View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Friday, March 30, 2007

Eating the Emirates

People from other countries often ask, “What food do you eat in the United Arab Emirates and can you get all the food items you want?” To which, I say, you can get it all and more, even Australian Vegemite!

The range of restaurants is broad and varied. Even in the small city of Fujairah, there are numbers of Indian, Chinese and Iranian restaurants and a Lebanese restaurant that looks like a giant version of Freddie Flintstone’s home.

If you asked a local to tell you their favourite food, chances are they’ll say, ‘Chicken Biryani,’ such is its popularity. It is harder to define what is quintessentially, Emirati cuisine.

Jessie Kirkness Parker’s book, A Taste of Arabia: Recipes and Customs from Arabia and Beyond, is most helpful in defining the essence of Emirati food. The book is stylishly presented, illustrated with mouth-watering photos and delightful pictures of early UAE when the author and her husband first arrived in the country in the early 1970s. The book is not just a collection of recipes but fascinating descriptions of Arabian or Emirati culture as they relate to the selection, preparation, serving and enjoyment of food and drink.

With a wash of the hands and a ‘Bismillah’ (Praise be to God), the meal begins. Rice is normally on the menu in the Emirates. Often flavored and colored, it is generally served on enormous platters. Sometimes the rice is mixed with meat, fruit and nuts. The locals don’t worry about rice exceeding its expiry date. On the contrary, they greatly value mature rice and will lay it down for ten years or more.

With the UAE in its earlier incarnation being a sparsely populated country of fishing villages, the harvest of the sea is still common on Emirati tables. There is a variety of fish in the markets and, compared with many other countries, fish is most reasonable. Prawns and hammour, the meaty fish from the groper family, are usually on the menu in UAE restaurants.

Chicken, Parker asserts, has now replaced fish as the major accompaniment of rice. Lamb and beef, stewed, grilled or barbequed, are also popular, with pork not making a show.

Expect to be offered plenty of bread, often served as appetizers with sensual dips, such as hommous. Beans and grains abound—lentils, dahl and chick peas—along with salads such as rocca and tabbouleh. Herbs like za’atar or Arabic thyme, add to the robust flavours.

Some of these recipes might be found in Iran or India, as they are often passed on as people have traveled and settled. So, is there a dish as unique to the Arabian Peninsula as kim chi is to Korea or suishi is to Japan? Jessie Parker says that “the mysteries of the region’s flavors are locked into a unique Arabic spice mixture called biz’har (Arabic marsala)… Secreted into [the biz’har recipe] is the exotic flavour of dried lime, called loomi with its souring qualities of both lemon peel and the bracing freshness of a spritz of lime.”

The Arabian culture has its special food and customs, from the pre-dinner serving of coffee (gah’wa) poured into dinky cups from the curvaceous pot, to the highly versatile dates and distinctive garnishes. Some of the dishes have a strong association with Ramadan and other festive occasions.

Teas, whether traditional or spiced with za’atar or mint, are always at hand and are often used to break a fast. Jugs of lime juice are popular in this hot country but for something more substantial there is laban or drinking yoghurt, derived from the milk of goats or cows and often spiked with ginger and served with a dash of salt.

Interestingly, sweets are rarely served at the end of a meal but are offered with a mid-morning coffee or tea. Parker says, “Middle Eastern desserts are irresistible, mouthfuls of nutty, crunch and sweet, sticky luscious creaminess.”

With such descriptions of down to earth dishes and an appreciation of basic, fresh ingredients one only needs some gastronomical adventure and be able to say the word, Sa’ha’tian—bon appetit!

Geoff Pound

Source: Jessie Kirkness Parker, A Taste of Arabia: Recipes and Customs from Arabia and Beyond (Dubai: Jerboa Books, 2006).

Image: Serving a simple meal in a pot, after which we sat on the floor and dined.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Aussies Bounding to the UAE

Australian restrictions lifted for the Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways this week will bring greater numbers of Australians to the United Arab Emirates.

This decision means that Emirates may increase its quota from the existing 49 flights per week to 84 flights, representing by 2010 a whopping increase of 71% and a rapid rise to becoming the major carrier in the southern continent.

The Abu Dhabi based Etihad Airways, which is shortly making its virgin flight Down Under, has received the green light for a 2010 target of 28 flights each week. This is bad news for the struggling Qantas airline but good news for Aussie and Emirati tourists.

As a person whose roots are in Australasia, I have been getting so many questions from people in the Antipodes that I’m contemplating the establishment of a Travel Advisory Service called ‘UAE Down Under.’ The Kiwis, who are only a kangaroo hop over the Tasman Sea, are also packing their bags for the Emirates. The UAE business leaders know that if they conquer the Australian tourist trade, they will also have the Kiwis in the Aussie pouch.

