings cost a nominal fee – but that was always waived if you bought wine. Brandy is also a popular drink here and a number of wineries produce excellent examples. I indulged myself and bought a 20 year old brandy ( $30!).
And so we returned to the hotel after a fabulous day, and then indulged in yet another delicious meal. By this time the belt is getting a little tight. – and we still have 4 days to go!
And now here's Cheryl to do the bit on the safari at Sir Richard’s place.
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
I’ve been very lazy in my writing – nothing on the blog since September 22. My mother-in-law and her friends have noticed!!
Hard to actually believe time has passed so quickly. But that’s a bit how things go at times. As when we were “at home” (where’s home these days ????) life gets caught up in the mundane happenings of what has to be done every day. Up for work, shopping, cooking, sleeping, a bit of exercise, visit a few friends and so on. Before you know it the weeks have gone. And there haven’t really been too many momentous events since September. Both our work has gone on as normal.
My challenges with the senior management of the school continue – Will they ever “get it”? ……………….. Sometimes I wonder. ............... But then there are some leaps forward at times too and I mustn't discount them – like the signs that the middle management team (Heads of Department) are really beginning to grow into their role, taking on increasing responsibility and actually making things happen in the school. Last month we had a parent evening in the school. I’d designed it as a curriculum expo type evening. All the departments were asked to put on a display and show what was happening in their departments. And they did. We had science experiments, displays of student work, curriculum books – all much like I’d have “back home” – albeit on a more basic level. And over 120 parents attended. ……… and then the boss was supposed to get a parent council selected/elected. Oh well – 2 steps forward and one step …...............
Still, need to keep focussed on the hits rather than the misses!
Cheryl’s challenges continued at her work as well ……But she can tell you about that some other blog-time!……….
One major happening for us has been the departure of our dear friends Moraig and Brian. They left us mid November to flit back home to NZ and then off to St Petersburg. We have grown very close over the 12 months we’ve known each other. Cheryl actually “met” Moraig before we left Vanuatu – on the net. This has left a significant hole in our life and social calendar for it was rare for us to go more than a week without sharing some kind of outing, dinner or other event with them. However at time of writing the actual location of their new adventure is up in the air again – another victim of the economic situation. Still, part of the wonderful journey of our brief 2 years O/S is that in both Vanuatu and the UAE we have made some friends for life. And with each we have made a pact that we will meet up somewhere in the world every year.
Monday, 22 September 2008
We have found a game that is just great - it is called Jenga. Maths teachers provide reasons for the damn thing falling over! Accounts people try and calculate their way to winning! Primary school teachers think they are back in the classroom! Architects find the structures you can build amazing! Princesses get precious about who is going to win! VW drivers think they can take all the risks they can't on the road! Security people just don't play! Grandmas laugh! The rellies from Qld are simply bemused and befuddled! World travellers have played it in exotic places! .........and we have passed many an hilarious evening having lots of fun with it................
Anywhere else these pictures would be common place!
Monday, 8 September 2008
A recent anonymous comment on an early blog post “My work in Al Ain” has made me think a little about the work we do and the story that Cheryl and I present here on our blog.
Given my background knowledge about the PPP project initiated by ADEC and carried out by some international private operators, I have found your account too beautiful to be true. There is a lot of unsaid regarding power conflict among all the involved parties, teachers` resistence to change, students` misbehaviour and you name it.
Implementing school reform is not as easy as your blog suggests especially in Sultan Bin Zayed School.
A later comment by the same anonymous person seeks to engage me in discussion about the changes and other philosophical points. So:
Maybe it’s just our inherent positive nature that makes it sound “too beautiful”. This blog is simply our story. It is not, and was never meant to be a forum for debate or philosophical discussion, an incentive for others to follow our footsteps, or a justification of what we do (or what others do) and we have no intention of allowing it to be diverted into such. If others wish to debate this, then let them create their own forum and not invade our story. I say again – this is just our story of our time in the UAE. We could be here, or we could be in Italy, Vanuatu, Africa or Bulgaria, we’d still be writing it. Yes, part of the story relates to the work Cheryl and I do. Most of it relates to other events – call them adventures if you like, we do. We write it for us, our friends and family. If others read it then that is one of the many byproducts of our new communication age and the internet. If they have questions, we’re happy to respond, and have done so on many occasions – just not via the blog.
