Idle observations, taken over food

First, and most important, there are Popeye's Chicken outlets here in the UAE, but they don't have red beans. That, more than anything, is the major set back to my acclimatization.

Seriously, though, I haven't spent all my time eating American food, though I am retreating to it when I'm feeling overwhelmed by language or culture. I've been eating local fast food as well. In particular, the shawarma. Near my work is Shawarma Time where one gets the commercial version, with thick french fries and a drink if one wants. Fruit juice is popular and available, though I'm sure it's as full of sugar as the soft drinks. Speaking of which, I'm fairly certain that the soft drinks DO contain sugar and not corn syrup. Tastes better.

Also near work is an unlicensed restaurant called Mama's Cuisine, where one can get Indian and Pakistani food. It's in a side alley and apparently doesn't have the proper paperwork to be legally operating as a restaurant. Still does a cracking business, though. I was taken by a group of Middle Eastern coworkers. They kept asking me how I felt about spicy food. One even asked me if I was allergic to anything. I have no idea what I ate, other than knowing that one dish contained chicken. There was no silverware, of course. Everything was scooped up with bread. Even the proprietor, an Indian woman, asked me how I found the spiciness level. Frankly, it was barely spicy at all. I don't know whether my lunch mates were taking it easy on me as a precaution or if they truly thought the food spicy. I'll go there again.

Mama's Cuisine

I was also taken to the Cafe Arabia for a buffet lunch. Again I had local food. Again I cannot tell you what I ate, but it was delicious. The clientèle, when I visited, were all ex-pat. Almost entirely British if I had to guess. I don't know if that is usually the case. This is another place I'll have to visit again.

A few blocks away from my hotel, the Lebanese Flower has been recommended to me as a place to get a bite anytime. Particularly late night. That's my target for supper, tonight.

As it turned out I decided to stay in and watch bad movies, but the next day I went down to my boss's tailor to order a suit and, on the way out, I stopped into a Saudi Arabian restaurant. I'm not sure how authentic it was considering the part of town it was in, and the prices were certainly higher than in some quarters, but I did get to take my shoes off and sit on carpet on the floor, majlis style. I had a dish called Madfoon with lamb, served on a silver platter. It contained rice with golden raisins and nuts and a green chili pepper. On the side was a spicy relish and some yogurt. There was also some bread that was as thin as a sheet of paper. The meat was still on the bone but very tender. If I had been more traditional I would have balled up the rice in my right hand and eaten it in pinches, but I used a fork. I was given enough food for three people but I'm ashamed to say that I ate every bite. Then I washed it down with Moroccan tea in a glass. For some reason the picture of my eating area didn't come through but here's my tea.

Moroccan tea at Saudi Kitchen

Something I've noticed about the many shopping malls here is that, fairly often, shops that sell a particular merchandise -- jewelry, men's clothes -- tend to be clustered in one area. In this regard they imitate the local shops in the neighborhoods. This seems to be a changing thing, but if you are looking for a particular item you can still find yourself going to a particular street to shop for it. Also, a completely unimportant bit of trivia: The escalators stop if no one is riding them and start up again when you approach. I wonder if that actually saves energy or if the motors having to start up again even things out.

Speaking of waste, they waste water here in a big big way. The most immediate evidence is the public toilets. All of them have big buttons on the wall for flushing. You can hold that button down and gallons and gallons will come flushing through until the entire Arabian Gulf is empty. It's the same in my hotel. My understanding is that they are more wasteful of water here than in the US. I'm told that they're considering solar powered desalinization plants elsewhere in the region. Meanwhile, the existing plants pollute and damage the environment. I wonder what will run out first, the oil or the water.

Taxis are cheap and abundant. I spend about US$1.50 to travel the 1.2 miles between my hotel and work. The 103 miles between here and the office of my employer, in Dubai, costs about US$70.00. I've also taken the bus between Abu Dhabi and Dubai and that costs just US$5.45! It's comfortable, too, with an actual live snack vendor handing out menus and serving up sandwiches and chips. Parking can be a challenge, and people drive pretty crazy, though I've definitely seen worse driving in places like Puerto Rico and Portugal. Yet, only two weeks in country and I'm already thinking about renting a car. Perhaps even buying one. One thing at a time.

I've been slowly going through the process of getting a residency visa and an Emirates ID. I have to admit, my employer made it easier than it could have been. I spent most of a day traveling to Dubai, picking up my paperwork, going to a local medical clinic, getting a blood draw and a chest x-ray, and then getting fingerprinted and retina scanned. Welcome to the modern world.

The medical clinic was absolutely bursting with people from every corner of the globe. Yet, the process was highly efficient and rather quick, considering. I was given a number and sent to a waiting room until it was called. A tiny security guard was bollixing up the process by sending people to various windows out of turn. He even did it to me. The phlebotomist just clicked her tongue in annoyance and harpooned me. Upstairs, I was not only fingerprinted but my palms and the sides of my hands were also scanned. As was my retina. So it's gloves and sunglasses for me during crime sprees.

Anyway, now I have my residency visa and my Emirates ID should be here next week. After that, I think a driving license is in order. My international drivers license isn't good enough.

Service, here, is generally excellent to impeccable. Every public restroom that I've seen so far has an attendant who keeps the place clean, if not spotless. Every mall food court has staff who bus the tables and clean the floors. Store staff are knowledgeable about their products and, what's more, knowledgeable in general about where to find something, even if it's not in their store, even if it's not in their mall. They'll send you across town to find what you need and give you directions on top of it.

You go to your typical Wal*Mart Superstore in the States and ask a staff member how to find something you'll be lucky to get any answer at all, and if you do get an answer it will be a surly growl. In the equivalent LuLu Hypermarket around here people will bend over backwards.

There's a reason for this, of course. People come here from all over the world looking for work. And they know that there are a million more just like them waiting in line to take their jobs. So they bust their asses for crap pay. I respect them where I don't respect over privileged American punk kids who consider it beneath their dignity to serve anybody because they've all been taught that they're special little snowflakes. There's a lesson here if it were only possible to teach it. The same lesson parents have been trying to teach kids since time began, I suppose.

The pictures below illustrate what oil has done for the United Arab Emirates. Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are thoroughly modern, large cities with impressive skylines.

One thing of note: Remember, in the movie Brazil, where the highway was surrounded on both sides by billboards that were more like walls closing in? They do that on the highway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It weirds me out.

Abu Dhabi skyline

Corner of Najda & Khalifa Bin Zayed

Abu Dhabi skyline

Marina Mall Tower view
  • Current Mood: okay

I love reading about your move.

The place looks incredibly clean
Living in NYC it seems almost impossibly clean
What an adventure~
super cool. keep sharing. - R
Oh that's good to know. It's nice to know that someone appreciates you in this big old wide world, yes? YES! PS because you don't live next to me, my replacement for you is my dog (yes that OTHER NEW dog) Hunter.Unconditional.