The top question they are asking concerns safety. The UAE is part of the Middle East and years of media coverage have firmly forged the term ‘Middle East’ with war, confrontation, invasion and terrorism—all signaling danger.

Business leaders and politicians, who have drummed up a phenomenal trade of US$3 billion (Dh11 billion) between Australia and the UAE, are working hard to massage the minds of the intending Aussie tourists. The Emirates logo has been plastered on the Collingwood Aussie Rules football players’ jumpers, the sleeves of the Australian cricketers and, the Melbourne Cup, ‘the race that stops the nation’, is known as the ‘Emirates Melbourne Cup.’ These marketing campaigns are instilling within Australian minds the view that the UAE is about top competition, champions, winners and success—in short, the very best in business, sport and recreation.

The transformation of the Aussie mind about the UAE is still very vulnerable to new wars and terrorist activities. The unfair coupling by the media of the words ‘Muslim’ with ‘terrorists’ means there is work to do in helping Australians to realize that the UAE natives are friendly.

The stories are filtering down to Australia about the Dubai playground. Giant shopping malls, indoor ski slopes, desert safaris, dune bashing, Wild Wadi, sheeshas and high rise dining all sound like an Arabian version of Las Vegas. There’s no doubt about it, on the mind of most Aussie tourists, Dubai is hot, in more ways than one.

Dubai has become a tantalizing and convenient stop off point where Aussies can have a couple of days on the way to their final destination experiencing something exotic. The draw cards are there for the Aussies to come and play for a few days but they are insufficient to make them stay for long.

Most Aussies will not make the UAE their major travel spot if they desire a holiday for rest and relaxation. They can get sun, surf and beaches at home or in nearby Bali or the Pacific. Spending 16 hours on a plane each way for a week or two of blobbing out is sure to erode what relaxing benefits they acquire in the Emirates.

Aussie tourists are currently viewing the UAE as a short and cheap stopover: a place to refresh and lighten up before going on to Africa, Europe and America for some serious tourism.

The growing number of amusement parks such as the proposed Falcon City of Wonders, with its life size replicas of the Taj Mahal, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Eiffel Tower and the Great Wall of China will cause a momentary gasp and create some intrigue but they will not wash with the Aussie tourists. A prized Australian value is captured in the phrase ‘fair dinkum,’ which is about being genuine, real or in the local lingo, ‘without bullshit.’ They won’t linger or invest much money on the fake and artificial edifices which are taken out of their context.

From a distance Aussies are generally impressed with the transformation of Dubai and the ‘can do’ attitude of its leaders. They see, mirrored in the glitz and glam of the city, something of their own Aussie arrogance and brashness.

It is unfortunate that Dubai, this ‘Paris Hilton of the Middle East’ has blinded the minds of tourists to other attractions that the UAE offers. The subdued and demure capital has been slower to draw attention to its wares. The proposed Guggenheim and Louvre franchise in Abu Dhabi might add another day to the Aussies’ itinerary but if they are serious about art and architecture they will head for the authentic articles in Europe.

Known for their enjoyment of a tipple or three, Aussies are asking whether they can get plentiful alcoholic refreshments in the UAE or whether they must expect a ‘dry shower.’ Ditto for their usual holiday breakfast fare of bacon and eggs.

With Australia holding the world record for the highest gambling rates in the world, their tourists are secretly wondering, what will become of their habit when they enter a country where gambling is illegal. Are the stories true, that there are ways and means of having a flutter in the Emirates? How will they cope when they get online in a UAE hotel or Internet Café to discover their favourite gambling sites blocked because they are ‘inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates?’ Or do the international hotels have ways and means (nod-nod, wink-wink), of keeping their Aussie patrons satisfied?

The kangaroos will bound across the Indian Ocean and the kiwis will fly to the land of the falcon but there are still challenges for the marketers and the leaders of tourism. As the Australasians are preparing to fly to the UAE, it will be interesting to see if the Emiratis will increasingly make the journey Down Under.

Geoff Pound

Image: Kangaroo jumping to conclusions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fujairah: Producer of Nobel Prize Winners?

It is welcome news to learn that the UAE’s eastern city of Fujairah is establishing a ‘Creativity City.’ The concept is two parks (one at the Dubai entrance and the other in Faseel) for individuals and companies that are working in the media, communications, design and technology sectors. The vision is a ‘free and dedicated space for creativity’ and ‘a place of distinction.’

These are high voltage sound bytes but it makes you wonder what future Fujairahans will create. Will it be theme parks and record breaking buildings as in Dubai or galleries and Guggenheims that are top of the capita’s agenda?

Shaping the Environment
What environment is most conducive to fostering creativity? When I was slogging away on a doctoral dissertation my colleague used to encourage me by saying, “You’ve got an advantage! You are writing this tome near to the South Pole!” He had read some research that revealed that more doctoral theses were written the further you got away from the equator! The implication of this theory is that ‘Creativity City’ needs to be a cool and comfortable place even if it is sizzling outside. On the other hand some of the finest poetry, innovative ideas and devoted service have arisen in conditions that were bleak and oppressive. Ireland over the centuries has had a cold and tough environment but it has produced an amazing number of poets, novelists and song writers.