That said, I do want to make a few things clear. Nowhere have I said that this work of educational reform that the leaders of this country have required be embarked on is easy. All change is difficult – for the change bringer and for those having to change. Resistance is an inherent and very necessary part of the process. It stems from fear of the unknown, need to maintain power relationships, job insecurity, and many other perfectly valid causes. No matter who or where you are, when someone challenges your practices , this can be extremely threatening. We all find it difficult to move out of our comfort zone; more so when job security is seen to be at risk.
In fact I would expect and hope that all members of the education system here, at all levels, do offer resistance, but with good intent and conscience. And we, the de-facto agents of that change, have a duty to listen to those we are working with. For with that resistance, we learn important lessons not only about how we can best support people, but about all those things that need to be preserved. Without this, the result would be a clone of some western education system that would be superficial, culturally inappropriate, and ultimately unsustainable.
And yes, with their eye constantly on the results of their students in the various indicators /exams etc, teachers will be torn between implementing the new teaching practices and calming down the unmotivated disruptive students. Part of our job is to help them manage this and to understand that it isn’t a choice between the two. Good teaching creates good learners and good classrooms. Not easy - no matter if you’re in the developing world or the developed world – East or West.
And that is all I have to say on that in this blog.
if you want to further this discussion, then step out from behind the mask and create your own forum, & if it piques my interest, I’ll contribute and even possibly put a link to it.
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
"Ramadan is a special month of the year for over one billion Muslims throughout the world. It is a time for inner reflection, devotion to God, and self-control. Muslims think of it as a kind of tune-up for their spiritual lives. The third "pillar" or religious obligation of Islam, fasting has many special benefits. Among these, the most important is that it is a means of learning self-control. Due to the lack of preoccupation with the satisfaction of bodily appetites during the daylight hours of fasting, a measure of ascendancy is given to one's spiritual nature, which becomes a means of coming closer to God. Ramadan is also a time of intensive worship, reading of the Quran, giving charity, purifying one's behavior, and doing good deeds. As a secondary goal, fasting is a way of experiencing hunger and developing sympathy for the less fortunate and learning thankfulness and appreciation for all of God's bounties. Fasting is also beneficial to the health and provides a break in the cycle of rigid habits or overindulgence.
THE MONTH OF RAMADAN BRIEFY EXPLAINED
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim Lunar calendar. The Month of Ramadan is also when it is believed the Holy Quran "was sent down from heaven, guidance unto men, a declaration of direction, and a means of Salvation". It is during this month that Muslims fast. It is called the Fast of Ramadan and lasts the entire month. Ramadan is a time when Muslims concentrate on their faith and spend less time on the concerns of their everyday lives. It is a time of worship and contemplation During the Fast of Ramadan strict restraints are placed on the daily lives of Muslims. They are not allowed to eat or drink during the daylight hours. Smoking and sexual relations are also forbidden during fasting. At the end of the day the fast is broken with prayer and a meal called the iftar. The fast is resumed the next morning.The good that is acquired through the fast can be destroyed by - the telling of a lie, slander, denouncing someone behind his back, a false oath, greed or covetousness. These are considered offensive at all times, but are most offensive during the Fast of Ramadan. Thus one of the objectives of this month for a Muslim is to purify himself / herself from ill characteristics that are within one. A spiritual cleansing through a physical action.
During Ramadan, it is common for Muslims to go to the Masjid (Mosque) and spend several hours praying and studying the Quran. In addition to the five daily prayers, during Ramadan Muslims recite a special prayer called the Taraweeh prayer (Night Prayer). The length of this prayer is usually 2-3 times as long as the daily prayers. Some Muslims spend the entire night in prayer.
