Friday, December 31, 2010

New City, New Villa - Welcome to Villa 3

 Merry Christmas!

Some pictures of the inside of the villa, there are several rooms that are currently empty, but those rooms have been locked so people like me can't snoop in them.

The living room/dining room area that never gets used....

...except by this one. 
Patty is actually a cat that belongs to Villa 4, but you know how cats are. 

 In the dining room! Left over art from my sister in her attempt to give the place a little warmth.
 I was really pleased to see this was still there,
 a little reminder that Mel once roamed these halls. 

 The best-used room of the villa, where everything important takes place, morning coffee, rushed breakfasts and dragon taming. (The dragon is the nickname given to the oven by former tenants, as it's a beast that spews uncontrollable fire!)

It's actually a huge room... larger than some commercial kitchens I've seen!

And my room, which is the one with a balcony. I took this the week I moved in.

Since I have a balcony, I've put out some birdseed in dishes. The birds here are pretty amazing, we saw Hoopoes and Egyptian Vultures in Al Ain, and I have seen Green Parakeets in the villa vicinity, but all my dishes can attract are a bunch of these grey Laughing Doves, a couple of sparrows and a pair of these guys below, who seem to prefer cat food to birdseed.

The bird above in the not-so-great photo is a White Eared Bulbul. This guy is native to this area and Saudi Arabia and has a very nice song. While looking up info about this little cutie, I came across this video, which was made by current and former compound comrades! 

P.S. - Obviously that isn't really the birds actual song, but it is a piece of music based on it - a shout out to my friend Ken who created a lot of excellent videos, music, stories and poems during his time here in KCA. You can see more from him here at his blog - Ken's Room.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

K for Korruption!

So you're just sitting in the kitchen, enjoying your morning bowl of Special K, and you're perusing the box, as people do with breakfast cereal boxes and -  WHAM!  You realise that someone has censored your wheat and rice flakes!

You can love your shape in the spotlight, as long as it's all covered up!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Random Facts about the UAE

At the top of this U-Turn sign in Al Ain it says Alhamdo-lillah, 
which means "Praise to God". 

The UAE is unlike anywhere else. Some random facts.

  • The border between the UAE and Saudi Arabia has never been totally settled, to this day there is no official border recognised by both countries. The UAE claims they share a border with Qatar, while Saudi Arabia says, "Nah-uh".
  • Since record keeping began it has actually snowed twice in the UAE, in the high mountains in Ras Al Khaimah.
  • There are very few left turns in the UAE. Say you are driving along and you wish to make a left turn, you probably won't be able to because of the massive meridian blocking your way. This means you'll have to go to the next roundabout and come back, and now the left turn is a right turn. At Raha Beach Villas, Raha Beach Mall is only 200 meters away across the road, but residents have to drive over 10 km to get to it!
  • The work week runs from Sunday to Thursday. (In Oman the work week runs from Saturday to Wednesday.)
  • In 2010, the UAE's population was estimated at just over 8 million, of which just under 20% were local Emiratis. The majority of the population are expatriates, and the majority of them are Indian. Many Emirati believe Chicken Biryani is a local dish!

Check carefully! Which one are you? 

  • In Dubai, 1 out of 5 persons purchase 5 pieces of gold jewelry every year. In fact there are schemes run by banks to help people invest in gold, and in the Emirates Palace there's an ATM which dispenses gold bars and coins! 
  • Every night during the week at exactly 7:03 an 7:53 a helicopter flies low over our villa.
  • To answer Kate's question, (and I had to ask a lot of people this question, because people here don't pay attention to gas prices!) gas is 2.62 Dirhams a litre, which is about .71¢ Canadian.
  • Dubai's annual precipitation is only 13 cm.
  • Camel's milk is readily available in any market. 
  • As of January 2nd, the six month visa for Canadians will go up to $1000 CD. Guess no one is coming to visit me soon....

The 11 Million-Dollar Tree!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Welcome to Khalifa City A!

In my last days of living in Naramata, I took literally hundreds of pictures. In the last month that I've been in Abu Dhabi, I've taken twenty.

It's not that I haven't been schlepping my camera around, it's just that nothing seems picture-worthy. In Al Ain there was so much more natural beauty and here... well... you'll see.

So I decided that maybe the mundane here wouldn't be so mundane for other people, so ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to, "My Current Home: Khalifa City A".

So I live in a small compound. Not a compound like they have in Saudi Arabia with shops full of booze and pork and people never leave them. Arak Compound contains 6 villas and a swimming pool. It was one of the first developments  to happen in KCA, and therefore I'm told it's a bit unusual, they're no longer building this style of villa.

The Arak villas are basically dormitories. We all get a room and our own bathroom, but the kitchen and living areas are shared. There are accommodations for 6 people in each villa.

 Outside off my balcony we can see an example of new villa living, each of those villas will have contained apartments with at least 2 bedrooms, if not more. Immediately next to us, we have a vacant lot and beyond that construction that was started long ago, but never completed, (you can just see the corner on the left).

The pool area. Yes we have a pool! I haven't been in yet, mainly because I'm working till late and when I do get home, it's a bit chilly! And I'm usually not around on the weekends.

 Villa 3, where my sister once lived, and I now reside. Her artwork still adorns the empty walls.  I'll post pictures of the inside, but first I'll have to take some. 

 All over the villa grounds are squash growing. These aren't cheap to buy here!

 Khalifa confusion. This is at the end of our street. The front sign says 3rd street, sector 33 in zone 133. (And I live in Villa 3! All those threes!) The far sign says 42nd street. I have no idea how they've numbered the streets out here, it seems there's no rhyme or reason at all. In the background are two international elementary schools and more villas. The street running next to them is 16th.

 My street, whatever its name is. That's Arak compound on the right. 

 On the way to funky town. There is a long row of shops a few blocks away where you can buy food or have a coffee which Arak compound people refer to as "Funky Town". I walk over about once a week, (I'd go more often if I had a bike!) As you can see, the ground is really just sand. Do you see that round object on the horizon between the rolls of cable? That's Raha Beach and the building has been nicknamed "the Dirham" after the local currency. There's a mall and a few hotels over there. To drive there though, one has to drive almost 10km into the city and back again because the round-about they plan to put in there hasn't been done yet. Again I need a bike.

 More construction. Do you see all the cranes on the horizon? That's the new downtown core of Abu Dhabi... someday.

The story is that the proper city of Abu Dhabi is actually built on an Island, and that island is getting crowded. In order to expand, some restructuring is in order. So the plan is to move off island and rebuild in the desert where there's plenty of room for the Sheiks to build their projects that will change how we view cities in the future. Yas Island and Masdar City are located out here near KCA and there will be a direct line from here to Saadiyat Island. But those are other blogs. In the meantime, we have....

Funky Town! Need a pool? Want to landscape your yard? How about a bank, milk, light bulbs, a shower curtain or cheese? Its all here in Funky town AKA The Pink Shops, AKA Khalifa Market. (It's not evident in this picture, but the sixth row down, the shops become dusty pink.)

Around the other side and across the street is a nice coffe shop frequented by many of the expats who live out here. On any given evening you can see 10 to 12 bicycles parked out front.

And there you go! I think I should mention here that if you drive 20 minutes, you'll get to Abu Dhabi proper, and that's a whole different ball game. KCA will be great in years to come, in pictures this is what Abu Dhabi looked like  30 years ago. Perhaps someday, I'll be able to say, "I lived there when there was nothing".

Working on pictures of the villa.