Getting Creative Juices Flowing
Do the creativity juices flow more freely in countries with a long established tradition of learning and enquiry? In nations whose governments make a huge investment in research and creativity? That’s the impression one gets from examining the list of Nobel Laureates and observing that USA (160), UK (110), Germany (94) and France (54) take out the medals for producing prize winners.

It is staggering to think that Sweden with only 9 million people is fifth on the list of Nobel Prize producers (27) and Switzerland with only 7 million is next, having 25 prize winners to its name.[1] A nation like the UAE with a small population does not have to be daunted, especially if it chooses to invest its huge financial resources in the areas that will stimulate creativity.

The breakdown of Nobel Prize winners by religious affiliation suggests that either the judges down through the years have been biased or that the inspiration of a faith culture is a significant shaper of creativity.[2]

Time for Creativity
This is a timely theme for some say that this week or more specifically, the 31 March, is the most creative day of the year because people are cooking up creative plans to fool others on the 1st April, April Fools’ Day.[3] Look at some of the creative plots that have been hatched over the years:[4]

The BBC television program Panorama ran a famous hoax in 1957, showing the Swiss harvesting spaghetti from trees. They had claimed that the despised pest the spaghetti weevil had been eradicated. After the report ran, the BBC was flooded with calls from people asking where they might get a spaghetti tree. They were reportedly told to "place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

In 1996, Taco Bell took out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to "reduce the country's debt" and had renamed it the ‘Taco Liberty Bell.’ When asked about the sale, White House press secretary, Mike McCurry replied with tongue-in-cheek that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would henceforth be known as the ‘Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.’

In 1998, Burger King ran an ad in USA Today, saying that people could get a Whopper for left-handed people whose condiments were designed to drip out of the right side.[5]

Intentional about Creativity
These tricks might say more about gullibility than creativity. Such hoaxes might be inventive and they don’t bring much lasting benefit. But they do demonstrate the importance of being intentional about creativity.

If they get it right, there will be scientists who eradicate AIDS, economists that make Darfur’s poverty history, diplomats that bring peace to Iraq, environmentalists that achieve global cooling and poets that inspire the world emerging from Fujairah’s ‘Creativity City.’

How much creativity will go into creating this space? Will ‘Creativity City’ be merely a trendy name for a business area or an environment that is serious about fostering constructive creativity?

Geoff Pound

Image: Sketch plans for Fujairah’s ‘Creativity City.’

[1] Nobel Laureates by country, Wikipedia.
[2] Nobel Prize, Wikipedia.
[3] Andy Simmons, Reader’s Digest, April 2007
[4] April Fools’ Day, Wikipedia.
[5] Michael Farquhar, A Treasury of Deception, Reader’s Digest.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Faith and Work Colliding in a Taxi

"GET OVER IT," urged the posting on an online bulletin board, "YOU ARE IN AMERICA, ACT LIKE AN AMERICAN!!"

Thus begins Stephanie Simon’s article in today’s LA Times about the anger being directed towards Somalian taxi drivers in Minneapolis.

The Somalis who dominate the taxi business are raising the ire of many Minnesotans by refusing to take passengers carrying alcohol or passengers with the smell of booze on their breath. The cabbies are claiming the authority of Allah for their stand and religious freedom.

The newspapers have already been full of the news of another collision of faith and work when some checkout operators in American supermarkets are refusing to scan pork products.

Not all Muslims agree on this bold and blanket stance. Some of the locals are arguing that cabbies shouldn’t be in the taxi business if their religion leaves certain types of people out on the street. Similarly, they say, don’t be on the checkout at a supermarket if you have a problem with some of the products on the shelves.

The article goes on to discuss individual freedom, law and discrimination.

It is an interesting question for anyone to ask about the issues or practices which cause our faith (or our convictions) to collide with our work or society’s demands. Then it is revealing to examine whether we turn a Nelsonian blind eye or to see how far we are prepared to go before we say, ‘Enough!’ or ‘I’m out of here!’

It is easy to use a holy book to come up with our catalogue of dos and don'ts. We all have our own rating as to which things are more haram than others.

It takes more reflection, however, to think about what we do when an employer is intoxicated with money or to consider the time when we speak up about a leader who is so addicted to power that their people are getting hurt.

Geoff Pound

Source: Stephanie Simon, Faith and work collide in Minneapolis: Somalian immigrants create a stir by declaring certain jobs offensive to Islam. LA Times, March 27, 2007

Image: Mohammed, one of the best taxi drivers in Fujairah.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Coining Collective Nouns for the Emirates

I never got into coins or stamps when I was a child but I collected collective nouns—those names we give to a group of things.