In the last ten nights of this month, Muslims search for a special night called Laylat-al-Qadr (the Night of Power). It is believed that on this night Muhammad first received the revelation of the Holy Quran. And according to the Quran, this is when God determines the course of the world for the following year. When the fast ends (the first day of the month of Shawwal) it is celebrated as a "holiday" called Id-al-Fitr (the Feast of Fast Breaking). Friends and family gather to pray in congregation. Meals are prepared and family and friends have a joyous day.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RAMADAN TO MUSLIMS
Ramadan is important for Muslims because it is believed to be the month in which the first verses of the Holy Qur’an (the divine scripture) were revealed by Allah (God) to Prophet Muhammad (570-632 C.E.). From time to time, Muhammad used to go out from Makkah, where he was born and where he worked as a caravan trader, to reflect and meditate in solitude. Like Abraham before him, he had never accepted his people’s worship of many gods, and felt a need to withdraw to a quiet place to reflect on the One God. One night, while contemplating in a cave near Makkah, he heard a voice call out, telling him to “Read!” Muhammad protested that he was unable to read. The voice insisted again, and then a third time, and Muhammad found himself reciting the first verses of the Qur’an: “Read, in the name of thy Lord, Who created—Created man, out of a clot (embryo). Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful, He Who taught the use of the pen—Taught man that which he knew not. Nay, but man doth transgress all bounds, In that he looketh upon himself as self-sufficient. Verily, to thy Lord is the return (of all).” (ch.96: 1-8)
The voice was that of the angel Gabriel, and he confirmed that Muhammad was selected for an important and challenging mission—he was to call people to monotheism and righteousness.
Muslims consider the Qur’an to be God’s speech recorded in the Arabic language, and transmitted to humanity through Muhammad, who is considered the last of the prophets. This tradition of God-chosen prophets or messengers is believed to include such figures as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. Muslims believe that over a period of twenty-three years, various verses and chapters of the Qur’an were revealed to Muhammad through Gabriel. The Qur’an is comprised of 114 chapters of varying length, with titles such as “Abraham,” “The Pilgrimage,” “Mary,” and “Repentance.”
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset every day. This means not consuming food and drink, including water, during the daylight hours. For married adults, it also includes refraining from marital relations during the hours of fasting (i.e. the daylight hours). In the Arabic language, fasting is known as sawm. Muslims arise early in the morning during Ramadan to have a pre-dawn breakfast meal, known as suhoor. At the end of the day, the fast is completed by taking the iftar meal, which usually includes dates, fresh fruits, appetizers, beverages and dinner. Later in the evening, Muslims attend special nightly prayers (called tarawih) at their local mosque. Each night during Ramadan, approximately 1/30th of the Qur’an is recited in the tarawih prayers, so that the entire scripture is recited in the course of the 29 or 30 days of the month.
WHY MUSLIMS FAST
For Muslims, fasting has a number of benefits:
1. It helps one to feel compassion for those who are less fortunate and underprivileged, since each day Muslims feel greater appreciation for what they have as a result of feeling hunger and thirst.
2. It allows one to build a sense of self-control and will-power, which can be beneficial throughout life in dealing with temptations and peer-pressure. Through fasting, Muslims learn to control their natural urges such as hunger and thirst, and thus are able to better resist temptations for things which are not necessary, such as drugs or other unhealthy or harmful substances and behaviors.
3. It offers a time for Muslims to “purify” their bodies as well as their souls, by developing a greater sense of humility, spirituality and community. Ramadan is a very spiritual time for Muslims, and often they invite each other to one another’s homes to break the fast and pray together. A greater sense of generosity and forgiveness is also characteristic of this time. As with other duties in Islam, fasting becomes obligatory (i.e. one becomes accountable) after the age of puberty.
After the end of Ramadan, a very festive and joyous holiday is celebrated by Muslims, known as Eid al-Fitr [eed ul fit-ur], the Festival of Breaking the Fast. On the day of the Eid, Muslims attend special congregational prayers in the morning, wearing their nicest clothes and perfumes. After the completion of prayers and a special sermon, Muslims rise to greet and hug one another, saying “Eid Mubarak,” which means “Holiday Blessings.” Later on, Muslim families visit each other’s homes, and have special meals together. Children are often rewarded with gifts, money, and sweets.
