Friday, 23 May 2008

The price of petrol...and other things

We have been watching news from around the world and noticing how much people are paying for petrol. I really wonder how some are able to maintain driving a car with the increased costs. And of course it all flows on to everything else that has to be delivered to stores by transport using petrol, or that is delivered to factories for manufacture.

The price increase has just been phenomenal this year with petrol in some places going up nearly 50% according to the news. Not so here in the UAE. Although the prices have gone up and people are having a whinge about it the cost of petrol here is embarrassing when compared to home. We hear you guys in Aus are paying up to $1.60 a litre and sometimes more. We are paying about 40cents a litre here. The impact is of course that many other things are also very cheap as there is little transportation associated with getting goods to market.

We fill the CRV for the equivalent of about $22 and the Merc takes about $15 for a full tank. And then we live in a place that takes 15 minutes to get from one side of town to the other. I can not imagine how much we would be paying out for petrol for Ron to commutte to Ryde and me to go to the city/Parra for work if we were still at home.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

The Arabian fairytale: Part Six – Adventure in the desert

The Princess and the Sheikh are really on a roll now with adventures coming thick and fast in the month of May before the heat really hits with a vengeance! In another month it will be impossible to be outdoors, except between the hours of 2 and 3 am, so this adventure was a last chance to enjoy the relatively cooler day (even though it was still 45 degrees C).

One of the ladies of the hareem, the Fair Kate of County Cork, organised a day in the desert for all the people of the royal court of SIP. Some were able to make it while others must have thought it was just getting too hot in the desert to venture out of the air-conditioned oases of Al Ain and Abu Dhabi. Only the intrepid and adventurous signed up for th
e caravan into the desert.

The caravan left from the Intercontinental Hotel in Al Ain under the watchful eye of Captain Rashed, master of the genies of the magic flying carpets (MFCs to those who have not read the Arabian Fairytale before). The MFCs, four in total, piloted by Emirati genies, clad in impeccable white, cruised out into the desert in the late afternoon. Capt
ain Rashed, Saif, Hamad and Mr Al Shamsi catapulted the cruisers along the highway in search of the camel farms where the entourage would be saddled up.

Young Travis of the Carter Clan was to keen to master the art of mounting of a camel. He did this most ably under the watchful eye of some camel handlers from the far off exotic lands (and Deb and Simon with their hearts in their mouths!) Many of the entourage stepped forward to try their skill as camel handlers and they showed lots of promise as handlers of the ships of the desert. However their contracts with SIP have stopped them from pursu
ing this fascinating career!
The excitement has only just begun. In the blink of an eye, the magic flying carpets cruised across the desert speeding up and down the dunes and amazing the Princess with their capacity to keep all the people on board! Little did she know that the real daredevil 4 wheelers were about to appear. Ibrahim the Insolent and Tarek the Terrifying capably conned Captain Rashed and his crew into a detour to the land of the broken bones, grazed knees and cracked skulls, otherwise known as the Quad Bike Fun Park. Before we could say “…But what about viewing the Sunset….” we had arrived and our party was crisscrossing the park at breakneck speed.

After a cautious start many of the team were spinning wheels and wheel-y-ing their way all over the tracks, Tarek the Terrifying was only slightly more sedately cruising the dune and Enigmatic Ed was showing all the hallmarks of his misspent youth. Even Nerissa of Victoria braved possible broken bones taking her turn. Though it must be said I’ve seen ride on mowers go faster! Star of the (junior) track though was Travis. At age 3 11/12ths he managed his junior bike like a pro – giving his Mum Debbie lots of exercise, taking tumbles in his stride and before long burning up the sand!

There were some strangers from out of town in the group today. The Princess was bemused. Are they Australians, South Americans or perhaps Mexicans? It is curious – perhaps they are a new breed of Arab, mutants from the town of Shahama? Strange head gear, not before seen in the desert sets them apart from the royal Sheikhs of Al Ain. They must be good men and fair because they escorted the visiting Lady Houda of Morocco from Abu Dhabi – perhaps they are her secret service?

Back to the race track and the sun was setting and we were on our way. Some of the MFC pilots, now emboldened by the obvious bravery on the track, decided to keep the adrenaline pumping, roaring up, down and sideways through the dunes and into the dusk.