A ‘group’ is such a mundane word so we learned at school some of these classical collective nouns:
A pride of lions.
A herd of elephants.
A swarm of bees.

I like those collective nouns that have got some pizzazz:
A brace of grouse.
A charm of finches.
A convocation of eagles.
An exaltation of larks.
A crash of rhinos.

Some birds, fish and animals have so many fascinating terms. A group of seals is known as a bob, a colony, a crash, a harem, a herd, a pod, a rookery, a spring and a team.

A group of geese is a flock when they are standing, a gaggle on the water, a skein when in flight and a wedge when they fly in a ‘V’ formation.

Collective nouns are a work in progress. Some suggested on various web sites include:
An absence of waiters.
An annoyance of mobile phones.
A balance of accountants.
A billow of smokers.
A clutch of mechanics.
A clench of sphincters.
A flunk of students.
A thicket of idiots.

The lists of collective nouns are growing all the way from an armory of aardvarks to a zeal of zebras. ‘Lists’ are a bit ordinary. What about a cornucopia of collective nouns? Collective nouns don’t always have to have alliteration.

I have been wondering about developing a congress of collective nouns that concern things and happenings to do with the United Arab Emirates. Can you help me?

These could relate to animals and birds.

A group of camels is a herd. Surely we can get more creative that this.

A collection of falcons is known as a cast. That’s skilful.

What do we call a group of oryx—one of our national symbols? This doesn’t appear in the usual list. We must find a better name than a herd. Any suggestions?

What is a constructive name for a number of dishdashas (especially if they are being worn)?

A glide of dishdashas?
A number of mosques?
A collection of muezzin who give the call to prayer?
Several sheesha?
A group of construction sites?


I was thinking of this subject as I saw an array of trucks on the road from Dubai to Fujairah.

What do you call a collection of trucks, as pictured above, pulled up on the Al Dhaid Road? A conference? A quagmire of trucks?

What do we call the long lines of trucks (pictured) coming from the Hajar Mountains, laden with rocks. A thunder of trucks? Maybe a tragedy of trucks?

Geoff Pound

Images: A turmoil and a tribulation of trucks

Some sites for collective nouns are:
The Collective Nouns
Collection of Collective Nouns
Fun with Words: Collective Nouns

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Fujairah’s ‘Breathtaking Coastline’ is often Trashed

This guy (and his mate in the tractor) at the Fujairah Municipality do a magnificent job cleaning up the beaches every day with this hungry vacuum cleaner and sand sifter.

But give a couple of hours and the waves will belch onto the beach all their foreign bodies—sandals, bottles, packets, glass, rope, polystyrene plates, leftovers from the picnic—and the beach soon becomes a shambles.

Visitors to Fujairah will be attracted when they read web sites like UAE Interact and this posting entitled, ‘U.A.E. Culture and Heritage: Fujairah’:

“Fujairah, with a breathtaking coastline of more than 90km, is the only emirate situated entirely along the Gulf of Oman.….”

“Fujairah is a place of considerable natural beauty where jagged mountains and valleys sweep down to the settled palm-fringed coastal plain.”

It sounds idyllic but it doesn’t always square with the beach I walk every day.

It is a breathtaking coastline but visitors will want their money back if we don’t put our rubbish in the bins and stop heaving it out of cars and boats.

Geoff Pound

Image: Fujairah Municipality Beach Cleaner and the relentless rubbish.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Longing for a Magrudy's Bookshop In Fujairah

I adore bookshops. Even though I buy books online, the smell and touch of a book are a sensual experience that a virtual bookshop cannot provide.

I identify with that character in a novel who made lengthy trips to her local bookshop to do some reading and she kept her place by using a strand of her hair as a bookmark.

When my wife and I are visiting cities like Florence, we hit the galleries and museums hard in the morning and then love to spend an hour or three in a bookshop, resting the legs and filling up our emotional tanks.

You can imagine how my heart leapt the other day when I was passed by a Magrudy’s van on my way home to Fujairah from the Dubai International airport. My immediate thought was, “A Magrudy’s Bookshop is coming out east!”

When the van stopped at the Friday Market I pulled over and I asked the guys if they were making plans for a new bookshop in Fujairah. Unfortunately for me, Ricky and Shinor were heading off to a book fair in a Fujairah school but I later called the Magrudy’s headquarters to pop my question.

Jonathan MacDonald, Chief of Franchising and Marketing, explained that Magrudy’s was one of the oldest bookshops in the region and that the business was developing rapidly. The new Abu Dhabi shop is due to open at the end of May this year and the biggest of their shops—in Festival City—will bring their U.A.E. tally to eight.

Jonathan said he gets lots of calls from people at Ras al Khaimah and Al Ain asking for a local bookshop. He said after undertaking some research he had no immediate plans for a shop in Fujairah but “it is on his radar.”