Just thought you might be interested. For us it means quieter and shorter working days. Yes we do observe the fast during the times we are at work, though we might take a short drink of water. If drinking at work we will make sure that it is done discreetly as we do not wish to offend anyone who is fasting. The shops are open at different times which means you can't just pop out for a coffee or have lunch, but it is a small inconvenience in the greater scheme of things really.
Tuesday, 2 September 2008
The last few weeks Ron has been involved in induction for the new guys and we both did a bit of meeting and greeting and helping people to settle into the community here and find their way around. Of course when you have people with similar backgrounds and aspirations it is easy to assume you are probably going to get along with them and form some new friendships and that is exactly what is happening.
The Contract Director who is a Kiwi has satisfactorily stripped the NZ Education system of many of its promising teachers; Nerissa has been working on the Victorian Education system; Ron has some chums from NSW and Vanuatu and the word is out that still more people are needed. So if you are a well qualified and experienced teacher looking for a great team to work with in the Middle East we reckon you couldn’t do better than working for SIP.
Now that the company advertisement is finished – tongue in cheek – I should get on with talking about what we have been up to. It is a month since we arrived back and we are well and truly into the swing of things with work and social life. No pics for this article as we haven’t done anything specific where you would want to rush off with the camera and snap it. However we have been for a couple of shopping trips to Dubai and Moraig and I took a business trip to Abu Dhabi.
The first trip to Dubai was with the new faculty for the university to take them to IKEA so they could purchase bits and pieces for their apartments. Well that was a very nice working day which included a lovely lunch in the Anise restaurant at the new Intercontinental overlooking the Dubai Marina. The second was with one of the SIP team, Geoff, and we visited the Madinat for a lovely Persian dinner.
Moraig has commenced working at the university in the HR Department as a consultant. It is a short term project, which suits Moraig very well as she has some other plans up her sleeve that will become obvious in time (they involve her moving on which is not good news to me!) However for now I have a buddy working close by and we get together now and then to chew the fat!
Ron is down today with the ubiquitous ‘Al Ain Bug’ which seems to have been doing the circuit for about 3 months now – diarrohea, headaches, disorientation and dehydration! It is a debilitating little virus but fortunately doesn’t hang about for too long. I had 3 days down with it last week.
The most interesting thing that is happening right now is Ramadan and my next blog entry will provide some information concerning Ramadan.
Monday, 18 August 2008
We got to the airport 3 hours early to ensure Ron got a seat with plenty of legroom – success – got the exit seats – plenty of room for his long legs……should be a good flight!
Once on the plane we were seated next to 2 families with 6 kids between them - all quite small. The mothers were just great and did everything possible to occupy them, keep them quiet etc. One father was absolutely useless and should have been thrown out from about 30,000 ft – waste of oxygen he was! The other father was helpful and tried his very best to assist his wife and the kids. HOWEVER the trip was through turbulence for over 85% of the flight and the kids had to be restrained in their seat belts for hours on end. The baby in the bassinette had to be moved everytime the seatbelt sign went on and of course the poor mother had to be up and down and struggling with the lapsash addition to restrain him…………….and it just went on and on! No amount of effort by the poor parents could keep the kids settled. The staff were besides themselves with trying to keep them all safe and belted up as the plane bounced its way across the world.
Between the bouncing, the parents trying so hard to keep the kids settled and the crew constantly checking that they were all restrained appropriately we just didn’t get a moments rest and hit Abu Dhabi at midnight completely b*ggared to find we had to wait at the airport for 2 and ½ hours for the bus to Al Ain. By the time we got home at 4.30 am, 22 hours after hitting Sydney airport, we were absolutely shattered!
However we are now back in our apartment, settled into work and looking forward to all the adventures and fun of another year in the UAE. I am already concocting stories about the last two weeks - so watch this space!
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Hopped on a Jetstar flight to Hervey Bay to catch up with some more people. On arrival it was sunny and warm, quite a difference to a cold Sydney. Spent the first afternoon laying on the beach and taking some photos. This is Hervey Bay beach - with a personal touch!