By now hunger is setting in. Images of 20 people lost in the golden sands begin to flash before our eyes. Stray goats are imagined to be draped in gravy – with salads! Even a camel haunch looks appetising. Beckoning lights in the distance hold the promise of a feast unimaginable. Finally, just before we succumb to starvation we arrive at Captain Rashed’s desert camp and are welcomed by his extended family with drinks, a soft seat, and (much to the relief of many) bathrooms – complete with Jacuzzi! (It doesn’t work but it looks good!)

Soon while the barbecue is sizzling we are guided around the camp. It contains all the necessities of life, a menagerie of pets, and in stark contrast to the modern magic flying carpets of the desert (Toyota Landcruiser, Nissan Armada, Chevy Tahoe etc) a WW2 relic Land Rover is proudly on display under its own museum style shelter.

We sit on cushions and dinner is served, desert style at low tables while knees seize up beneath us! We are treated to salads, barbecued quail, chicken kebabs and rice. Arabic coffee and tea complete the feast and soon we are all replete.

The desert causes strange things to occur. The Princess is reminded of the Lumbricidae of Dune (that’s HUGE worms for the uninitiated!) when Fair Kate of County Cork and Lady Houda of Morocco wriggle and squirm their way through the sands. They emerge clogged and dusty, eyes weeping and sand in their ears to be transformed into beautiful Arabian Princesses right before our eyes.

As the entourage changes into the royal dress of the desert Bettina the Bavarian records the emergence of the royal house. A new Sheikh of the royal family is proclaimed on his first desert outing – Sheikh Leigh Hazza Dry Wit, son of the Lady Nerissa of Victoria. A worthy sheikh seeking adventures and the princess of his dreams in the deserts of Al Ain. Beware princesses of the sands – he has a twinkle in his eye and a wit to match. Many a princess will have to run a long race to catch her prize!

The night must come to an end and the entourage makes it’s way under the watchful eye of Captain Rashed and the genies of the magic flying carpets back to the hotel and home. Another splendid day in Arabia – another adventure for the Princess and the Sheikh.

For photos of the day, visit our albums at:

Mother's day visit

I painted this picture on Mother's Day. It is a boy going to visit his mother. I wish I could see mine today! That's one of the down sides to be so far away.
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The Spring Ball

On Thursday last week we attended the Spring Ball for the Al Ain Rugby Club. These photos were taken at the ball. In the photo of four from left to right is Sheikh Brian Ibn Playin Gitar, Moraig of Kiwiland, the Princess and the Sheikh – Sheikh ron Bin Drinkin Redwine! (Alias Brian and Moraig Minns and Cheryl and Ron)

The whole ball thing was a disaster really. I had a new outfit made and lost it! Yes I had it in a plastic bag at work and it just disappeared, never to be seen again. So I had to wear a little number that was in the cupboard.

On the way to the ball I remembered I had forgotten the tickets and turned around to go and get them – adding 30 minutes – so we were late!

And at the end of the evening I was forced to go home when a Filipina in stilettos danced on my foot, drawing blood and leaving a huge bruise that has stopped me from wearing shoes all weekend! Bleeding on the carpet of the grandstand at the Equestrian Centre did not go down well.

Despite all the setbacks we had a lovely night and we will go again. I wonder if my outfit will turn up for next time!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Bedouin Woman

I did this painting last night at my art class. It is really my first effort at a portrait - I think I need lots more practice!
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Sunday, 4 May 2008

An Arabian Fairytale Part Five: The Princess and the Sheik visit the Musandam

The summer is approaching. The Princess and the Sheikh have been working long hours and it has been many days since their last adventure. During the recent months there was a short trip on a dhow and the Princess was reminded of how she loves to be on the water. In fact both the Princess and the Sheikh are water lovers. The opportunity arose when Sheikh Gary Bin Divin Deep and his wife Suzanne of Darwin, who have lived in the desert for 17 years, suggested a short cruise on a dhow.

The tradition is that three times a year a number of desert dwellers gather together at the port in Dibba, load up a dhow with diving and snorkeling gear, food and water, camping equipment and beverages and take a leisurely cruise along the Omani coast to the northern province of Oman known as the Musandam.

The cruise is led by genies of the underwater world with eyes as blue as the seas they dive and a sharp wit to match the twinkle within. The first genie is Jerry, a jolly and rotund spirit who surprises with his agility and skill. Jerry is devoted to the dive. He spends his time checking and adjusting, repairing and tendering the equipment used by all the desert folk to enter the allure of the deep. He hops from one tank to another adjusting valves and siphoning air. His hands are not still and he constantly wields a screwdriver, or a clamp, a nut or a widget that he taps to this or bolts to that. Quick with a crack he laughs out loud at his own jokes and those of his friends.