I gave Jonathan MacDonald these reasons for bringing an east coast Magrudy’s from the radar to reality:

* There is a booming hotel business with a flourishing tourist population along the east coast.

* The new freeway/motorway will lessen the travel time considerably between Dubai and Fujairah, thus causing droves of frazzled people who are tired of the smog and the clogged roads to leave the big smoke and base themselves in the relative calm of Fujairah.

* The recently announced Creativity City at the doorway of Fujairah must surely connect with books and education.

* The soon to be established Safeer Mall on the Fujairah coastline with its 100 shops, 5 anchor stores and 13 feeding and drinking holes will be the ideal spot for Magrudy’s or its competitor.

In the meantime, some Magrudy’s books within a major Fujairah supermarket, à la Spinney’s in Dubai, will be a useful way to test the market and build a presence.

If you’d like to write to Jonathan and give him another reason why he should be developing the market out east you can send him a letter via the Contact link on the recently renovated Magrudy’s web site.

Geoff Pound

Image: Magrudy’s staff members Ricky and Shinor on their way out east for an important book fair.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What the New Fujairah Rotana Hotel is Offering

Following my recent postings on the proposed hotel on the Fujairah corniche and a new hotel on the Fujairah coast, there has been a blitz of advertising regarding the opening of the Fujairah Rotana Resort and Spa at Al Aqah.

Driving past all the hotel developments on the U.A.E. east coast, one begins to wonder when this area will reach saturation point.

Building on the coast is going helter-skelter, perhaps buoyed by recent reports of the rise in U.A.E. travel and tourism spending and the positive growth signs into the future.

The Rotana promotion is inevitably full of marketing superlatives and the staff is brimming with optimism, even though bookings have not begun in earnest and there are few guests around its precincts. What niche will this AED 130 million development carve as it lies nestled alongside the long-established Le Meridien?

Firstly, it offers guests an alternative, which might be attractive after years of attending other Fujairah hotels. It appears to be a smaller establishment (250 rooms and suites) which may make for a more personal and faster entry service from the car to the beach.

Architecturally, it does not offer the spectacular views of its neighbour but the Rotana is banking on its low slung suites with their front doors, a few seconds amble to the beach and massage tents.

The ‘mother’ building has a light, beachy atmosphere with flowing water that is cranked so high you have to shout across the coffee table.

The Rotana is being billed as a conference centre. Its different sized rooms and partitions afford flexibility and the spill out areas overlooking the sea will ensure that conference proceedings are kept as short as possible.

The full range of leisure activities is still under wraps except to say that there will be opportunities for guests to get into the Hajar Mountains, by camel, Quad Bike or Shanks’s Pony.

Staff members reckon that the Zen Room will be a feature for the harried, and for creative children, there is a giant graffiti wall (parents watch your walls when you get home). The water sports (except for boat trips to Musandam) will be included as part of the tariff and the supervisor assured me that the range is going to be extensive. Publicity reveals a number of pedalos (now made famous by English cricketer, Andrew Flintoff).

A variety of restaurants abound with menus changing to keep customers from getting gastronomically bored. Private parties may be served to guests from the gazebos or from the hotel dhow.

The tariffs for different facilities are being worked out but the healthy competition will pay off best for all hotel guests along Fujairah’s eastern coast.

Geoff Pound

Image: Fujairah Rotana Hotel: “nestled alongside the long-established Le Meridien.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

New Species of Tree Identified in the U.A.E.

A new species of tree has been identified in the U.A.E. Its taxonomical name is Prosopis plastifora (pictured).

It is an indigenous evergreen belonging to the family that includes Acacia and Mimosa.

The Prosopis is native to the Arabian Peninsula but the recently named tree of the sub genus, plastifora, is increasingly seen within the city limits of the United Arab Emirates.

High winds are often responsible for developing colour in this tree’s foliage. The multi-coloured leaves form a brilliant autumn display with colours of every shade of the rainbow.
The foliage is extremely durable even in arid desert conditions. The leaves are expected to last for hundreds, if not thousands of years. If the leaves are consumed by goats, cattle, sheep or birds the consequences may be fatal.

Geoff Pound

Image: Prosopis plastifora: One of several trees belonging to this species in the grounds of the famous Fujairah Fort.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

U.A.E.'s National Tree

Many countries have a tree that has become a national emblem.

If Albania has the olive,
Canada has the maple,
England has the oak
Denmark has the beech
Finland has the birch
India has the banyan
Japan the cherry
Lebanon the cedar
Pakistan the deodar
Saudi Arabia the Phoenix palm
South Korea the gingko and
Vietnam the bamboo,

What is the national tree of the United Arab Emirates?

Scroll down for the answer.

Answer: The Ghaf.