Also caught up with Garth, Helen and Mum, Di and Stan and our volunteer friends from Vanuatu Jacquie and Paul Birch. It was a loveley week and we enjoyed the company, the food, the accommodation and the bowls! Yes - Garth talked us into playing lawn bowls and it was great!
Saturday, 9 August 2008
Tessie has a new home with Betty and Morrie and is being regularly walked to visit all around St Mary's. Also dropped in on Rod and Shelley and the girls - delightful little angels! (No photos of the Knights because we forgot the camera!)
Also caught up with Mick(Cheryl's brother) and went to lunch at Mosman Rowers.
June, Dan and Khali are all well as you can see from these pics. If you click on pics and open in another screen they become a lot clearer.
Friday, 8 August 2008
Thanks Gill for your wonderful hospitality (as always).
PS - I didn't cut off anyone's heads - it happened in the collage. The pics will be on the Picasa site soon for you to download with their heads intact.
| I came across this article in the Gulf news today and it answers all those questions we were asked while on holiday about social issues of living in the UAE:|
Mind your language, behaviour and dress in theUAE
By Alice Johnson, Staff Reporter
Dubai: If you are planning to come to the UAE it is very important to keep local sensitivities in mind and find out what is allowed and what is not, before you travel.
Some Emirates are more liberal regarding clothing so check out what restrictions there are before you embark on a trip here.
Detailed information can be found on your home country's embassy website, travel advice sections.
However, there are a few rules that apply in the UAE. It is not illegal to drink alcohol and hotels have licences in most of the Emirates, but it is an arrestable offence to be drunk in a public place.
There is zero-tolerance to drink driving and you will be in deep trouble if you are also involved in an accident.
It is acceptable to wear a bikini/swimming costume or swimming trunks for men on the beach, but it is an arrestable offence to go topless or wear a thong.
Swimming attire is fine for the beach under these rules, but it is not acceptable once you leave the beach; don't walk around the streets in a bikini.
However, Sharjah (the Emirate to the north of Dubai) holds different rules that prohibit women from wearing swimsuits on the beach.
It is also illegal for women to wear clothes that show their upper arms too much leg in Sharjah, and alcohol is strictly illegal.
Although non-Muslim women are not required to cover their heads in public, if you enter a mosque it will be required for religious reasons.
The Shaikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding organises tours of Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai. The website has more details about clothing requirements: http://www.cultures.ae/jumeirah.htm
Holding hands in public is not illegal, but any shows of affection are frowned upon and can result in arrests for public indecency. This includes public places such as malls and beaches.
Most tourist guides have sections with these details.
- Indecent gestures could land you in jail.
- Dress code is generally casual
- Since you are visiting a Muslim country, bikinis, swimsuits, shorts and revealing tops should be confined to beach resorts.
- Women are usually advised not to wear short skirts and to keep their shoulders covered.
- In Sharjah women are prohibited from wearing swimsuits on public beaches.
- In Abu Dhabi, visitors are advised not to wear excessively revealing clothing in public places, as a sign of respect for local culture and customs.
- This also applies to public beaches, where swimmers should avoid excessively revealing swimming suits.
- Most nightclubs require their guests not to wear shorts, caps or sport shoes on their premises.
- Details on clothing requirement for Jumeirah mosque visit at www.cultures.ae/jumeirah
Tuesday, 1 July 2008
Our room looks out over the ocean - the Gulf of Siam. The hotel has a really fabulous pool that meanders all around the rooms and divides the central area into three islands. We have been swimming around them each afternoon.
We have also had heaps of little trips into Hua Hin which is a really nice coastal town about 3 hours south of Bangkok - not at all like the tourist spots - more like a country town on the South Coast. The people are lovely and the hotel staff are just so accommodating it is unbelievable! There are the nightclubs, bars and night markets in town if you want to visit and there are also some coastal fishing villages and families with traditional lifestyles living all along the beaches. Of course there are also the temples and elephant rides and - OMG - I could go on forever. I think I want to come and live here!
