29 January 2005

Al-Ain Airshow

A great day out, we thought, and got into Geoff's Jag to head for the Garden City.

Al-Ain is a town in the very South-East of the UAE, almost in the Empty Quarter, but belonging to Abu Dhabi. It is known for its parks and its roundabouts, and the air show, now in its second year. This year it hosts the FAI Aerobatics World Grand Prix. This competition consists of solo displays by pilots from lots of countries as well as model aeroplanes competing for the title.


The Indian Peacocks - Helicopter Display Team

The best thing was the side shows, though, the jet and other displays from air forces and aerobatics teams. We saw the Jordanian Falcons, Russian jets, Indian helicopters flying in formation and micro light displays. The teams have names like Matadors, Ultimate High and Space Knights and come from the UK, France, Czech Republic. They tumble through space, flying sideways, upside down and any which way, impossible to know how they manage to remember which direction is up. The Maroccan team flew in a diamond shape with ropes joining the planes together by their wing tips. The Russian Migs dropped phosphor flares like bright fireworks and deafened us with their afterburners. Felix Baumgarnter, who recently glided his way across the channel with just a pair of fibreglass wings attached, performed a freefall parachute jump from 3000 feet, opening his chute just before it was too late.


Alternative Formation Flying

The most startling sight, however, was a man in a microlight trailing a formation of geese. These Barnacle geese are imprinted with the pilot's call and the sound of the microlight's engine, and they fly in their v-shaped pattern alongside him. Their elegance was a fitting contrast and end to an amazing display of flying skills in the depth of the UAE's desert.

22 January 2005


Dubai boasts the best shopping malls on the planet, so it is not surprising that it also holds a shopping festival.

This year in its tenth year, it is a mix of January sales with a vengeance and an international trade fair. The festival runs for a whole month, with huge reductions in the shops and entertainments in the streets and at a dedicated site on the outskirts called Dubailand. This large area has been carved out of the desert and fitted with the infrastructure to serve as an outdoor exhibition area. Global Village, the international part of the shopping festival, has this year been located here for the first time. Lots of countries put up more or less inventively designed pavilions to house stalls exhibiting (and of course selling) their respective country's wares. Although this is where we went last night, you will have to wait for a more detailed description until I had time to properly explore.

Last night we had tickets to Aga-Boom, a clown show offshoot from the Cirque de Soleil outfit. The clowns were funny, as usual, and we were also treated to a contortionist and two very strong acrobats. Their act consisted of balancing each other on outstretched arms and swinging decoratively from ropes. Made us want to go to the gym more.




21 January 2005

Easy to Miss

Now that my powerbook is fixed again, I have been able to add some entries from the end of last year. Check it out!

These are easily missed, as they are hidden among later entries. Look out for Wadi Amyiah Trip (14th Nov 2004), Film Festival (8th Dec 2004) and some Egyptian stories (12th to 19th Dec 2004). Unfortunately, due to the restrictions of the blog program I use, it is not possible to link to them directly from here, so you will have to go hunting round the front page (or search in the archive by date).

Also, there are some more Egypt pictures here.

A Note on Head Scarf Fashion

An observation in Egypt made me realise that there are lots of different ways to wear them, as long as they cover the head in some way.

Head scarf fashion in Egypt was quite different from the way the hijab is worn in Dubai, although there are of course different cultural groups here, who, while all subscribing to the Muslim requirement for a head covering, all have their own ways and means, depending on their nationality. In Dubai women who wear the hijab (the black head scarf) also wear the abaya, the black cloak (not to be confused with the burquah, which covers the body from head to toe including a mesh for the face, sometimes coloured blue). Some also cover their faces with a part of the hijab, only showing their eyes, or, even more restrictive, some women wear a thin black piece of fabric across their face that even obscures the eyes, often also covering their hands in gloves. All of those outfits are black, a local tradition, although the outfits are frequently decorated with embroidery and very glamourous beading.