The decision may not have been made formally but a campaign has been running in recent months to promote the Ghaf as the national tree of the United Arab Emirates.

Check out the informative web site entitled 'Ghaf', which introduces this tree, sketches its history, shares its legends and offers ways that people might participate in the ‘Save the Ghaf’ movement.

Geoff Pound

Image: A ghaf.

Fujairah’s Creative Road Safety Initiative

Congratulations to the Fujairah Municipality and the Traffic Safety campaigners for giving this creative lead—mangled cars at most of the Fujairah roundabouts this week.

The cars placed within the roundabout (like the one pictured), give a more memorable statement than the ones outside, that appear as a sideshow.

Well done.

Geoff Pound

Image: Car not going anywhere at the Fujairah Tower roundabout.

U.A.E. Pedestrian Crossings: The Most Dangerous Place to Be

Traditionally, children are taught to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing believing that if they are walking on these lines, they will be safe.

The pedestrian crossing is one of the most dangerous places to be in the U.A.E. Lulled into thinking they have protection, pedestrians in the U.A.E. quickly discover that they usually do not have the right of way.

Massive education about pedestrian crossings is required in the United Arab Emirates to make people safe. For instance, does the U.A.E. road law require (as some countries have introduced recently) that vehicles must stop when a pedestrian steps onto the crossing, even when they are on the other side of the road?

To see a car stop for a pedestrian at a crossing is such a rare sight that when it occurs the pedestrian looks astonished and then appears like a child walking across the stage to collect a prize.

Because of this crossing culture it is dangerous for drivers to stop for pedestrians. The likely result is for unsuspecting cars to ram you from behind. Drivers seeking to change the culture will usually decide to stop after ensuring that there are no cars close behind and as they slow to a stop they may activate their emergency lights to warn others that this unusual phenomenon is about to occur.

Beyond the need for education for both drivers and pedestrians, some other challenges for the Ministry of Interior include:

* Developing better signs (black and white poles, flashing yellow beacons, zig-zag road markings) to indicate the approach of a pedestrian crossing

* Repainting crossings where the paint has pealed or faded (this is needed especially in towns like Dhaid where the large number of trucks passing through the main street quickly erase the white lines)

* Installing different types of crossings which are appropriate to the width of the road, the volume of traffic and the speed zone.

My grandfather was killed when he was walking across a pedestrian crossing. Pedestrian crossing education and law enforcement is not an academic issue. It is a matter of life and death.

Geoff Pound

Image: Pedestrian crossing at night.

Monday, March 19, 2007

What Does this Sign Mean in the U.A.E.?

In the U.A.E. this sign (pictured) is generally interpreted as ‘Give Way.’

I assumed that the U.A.E. followed the international traffic rules as defined by the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, in which ‘STOP’ in English and Arabic on an octagonal, red sign meant Stop! Completely! The memory of my mother getting heavily fined for failing to bring the wheels of her car to a standstill for three seconds is awakened every time I approach this sign.

When I started driving in the U.A.E., I was alarmed to discover cars thundering up behind me and drivers hurling abuse when I stopped at a ‘STOP’ sign, especially when there were no cars approaching on the other road.

As I mentioned in my previous posting, Road Safety in the U.A.E., I have not been able to locate a copy of the U.A.E. Road Code in English. However, when I asked a high ranking official in the Traffic and Licensing Division of the Ministry of Interior about whether a ‘STOP’ sign means stop, he said, “It is only academic. You do not have to stop if there are no cars coming on the road you are entering.” When I asked why at such intersections or highways there is not a ‘GIVE WAY’ sign instead of a ‘STOP’ sign he said, “‘GIVE WAY’ signs usually appear at roundabouts.”

An official at the Fujairah National Driving Institute gave the same ruling and he asked, “Why would you stop when there are no cars coming the other way?” To which I said, “Because it has been deemed a critical intersection or highway that requires people to come to a complete standstill in order to get a good view of the new road before proceeding.”

The ‘STOP’ sign in the U.A.E. is generally regarded in the way that it was interpreted to me by the traffic official and driving instructor. The lack of painted ‘Stop Lines’ further suggests there is no expectation of stopping completely. From observation, most drivers on U.A.E. roads, including the police and traffic instructors, treat the ‘STOP’ sign as a ‘GIVE WAY’ sign.

In view of the high number of fatalities and injuries on U.A.E. roads, many of which occur at intersections, further education on points of the Road Code might help to save more lives.

Geoff Pound

Image: ‘STOP’ sign in the U.A.E.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Road Safety in the U.A.E.

The National Campaign for Traffic Safety Awareness has recently concluded its special week (25 February-2 March 2007).

In the publicity drive it highlighted the alarming statistics for the year 2006:

11551 injuries and deaths on U.A.E. roads
17 deaths on our roads weekly
875 accidents deaths in 2006 [I am unsure what this means.]

