An expat for 10 years – part 2

In 2007, I had summer at home, attending to family priorities, which involved a lot of hospital visits and dealing with home care professionals. Amidst all of this, I was “found” by a head-hunter who asked if I was interested in assignment in Abu Dhabi. A telephone interview followed and in early September, I packed three bags and my dive kit and left for the UAE. This post covers five and a half years, so it is another lengthy one…

UAE

A close up external short of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. A stunning mosque, and amazingly, built from marble imported from Macedonia!

A close up external short of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. A stunning mosque, and amazingly, built from marble imported from Macedonia!

Due to more pressing matters at home, I didn’t conduct the normal levels of research I usually do prior to arriving in a new country. Despite the searing temperatures, it took me a while to warm to Abu Dhabi, its idiosyncrasies and its hidden charms. The following selection of images and narrative best sum up my four years of memories living in Abu Dhabi.

The view from my bedroom at Crystal Tower in Khalidya, looking towards Marina Mall.

The view from my bedroom at Crystal Tower in Khalidya, looking towards Marina Mall.

Setting up life in Abu Dhabi was not easy due to apartment demand exceeding supply. After my third week however, I was lucky, and although pricey, it had a great view. Plus all rental properties in the UAE are let empty and as it was Ramadan when I moved in, I slept on an air-bed, used airline eye-shades and ate out for the first couple of weeks – I couldn’t get anything delivered.

There are many things that sets apart Abu Dhabi from the other countries I have lived and worked in. Most notably it was the longest I have lived anywhere in my adult life. Once I got over the first few months, I made great friends, developed my interests and enjoyed domestic stability.

I don’t normally talk about work on my blog, but work related outings and social events went beyond a night at the pub, or a bowling alley. At a staff shooting competition, I “made up” numbers – with surprising results…

My first 25 rounds in 11 years.

My first 25 rounds in 11 years.

We also got a sneak preview of the new F1 Yas Marina Circuit a few weeks before it officially opened…

Three weeks before the inaugural F1 Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit, we had a VIP behind the scenes tour of the facility. Not your average staff outing....

Three weeks before the inaugural F1 Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit.

Another part of daily life at work (also in Oman) was the GCC tradition of the “tea boy”….

This is Mousa and he was the office tea boy - still a big feature in Arabic countries (also in Egypt).  As a recently arrived expat, I thought this concept was awful and insisted on getting my own drinks.  It was soon made clear to me I must not do this, the kitchen was their territory and this was their job!

This is Mousa and he was the office tea boy – still a big feature in Arabic countries (also in Egypt). As a recently arrived expat, I thought this concept was awful and insisted on getting my own drinks. It was soon made clear to me I must not do this, the kitchen was their territory and this was their job!

My time living in Abu Dhabi is also remembered for the diving weekends in Oman, in both Muscat and dhow diving in Mussandam – effectively camping on the deck of a dhow. Amazing. Here is my alarm clock at dawn one morning…

P1040923

And a small selection of what I typically would see – including lots of lobsters…

Weekend diving in Musandam offered spectacular scenery, interesting marine life and a relaxing pace. On one trip we came across smugglers - the tip of Musandam is on the Straits of Hormuz.

Weekend diving in Musandam offered spectacular scenery, interesting marine life and a relaxing pace. On one trip we came across smugglers – the tip of Musandam is on the Straits of Hormuz.

I also got back into my fitness during my time in Abu Dhabi. I joined the Abu Dhabi Striders and even had a go at the Abu Dhabi Triathlon.

I completed the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon (sprint distance) in March 2011.  Although my time is not even worth mentioning, I completed it after only 8 weeks training, temperatures of 38C on the day and awful headwinds on the 50km cycle.  My colleagues and close friends Erin and Deborah were there to cheer me over the line.

I completed the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon (sprint distance) in March 2011. Although my time is not even worth mentioning, I completed it after only 8 weeks training, temperatures of 38C on the day and awful headwinds on the 50km cycle. My colleagues and close friends Erin and Deborah were there to cheer me over the line.

I regularly attended the Abu Dhabi Striders Wednesday night predictor runs, which were great to track your improving levels of fitness. this was my picture for my fundraising page when I was training for the Great Scottish Run. It was 37C that night!

AC1

Many living in the GCC will attest to “Gaining the Gulf stone” – largely due to the excellent and diverse range of food and hot temperatures precluding many from taking part in outdoor exercise. One of the biggest waist enhancers of course is the brunch scene. Here was my dessert one visit…

Brunch is a big part of the expat scene across the world, including Abu Dhabi where sumptuous feasts were laid on every Friday. This was my dessert selection from one brunch attended at the Fairmont Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Brunch is a big part of the expat scene across the world, including Abu Dhabi where sumptuous feasts were laid on every Friday. This was my desert selection from one brunch attended at the Fairmont Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

On a more modest scale, I usually ordered takeaway from the Lebanese Flower when I had friends – a spit roast chicken, mixed grill platter plus salads. A delicious bargain!