A Glamourous Local Lady

Eyptian women displayed a variety of colours in their headscarf, although many local women don't seem to wear it at all (unlike here, where a woman with an uncovered head is usually an expat). Scarf colours in Egypt were usually co-ordinated with the rest of the outfit, there were few abayas, instead women wore floor-length narrow skirts or trousers.


Egyptian Head Scarf Fashion on Display

In Dubai fashion requires the headscarf to be wrapped twice round the head with some fabric tucked in to cover the forehead. In order for the construct to hold up, the (long) hair has to be tied up in a high bun under the fabric so that the end of the scarf can be casually thrown over the knot. The whole thing is quite fragile and requires a lot of fixing. So fiddling with the scarf is a common sight and constant occupation for elegant local ladies who lunch. The most commonly worn scarf in Egypt was a large square piece of fabric, folded in half to cover head and shoulders and pinned at the front or on the side of the face. The long edges either fall across the shoulders or are hidden under a jacket, very stable, practical and less prone to collapse than the flimsy constructs of Dubai.

15 January 2005

A Picnic in the Park

It's the weekend and, like most of Dubai on a sunny day with temperatures below 30 degrees, we took a picnic and headed for the park.

Creekside Park is one of a range of parks the Dubai municipality maintains, all very neat and clean with acres of lawns, children's playgrounds and running tracks for those joggers who will brave the heat. On a Friday it's heaving with families out for the day, kids playing footie, parents chatting - although the more traditional groups will see the women and men sitting in separate gatherings, black abayas over here and white dishdasha over there. Everyone crowds onto large rugs (although some people bring folding chairs, tables and more sophisticated kit), taking over shady areas on the lawn. Later in the day the men start the grill fires, the scent of halal meat wafts across the park, things calm down.

Creek park in particular has other attractions. Apart from the four-wheeled bikes for hire to cycle round the track with there is a train and best of all, a cable car! The 35 minute-ride carries us along the creek from Garhoud bridge on one end to Maktoum bridge on the other, taking in the adventure park, the marina and golf club on the other creek side and the hustle of boats on the creek itself. In the distance the other way we could even see the Burj Al Arab and Sheik Zayed Rd, but most fun was, as Anna pointed out, that it is possible to see straight down onto people's plates!

12 January 2005

Anna is going back to School!

Today we went to the British Council to sign Anna up for an English class.

She has decided, after spending a few weeks with us and dealing with anyone from Stuart to cleaners to the volunteers in the Tsunami relief centre that she needs to improve her language skills. So she took the plunge today and went through the enrolment procedure at the British Council for English lessons. There was an oral and a written exam, the first she has taken in 50 years, I think. But she was pleased to find that other people next to her spoke even less English than she does. This will be a big effort, two hours teaching three days a week with homework and tests. She will be fluent in no time, we think.

11 January 2005

Apologies For The Recent Silence

Things got hectic after Christmas. Read on...

After our return from the camping trip we heard that a local charity was looking for volunteers to help out with the relief work to aid the tsunami survivors in South-East Asia. I went to help sort donations for a few hours and have barely made it home since. There is a lot of concern here, as so many expats stem from the affected region and have family or friends there.

Dubai Aid City is a Dubai government organisation that liaises with Red Crescent and Unicef. Since the collection centre number has been advertised over New Year donations of clothes, food and medicine have been flooding in. We sort and repack everything and arrange for transport to the Red Crescent warehouses at Jebel Ali port where containers are either shipped or flown out from the local airport.

The collections will be going on till the end of the month, when we hope that the immediate needs will be cared for. It's great to see so many people taking leave from work or coming in the evenings: We had the boy scouts, the Philippines Community centre, workers from the paint factory and local building sites, as well as logistical support from companies lending trucks to move stuff out to Jebel Ali port to cafes donating lunch for the volunteers to the building manager supplying us with bottled water and photocopiers.

01 January 2005


Yes, you read right, we had snow.

Well, not here in Dubai, but in Ras al Khaimah about 90km further north, where they have mountains, and there only a light dusting, but it was enough to get the Sheik and his mates to go and have a look at it. This was the first time anyone can remember snow in the UAE, i.e. the first time in at least 40 years. Pictures, such as they are, here.