Jerry is ably assisted by a nymph with startling blue eyes, Debbie of South Africa. She surveys the sea and supports and guides, picking up a piece here, tidying away a bit there, encouraging here, cajoling there, wiping up this, attending to that and smiling all the while with a sparkle in her eye and a skip in her step. Only when the desert dwellers have descended does she sit back and relax, book in hand to enjoy the sun, the breeze and the peace and await the return of Jerry and the others from the deep.

Sheikh Gary bin Divin Deep had a laid back trip. He didn’t visit the deep this time but spent the trip checking that all the snorkeling spots were still delivering their promised wonders. Swimming around the islands and checking out the nooks and crannies he would arrive back on deck with a grin from ear to ear and announce that the corals were great, or that the fish were schooling. He gave reports on water clarity and temperature and every spot was yet another that could not be missed. I think this Sheikh must have relatives in the district, perhaps in the deep, with whom he communes. His spirit is in this place.

I met Nancy from Florida who had a mischievous smile and darted around the boat chatting and laughing and gathering the strength to face the deep. On one dive she emerged with the statement – ‘the equipment was working fine, but I wasn’t’ – she had one of those moments we all experience when fear takes charge and life looks short. By the time we reached the next dive she had conquered the demons within and spent 25 minutes re-establishing her relationship with the deep. On her next emergence from the deep she can be quoted as saying ‘Now I know why I do it…….the equipment, the fear, the hassle of suiting up……it all becomes meaningless when you are swimming with the fish all around you’

On arrival at the campsite the Princess and the Sheikh assisted all the desert dwellers and the genies to unload the boat and head for the shore. There was much merrymaking and the cove resounded to the popping of corks and the pulling of ringtabs. Sheikh Gary built a fire and the desert dwellers all cooked their food over the coals. On finishing dinner another genie appeared. He was a music genie and had a guitar and a repertoire of songs that the Princess and the Sheikh knew and so we all sang along. This genie was Mike and he was nimble of finger and his memory for melody and verse was supreme! The hours passed quickly with a song in the air and a glass in the hand and soon it was time for sleep.

Some of the desert dwellers had brought along their nylon huts to erect on the beach. The Sheikh and the Princess slept simply under the stars on a mat of air. During the night the ‘djin’ came to visit. According to local legend the djin that lives on this beach is a naked black djin and is 3 metres tall. He has flames coming out of his head and his eyes are a scary red. He only has 3 fingers on each hand so he can’t catch you but he can really give you a fright. Fortunately the Princess was told this in the morning and not before she went to bed. The djin did come though and he picked up the coals from the fire and threw sparks in the air, he breathed hot air over the camp and disturbed the desert dwellers during the night. The Princess felt his presence and hid under a towel. The Sheikh stayed watchful through the night to protect his Princess.

The Princess was once again amazed at how small the world can be when in discussion she discovered a young woman from the Fujairah tribe who had attended the same school as the Princess in the town of Glebe in the far off land of Australia. Debra of Annandale found her French Prince Charming, Christophe, in the sands of the Middle East and they have settled into the life of the desert. A kinship was established and the Princess hopes to meet up with the lovely Debra again one day.

Another thing that deserves a mention in this story is the master and his crew. Mohammed of Dibba was ably assisted by some men of the sub-continent, sailors indeed. Now Mohammed looked more like a genie than all the other genies. His skin the colour of tanned leather he was large and sturdy. His arms and legs were strong and nimble and his smile almost sparkled with the reflection of the water on brilliant white teeth. He told us tales of clashes with pirates and Iranian customs officials (I am not sure that he wasn’t confusing the two!). He dived for oysters the size of small plates and handled a runabout boat with agility and speed. A word from this genie and the boys jumped. They watched his every movement awaiting his direction and respecting his experience. He only had to look and signal and the team had the boat where he wanted it in a few minutes.

On returning to the port the Princess noticed an auction underway. Men of the sea had gathered with their catch and the auctioneer was selling fresh fish (some of it still jumping in the boat) to the highest bidder. It was a busy day in Dibba harbour with men in the various dress of their country of origin vying for the best produce and loading and off loading boats all around.

The Sheikh and the Princess enjoyed all the long hours of cruising and swimming and soon it was time once again to set off for the desert camp. Another adventure to be filed away in the memory of our wonderful Arabian Fairytale.