Here are some photos..............
Saturday, 14 June 2008
It was a real celebration of Aussie culture with clips from Sam Peckovitch (hope that's how you spell it) and Bob Brown in person to sing "Home among the gum trees". The only thing that didn't occur was a chook raffle - however there was a raffle and we didn't win any prizes but had a good night all in all. The Australian Ambassador made a very entertaining speech and we danced to Aussie bands which had been jazzed up to be a bit hip hop. (Don't know why they did that - the originals were much better). Only one complaint and that was that the music was too loud to allow anyone to talk!
In true Aussie style the crowd rocked on till the wee hours of the morning. We bailed out about 1 am and went for a coffee. Our plans were to visit the Picasso exhibition at the Emirates Palace the next day. And that was just great too! Another good weekend in Abu Dhabi. All is well with us and we continue to have a ball...........sorry that's an awful pun!
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Monday, 2 June 2008
Some women of the Al Andalus camp were meeting to travel to the souq so the Princess and the Sheikh joined to follow them through the wilderness of the north western desert – another strange and unfamiliar place.
Once again the MFCs were of the 4WD variety and after a few minutes loading up we were flying off into the desert. The Sheikh had a big night drinking red wine so the Princess was behind the wheel. Now a CRV MFC just doesn’t have the grunt of a Land Cruiser so when the Princess looked down to the speedo and found she was travelling at 150 km/hr she almost fainted. She has never driven an MFC at this speed before and was having trouble keeping apace with the leaders who weaved their way in and out of the traffic. This picture is of the blue souk against the modern buildings of Sharjah
There were 7 women of Al Andalus and their MFCs were on a course to the souq. Nothing was going to get between them and their hours of prowling the souqs for bargains; not the slow moving traffic, not the roadwork, not the trucks and definitely not the desert wind which was blowing fiercely! The Princess put her foot firmly to the floor and powered the MFC forward. At 150 klicks fear set in and she backed off a bit. The leaders slowed for her to catch up and maintained a more sedate 140 klm/hour for the rest of the trip………PHEW! We must have that speed alarm on the MFC attended to – off with it’s head!
Arriving at the souq the Sheikh and the Princess knew they would not be able to keep pace with the shopping of the Al Andalus women! Women on a mission they were! So we parted company and browsed the souq at leisure. There were jewellery, gold and electronic souqs, carpet and cloth souqs, readymade clothing and shoes souqs – all filled to the rafters and everyone claiming to be the cheapest and most authentic! There were trinkets and souvenirs and all the stalls were attended by men of the sub-continent – Indians, Pakistanis and such – the cream of the sales genies of the East. Of course the Sheikh is a great bargainer, trained in the souqs of Bali, Singapore and Kota Kinabalu, so he set to work on getting the right price for everything from pashminas to carpets, bedspeads and carved boxes. The Sheikh gains a huge sense of satisfaction knowing he has made a good purchase at a great price. He feels he has achieved his best today and is satisfied with his purchases for the desert camp and the family at home.
Having travelled so far the Princess and the Sheikh decided it would be good to cruise the city and see what was on offer. Of all the cities in the UAE the Princess says Sharjah is the nicest so far. The city feels like a city on the sea. There are inlets and islands and plenty of water. The main dock is on the Corniche and so it is a busy port city with trading vessels lining the quays and lots of activity on the water. A jet ski park reminds the Princess of the Gold Coast in far off Australia!
After a leisurely look at the city the Princess and the Sheikh head back towards the desert camp. Another adventure in the Arabian Fairytale!
Sunday, 1 June 2008
So it’s probably time I wrote something again - after all the entries Cheryl has done!
What to write about?
Aaahhh. The first summer’s day in Al Ain.
So I get up as usual at 6. Sun is well and truly up and outside the A/C of the bedroom it feels like about 30deg. I do the S,S,S thing and make that all important first cup of tea and breakfast. By this time Cheryl is up and checking the email and SMH for the daily news from Oz. This morning, there’s nothing to report. Finish breakfast (our usual fruit & cereal – gotta watch those carbs!) and get dressed (yes, until now it’s been nickers only – why bother to dress when it’s so warm). Some polite chit-chat so I can’t be accused of ignoring her and it’s on with the shoes and tie (gotta keep up the professional appearance – my boss says so). A bit more chit-chat and out the door, into the stairwell and down the stairs.