The posters also featured graphic pictures of children distressed by carnage on the road with the caption, “Have mercy on their tears.”

It is heartening for campaign organizers and those charged with improving road safety to see the statistics released this week by the Ministry of Interior. The article in the Khaleej Times entitled, Fall in Road Accidents, reported an overall decrease in U.A.E. road accidents from 2005 to 2006 of 15.18% with a corresponding decrease of 4.78% in the number of persons injured in road accidents. The figures are moving in the right direction as road safety measures are implemented.

Road safety awareness must be more than a one week blitz and it would be useful to highlight different aspects throughout the year.

Some countries offer online tests of the road laws to keep people aware and up to date.

I recently visited the Ministry of Interior: Traffic and Licensing department in Fujairah seeking more information on our road rules. They did not have any copies of the Road Laws (Road Code) in English and they sent me across the road to the Fujairah National Driving Training Institute, who only offered a brochure illustrating the different road signs.

In view of the multicultural nature of drivers on U.A.E. roads it would be helpful to produce the Road Code in the major languages of the country both in booklet form and as a digital download from the Internet.

Geoff Pound

Image: One of the posters used in the 2007 National Campaign for Traffic Safety Awareness week.

U.A.E. Reads the Writing on the Wall

Today’s New York Times article, Abu Dhabi Explores Energy Alternatives, reports on the establishment of a new research and possible power plant in the U.A.E. capital to develop clean-energy technology.

This leadership, Hassan Fattah declares, is evidence of the U.A.E.’s seriousness about erasing its reputation as one of the world’s highest per capita emitters of carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases.

Geoff Pound

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Blogging the Emirates

Just in is this insightful L.A. Times article entitled Blogs Can Top the Presses by Terry McDermott.

Blogs have a different role from newspapers and they possess some significant advantages.

Do send me an email if you have a tip for a story on Experiencing the Emirates.

Geoff Pound

Friday, March 16, 2007

Celebrating the Irish in the U.A.E.

Have you heard the one about the Irishman who was really an Englishman? To be sure, to be sure, Patrick was born in the south of England about 389 A.D. At sixteen he was kidnapped, taken to Ireland and forced to work in harsh conditions as a shepherd.

Six years later Patrick escaped and returned to his family in England but the pull of the Irish led him back to the Emerald Isle. Whereas he had grown up thinking that his family’s faith was a load of blarney, he experienced a change of heart and a calling to work among the Irish. Like many of his compatriots, Patrick had the gift of the gab and he skillfully used images like shamrocks and soldier’s armory to get his point across.

Patrick was a great traveler and ever since the Irish have kept on traveling to every continent and island of the world.

A significant number of people with Irish descent are now living in the United Arab Emirates. There are thriving Irish Societies in Abu Dhabi and Dubai that boast a full calendar of events to foster friendship, develop business ties and inculcate the Irish culture, especially in their children and young people. Clubs like the Dubai Celts promote rugby football, and Irish sports such as Gaelic football (played by men and women) and hurling.

The popular Irish Village in Dubai is a focus for the Irish and those wanting to claim an Irish allegiance. With its Irish cuisine, dancing and music, people gather to experience a taste of home. Tonight (March 16), Irish activist and rock star, Sir Bob Geldof, is performing live in the Irish Village.

It is interesting to note the growing relationship between Ireland and the U.A.E. Last year, Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, visited the Emirates during the celebrations leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. In January 2007, Mary Hanafin, the Irish Minister of Education and Science, was in the U.A.E. to develop partnerships and exchanges between educational institutions in the two countries.

St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) is a time for parades around the world with the largest attendance of approximately two million in the city of New York. On this day people often plant a potato to herald the commencement of Spring, they wear something green or imbibe an Irish drink. The saying is true, “Everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.”

Image: A picture from the Gulf Gaelic Games, January 2007.

The U.A.E. and its Environmental Challenges

An article, based on the report of the World Wildlife Fund has recently been posted entitled: United Arab Emirates Consume[s] More Energy than US.

Image: "Of all the places to make artificial snow, this has to be the most absurd," said Jonathan Loh, a British biologist who co-authored the WWF report.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

U.A.E.: The Biggest…the Tallest…The Fastest?

The other morning on my way to work in Asia I discovered another record that this fledgling nation must possess.

When my taxi driver dropped me at the Dubai International Airport I observed it was 6.40am. After clearing the first baggage scanner I noticed inside that the Emirates Airline had added to their line of ‘Self Check-in Stations.’ I inserted my Skywards Card, was instantly recognized, assured of my booking, granted the option of changing my seat and in no time I had received my boarding card and was heading toward the ‘Quick Drop’ Baggage Counter for a two minute weigh of my bag and its labeling.

I checked the time and it was only 6.50am. With only my briefcase in hand I strode toward the immigration hall and was waved on at the next check point. There were long lines leading to immigration officials peering cannily at the travelers and stamping their passports.