My favourite take out food was from an immensely popular restaurant called the Lebanese Flower.  Their spit roast chicken was to die for.  All this lot would cost approx 200 AED (£35 or $55) and feed at least four.

My favourite take out food was from a modest but immensely popular restaurant called the Lebanese Flower. All this lot would cost approx 200 AED (£35 or $55) and feed at least four.

When I had visitors, there was a standard “tourist” trail in Abu Dhabi. A visit to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque then a gold dusted coffee at the Emirates Palace Hotel were the most popular…

My friend Danielle and her sister Terry in the ladies prayer room at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.  You need to get in the moment the mosque opens to get this shot - moments later it soon fills up with other visitors.

My friend Danielle and her sister Terry in the ladies prayer room at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. You need to get in the moment the mosque opens to get this shot – moments later it soon fills up with other visitors.

The famous Emirates Palace cappuccino.  At 55 AED (approx $15 or £9), it was one of the most expensive coffees in the world.  Add lip gloss before sipping to get glitter lips!

The famous Emirates Palace cappuccino. At 55 AED (approx $15 or £9), it was one of the most expensive coffees in the world.

..the coffee offers a much better picture opportunity when lip gloss is applied immediately before sipping …

goldCoffee

Special mention has to go to my niece Isla, who was the first family member to visit me overseas. Here we are at the highest point on the Dibba – Khassab road in Mussandam. Isla ended up staying an extra 10 days due to the volcanic ash cloud, but neither of us were too upset about that!

Khasab2i

Cars were also a very noticeable feature of Abu Dhabi life. Emiratis drive their fantasy cars, and the more well off families would have several, usually Landcruisers and X5’s during the week, taking out their performance cars at the weekend. You can always catch them filling up at the ADNOC petrol station on 32nd street on a Thursday afternoon. Guaranteed to see a never ending stream of Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis …

FerrariFillUp

… and you never knew what you’d end up parking next too. This was at an interval training session one evening…

Bentley

..and this was at work one day…

GT3RS

Obviously Emiratis have a preference for orange…

OrangeRangeRover

Although Abu Dhabi has a desert climate, it wasn’t all sunshine everyday. We did get some bad weather. Rain usually in either December or January – for a couple of days…

P1000522

..and we even got some snow very briefly in January 2008. This has to be the cutest snowman ever…

One morning in January 2008, snow was reported in the Northern Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.  It covered an area of approx 5km and this picture made the headlines. I love this snowman.

One morning in January 2008, snow was reported in the Northern Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. It covered an area of approx 5km and this picture made the headlines. I love this snowman.

Abu Dhabi also marked the start of my cat ownership, as I greed to adopt two rescue cats… then three, then four…

Feedingtime P1030080 4cats

Abu Dhabi’s accessibility to the rest of the world also made it a great place to travel from. I took full advantage of that, going through two passports…

stamps

By my own admission I was sad to leave Abu Dhabi. I was settled for the first time in years. But alas fate intervened, I lost my job and a new job offer in Oman meant I would have a five minute drive to diving instead of five hours. So in September 2011 I packed up considerably more that the four bags I arrived with and headed to Muscat…

DElight

Oman

Camels

I was familiar with Oman and Muscat from my previous weekend diving trips and mini-breaks, so moving there was not so daunting. However, due to visa processing, I couldn’t actually “move” my cats and furniture for around five months, which was far from ideal. Oman of course has many instantly endearing features. Its mountainous landscape is of course stunning and Oman is home to Jebel Shams, the “Grand Canyon of the Middle East…

Jebel Shams JebelShams2020

The Dofar region and Salalah in the South is also an incredible part of the country that I visited twice – once to dive. Here is a surface interval view…

Salalah diving

..and here is a selection of a trip I did with my Al Ain off road friends, the Bruces durint the famous Kareef a weather phenomenon every year during the heat of the summer. Rain and lower temperatures create a unique micro climate. You can read Marina’s blog about this trip here. Some of the breathtaking scenery…

17 10 34

… and extremely cool finds and sights enroute..

4 15i (2)

I also had a remarkable trip to the desert, again with my friends the Bruces, and my blog post can be read here and Marinas here. We drove to the tripoint with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE. Here is the point where the three countries meet…

P1110895

As well as the scenery, the road signage in Oman was also quite memorable….

Willi 47

…and some really memorable classified ads…

MarraigeAd

However, I will always remember Oman for its diving. In my view, absolutely the best in the GCC area, in particular the Damaniyat Islands. You can read more about diving in the Damaniyat Islands in my blog entry here. Here are a few more underwater pictures though:

JuneNudi JuneScorpionFish JuneJuvEmp FishNet Aquarium9 22 8 19

Things were changing in the Middle East, and including my time in Egypt, I had been in the region for six and a half years. There had been some changes in my personal life too, enough to make the brave decision to leave the region and head to Perth, Australia, so my time in the Middle East drew to a close…

Sunset

At the end of November 2012, I packed up and took off for Perth. The third and final part of my 10 years as an expat will follow soon…

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