I grasp the door handle to go outside. My it IS warm! As I open the door, a wave of 35degree heat washes over me. Remember – this is 7 o’clock in the morning. “Ahhh what another lovely sunny day in paradise” my soul mumbles as I fold myself into my blue indulgence (the Merc Sports).
As I cruise slowly down our side street I can see the workmen at the construction site nearby already hard at work. They look like they’ve been at work for hours – and probably have. They will carry on through the heat until about 5pm. It’s only a 5 minute drive to work at this time of day, but during that drive the usual things happen. 4 wheel drives (BIG ONES) drift across lane markings almost into my front bumper, a water truck turns right – and across my path - from the left lane, at least 2 taxis stop on roundabouts to pick up fares and despite my speed of 80+kph, I’m overtaken by almost everyone else on the road! Just a normal drive really, and so I arrive at work just after 7 and stop in the car park for a minute or two to let the heart rate slow. I’m first one there as usual, but others in my team are not far behind. We settle in for the day’s work.
Last week was full on into exams mode. All students sat an externally set exam in almost all subjects. The teachers at the school mark the papers and the marking system is so refined that almost every exam is marked the afternoon that students complete it. Another team of teachers then does the checking and data entry into the ministry system. This is the first day after exams have been completed and marked so things are a little laid back. Staff arrive between 7:30 and 8.
I’m busy refining a presentation for tomorrow until 9 and then I go down for my meeting with the principal. He is gradually awakening to my way of organising the school planning thing and we have a lengthy discussion about finance committees, program groups, and such. Back in the staffroom I put the finishing touches to my presentation and then do some planning of my own on selecting the people for the finance committee and managers for the program groups. Democracy’s great when you can rig the results – just ask George (dubbleyaa)!
At 10:00, the English staff drop in and invite us for breakfast. Much as I try and dissuade them (today and most days) that I’ve already eaten breakfast, I must still go and have at least something small. It’s local fare: fried kibbeh in tomato and chilli sauce. “Did you make this yourself Shukri?” I ask. “Yes.” he says. “No he didn’t.” comes a quick retort from his mate Adnan, “It was his wife!” Nevertheless, it’s quite delicious and with a side dish of tabouleh that is also fresh and delightful – but my waistline is increasing ever so steadily.
Michael and I then have a deep discussion about the final PD session of the term (3 weeks away – but preparation starts now). The morning wears on. Discussions here and there about planning, committee managers, exam results, setting up a promotion-retention review committee before results go in to the Zone, the list goes on. Before I know it it’s 1 o’clock and Mohammed Waheeb reminds us all that he has prepared lunch for us all - all that’s left that is. At least his wife prepared it – and he brought it along! Another splendid fare is set. This one has plates of prawns, layers of lamb, (Aussie lamb of course), biryani by the bucket, salads and assorted accompaniments. All eaten Arab style of course, with the right hand, straight off the platter with your mates next to you taking from the same platters. (You get used to it ) Again, we have little choice but to join them. The food is too good to pass, but mindful of the onset of the last remaining belt settings, I minimise my input!
I must go see Etisalat to settle accounts for phone and internet, so I clamber into the blue roadster. The dash temperature reads 52.5deg. The shade screen is so hot it burns my fingers as I fold it away. The steering wheel is too hot to hold for more than a few seconds. Blast on the AC. Wait a few minutes so I can hold the wheel and then I’m off. When I arrive at Etisalat, the thermometer is reading 47deg. Yes folks, summer’s here in the gulf! Thank goodness we only have another 4 weeks of these temps to endure before the respite of our trip back home (to 10deg no doubt!). An hour at Etisalat and it’s time to get home into the AC. – Can’t even get out for a swim yet - too damm hot. Funny thing is though that we rarely get sunburnt. – more ozone up there and certainly more dust!