Sunday, 30 June 2013

In the United Arab Emirates...

I've never been a fan of night flights for the simple reason that I can't sleep on an aeroplane, which means that, even if the country I'm visiting is only three hours ahead in terms of a time difference, I'm still lagged when I arrive.
Desert to the left of me, desert to the right, here I the UAE.

I flew out of Heathrow on the 2200hrs Virgin flight and arrived at 0800hrs in Dubai. I was tired and needed a good night's sleep, but first I had to find the bus transferring me from Dubai airport to Abu Dhabi. After a brief moment of confusion, caused, no doubt, by the lack of sleep, I found the man I needed to find and off I went through Dubai, past the huge skyscrapers that characterise the place and on towards Abu Dhabi, about an hour's drive away.

The UAE is incredible, mainly because it's all desert. Sand is everywhere, not in the sense of in your shoes, on your clothes, but, unlike in the UK where buildings are separated by tarmac roads and grass and rivers, here, there is sand. You can see it best from the air as you arrive into Dubai, but even on the ground, in the hotel room, when I look out the window, four floors up, from room 404, all I see is sunshine and sand surrounding the buildings nearby.
Room 404 of the Abu Dhabi Holiday Inn...a very good hotel.
It is incredibly hot here. I've never experienced such heat before. It's hard to be out in the open air for more than a few minutes, mainly because the heat is humid and like being in a steam room. This is the only place where taking a dip in the pool on the hotel's eighth floor, will be a necessity rather than a leisure activity. Here in the room, here in the hotel, the air con works a treat, but as soon as you step outside...the heat hits you. This is not the sort of weather to take a stroll anywhere – although I need to buy some batteries – it's just too darn hot. Right now, in my hotel room, the curtains are drawn and the air con purrs away quietly. What would this country be without air con? I guess there was a time when the humble ceiling fan was all people had, and that tends to make things worse.
The view from room 404 – note the abundance of sand.

So the flight over was okay and everybody, it has to be said, is so polite and friendly, unlike in the UK. People call me 'sir' although I feel a little uncomfortable about that, but alright, there are people in the UK, certainly in the service industries, that might refer to people as 'sir' but over here, well it's not so much the 'sir' thing, just the overall politeness and friendliness that appeals to me.

It's Sunday and I've discovered that in the UAE people work on Sunday and have their weekends on Friday and Saturday. I admit that I found it odd that there was so much activity at 0800hrs on a Sunday morning. As the Virgin Airbus came into land I noticed six-lane highways choc-a-bloc with cars and while I know that a foreigner arriving in Heathrow on a Sunday would see an equally choc-a-bloc M25, the fact remains that Sunday here is a work day and not a day of rest. Having said that, Ramadan beckons. I think it starts on July 8th, that's why I'm here, getting an interview completed before everything shuts down.
The hotel pool. I took the photograph while in the shade, it was very hot.

When I reached the hotel and jumped out of the air-conditioned taxi/bus, I was hit by the heat and then relieved by the hotel's air-con. The check-in was straightforward and the staff were very friendly and helpful, which is always nice when you're tired and in need of sleep. I slept for a couple of hours and then phoned home where the weather, like yesterday, is also very pleasant but not half as unbearable as the Abu Dhabi heat. And what you have to remember is that, over here, the weather is always like this, there are no seasons like there are in the UK, this is it: heat, heat and more heat. It's not unpleasant, though, and far better than rain, although I've yet to see a cyclist. It's miles too hot for riding a bike and I don't expect to find any 'Boris Bikes' here either.

After making my phone calls I took a look at the pool and then had a late lunch: mushroom soup, butternut squash risotto and a couple of glasses of Cabernet while reading yesterday's Guardian: Tim Dowling (my favourite columnist); the Q&A – this week Imelda Staunton – the real life experience (about a man protecting his family from bear attack) and, of course the property page, which I love. This week it's all about moving to Saxmundham, which, to be honest, I'd really love to do as Suffolk holds many a fond memory, but the wreck of the week was in rural Essex and that doesn't appeal, I'm afraid.
Abu Dhabi from the 8th floor of the Holiday Inn. There's a lot of sand.

I've just finished lunch and here I am blogging. I've got a bit of work to do, but I'm seriously thinking about a swim. The pool isn't huge but, as I say, it's more of a plunge pool to keep the guests cool and I'm definitely going upstairs to use it, although tactics will have to come into play. I've only got a pair of black work shoes, which would look really stupid if I wore them, without socks to visit the pool as it will involve a walk and a lift journey to the 8th floor. I could go barefoot, which I think is the best plan, so I guess it's me looking like a typical 'Englishman abroad' – or perhaps that ought to be 'an Idiot Abroad'. Karl Pilkington, by the way, is excellent and, based on his television programme, I'm planning on buying the books he wrote to accompany the series.
Mushroom soup starter and a glass of wine in the hotel.

This is a real whistlestop trip. I flew out on the 2200hrs flight from Heathrow and I'll be back in London at just before 4pm on Tuesday.

If the weather cools down, which I doubt, I'll do some exploring, but it really is too hot to go out walking. I've got a little bit of work to do ahead of tomorrow's interview and then I'm going to take it easy.

The UAE is a really great place: pleasant, friendly people and the weather is amazing, albeit very, very hot. Definitely worth a visit.

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