Happy Election Day, USA!

Election Day has to be one of my favorite holidays in the USA. As a “recovering” political junkie, I’m still going to be interested to see how everything shakes out, but I’ll be waking up nice and refreshed to check out results (instead of how I normally spend Election night back home…)

But more than anything, it’s a celebration of freedom and democracy. I voted from the other side of the world, so you really don’t have an excuse not to walk around the block and punch your ballot. Google Maps will even help you find your way.

Finally, congratulations to my friends and former colleagues on finishing another sprint to Election Day. Just think — only 735 days to Election Day 2012!

PS – If you’re someone who thinks campaigns are dumb, then you have company.

Ramadan Kareem

Today marked the first day of Ramadan here in the UAE. For those who don’t know much about the holiday, read more here. A couple quick observations:

  • The summary is that it’s a month of fasting from sun up to sun down for Muslims. This means no food, water or smoking. You’re also supposed to give up things like thinking bad thoughts (physical and spiritual fasting).

  • As an expat, this means some new rules here in the UAE. Generally speaking, this means no eating or drinking in public. Places that do serve food are curtained off so you can’t easily see inside. I’m told there’s no music at malls and whatnot, but I haven’t been out and about to observe that myself.
  • As I mentioned earlier there are lots of decorations around the city. I’ll try to take some pictures over the weekend but it’s an interesting, festive atmosphere.
  • The main thing I’m looking forward to are the Iftar celebrations. At night, there’s a big feast to break the fast and several hotels here have big spreads to celebrate. We’ve also contemplated doing a personal fast for a day in solidarity, so I’ll keep you all updated if we follow through. Regardless, it’s an interesting time to be in Abu Dhabi. Ramadan Kareem!

Update: Some interesting Ramadan resources from Du (one of the two cell phone carriers in the UAE). They’re doing some banner ads on The National (Abu Dhabi newspaper) saying, “Make time this Ramadan for those you love.”

Movies in Abu Dhabi

We went to see Salt last night, which was the second movie we’ve seen in Abu Dhabi along with Inception. Both were great summer movies – good action, interesting plots and overall a good way to spend two hours. Some quick notes about movie going in Abu Dhabi:

  • By far my favorite feature is reserved seating. When you buy your tickets, you also choose your seats (just like going to a play). This is very helpful and I wish they would institute this in the US. Great that you don’t have to worry about getting there early to sit through commercials and trailers in order to save seats.

  • The only thing different is the addition of subtitles in Arabic, which you don’t really even notice after awhile. I’ve been told some movies are edited, but I haven’t seen any evidence of that in either movie so far.

On the whole, thumbs up both to the movies and to the theater experience in Abu Dhabi.

On driving

One of the things I’ve been getting adjusted to so far is the driving here in Abu Dhabi. Here are some of the quirks and challenges I’ve noticed so far.

  • U-turns – I’ve made more U-turns in the past two weeks than I have in my entire life. The combination of long blocks and no left turns does help keep traffic moving, but the u-turns do take some adjustment. Combine this with what we’ve termed the “silent left turn lane” where people will be happy to make left hand turns from pretty much whatever lane suits them without signaling. So if you’re turning left or u-turning, you should constantly check both sides because you never know what there’s going to be someone unexpected right next to you. There’s also plenty of roundabouts to add to the driving fun.
  • Accelerating – It must be the nicer cars, but stomping on the accelerator seems to be the default driving technique; an “accelerate first, ask questions later” approach. This takes some getting used to at first, but with some practice I’ve successfully become much more aggressive and fit in well overall.
  • Speeding – Speaking of acceleration, speeding is especially popular here, which is very obvious on the drive from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. The posted speed limit is 120 km per hour (about 75 mph), but at one point I was passing a truck at around 150km/hr and was easily passed by other folks. I was told that since speed cameras don’t pick up over 160km / hour, many people set their cruise control to 159 (about 100 mph).

    Unfortunately, your car beeps at you constantly over 120 km / hour. Cabs also come with audible warnings to the driver (“Warning! You are over the speed limit. Please slow down.”). I’ve spent a good deal of time imaging how popular these features would be in the US. My car also beeps if I don’t put on my seat belt immediately, so on the whole it’s a very safety-conscious car.

  • Cars – On average, you see a lot more expensive sports cars here then you would almost anywhere else. Generally speaking, the cars are pretty nice, as one would expect from the richest country in the world. (cite)
  • Jaywalking – There seems to be a country-wide “walk first, look second” jaywalking policy, that is pretty widespread. What’s interesting is that someone jaywalking always acts surprised when they see a car coming at them. Granted, I’ve driven in DC and NYC where jaywalking is also pretty common, but it seems much more brazen here.

Like I said, I’m getting used to it all, but it’s been an interesting experience to navigate the driving quirks while trying to figure out where you’re going. Without proper addresses, finding point to point directions is a bit of a challenge so far, but hopefully this will get easier as time goes by for us.

Easiest job in the world

Being an Abu Dhabi weatherman has to be the easiest job in the world. Your 10 day forecast could be called in well in advance and you wouldn’t have to do any research.

Speaking of Abu Dhabi jobs, I’m thinking I should go to school to become an air conditioning repair man. Think about it — if it feels like 117 degrees outside, wouldn’t you pay a ton to make sure your AC is fixed pronto?

Current weather in Abu Dhabi

Interesting side-by-side

I thought it was interesting that the Social Security Fund and Abu Dhabi Lamborghini dealership share a building. Convenient one-stop shopping I suppose.

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Pictures from Abu Dhabi

Picts from Abu Dhabi

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