I spotted the sign saying ‘E-Gate and Crew’ and the line was non-existent. I inserted my Skywards Card again and the gates immediately spread open. I placed my index finger on the finger print recognition panel and, hey presto, the next doors opened. I was almost through. One more ridding of my metal objects and once through the final scanner, I was scuttling down the flight of stairs like a steeplechase runner.

As I paced down the long concourse, unassisted by the travelator, I was silently extolling the wonder of ‘Self Check-in Stations’ and ‘E-Gate’ technology.

As I ascended the escalator to the Duty Free Shopping Hall the clock on the wall declared it was 7.00am. From the taxi drop to the Duty Free shops it only took me twenty minutes. It doesn’t always happen like this but surely the Dubai International Airport must hold the record for delivering the fastest check-in process in the world.

Geoff Pound

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Check-Out Green Shopping Bags.

It was heartening to read the Gulf News article (February 24, 2007) that reported a trialing of natural fibre supermarket bags as environmental alternatives to the ubiquitous plastic bags. Around 500 jute bags were distributed to five Choithram supermarkets in Dubai, by people representing a partnership between some schools, community groups and the supermarket.

When I contacted Choithram’s General Manager, Mr. Manoy Thanwani, to ask about the outcome of this experiment he said, “This was a joint venture and it was a great success. Within eight hours all the jute bags had been sold at a cost of Dh10 per bag. It was a little unexpected but I detect there is in the market now a willingness to change.”

“When are we going to get recyclable check-out bags in Fujairah?” I enquired. He assured me of his plan that all the Choithram stores be part of a nation-wide strategy in partnership with the government, community organizations, businesses and the media.

When I called Mr. Riyas, the Chief Buyer at the Lulu Hypermarket Headquarters in Dubai, I got an equally positive reception. “Plastic bags are polluting our environment,” Riyas said forcefully. I asked about any plan to offer biodegradable bags and he said, “We are thinking about it.” He recognized that one of the hurdles in switching to eco-friendly bags was the issue of cost. “Many of our customers would be reluctant to make the change if they had to pay between Dh2-10 per bag.”

It appears that the Clean Up Campaigns, the Green Schemes, the ongoing community education programmes and even Al Gore’s Academy Award are all raising the public consciousness in the U.A.E. There is widespread concern about the 150,000 tons of plastic that is produced each year in the U.A.E. and its effect upon the environment. There is a growing awareness of the problems for the environment when plastic bags take hundreds of years to break down and the lethal impact on birds, animals and marine life when they get trapped or when they consume the plastic.

With the major supermarket chains beginning to offer customers natural bags (like Carrefour) or starting to plan their approach, the time seems ripe for an overarching and coordinated campaign. This needs to be led by the national government and local municipalities, delivered by the supermarkets, supported by sponsors with the ongoing consciousness raising and customer education being done by community groups and the media.

Environmental organizations like Planet Ark provide useful accounts of how other countries have approached this challenge with case studies of communities that have become ‘Plastic Bag Free’, strategy templates for towns and cities, tips for retailers and bag designs.

Switching to environmentally friendly shopping bags to carry our groceries home is a small step. Yet it is part of the journey which will inevitably lead us to face greater challenges that are confronting our U.A.E. environment.

Geoff Pound

Image: Photo courtesy of Ron Prendergast, Melbourne Zoo.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

U.A.E. Scores a Coup in the World of Art

An agreement was signed on Tuesday by France and the U.A.E. to open a branch of the Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi. It will be housed in a discus-shaped building on the capital’s Saadiyat Island.

While the Paris based Louvre has loaned paintings and sent exhibitions to places like Atlanta and South Korea, the establishment of a satellite hails a new development in the museum that has existed since the twelfth century.

The news leaked in January set off a fracas in the French nation. Politicians forging the deal (estimated to be worth US$650 million) were criticised for selling their nation’s soul. French citizens fear that it will weaken the prominence of the Louvre. The 2006 record of 8.3 million visitors makes it the most visited culture and art museum in the world and the most visited site in Paris.

Other critics are attacking the use of art for economic and strategic purposes and have stated their abhorrence at the Guggenheim trend of establishing franchises around the world which bear the valuable name.

This is being seen as yet another coup for the U.A.E. and represents a strong move to strengthen its stakes in the realm of culture, as well as in economics and tourism.

An early rumour claimed that the Abu Dhabi affiliate would refuse to display nudes or paintings of non-Islamic religious paintings but the U.A.E. government was swift to state that no restrictions were being placed on artwork that it would be lent. Carte blanche.

With many virtual art museums, historical and religious sites being blocked, due to their “content being inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the U.A.E.”, it will be fascinating to see how open the ‘Desert Louvre’ will be to the French selection and how many of the Parisian paintings get through the filters unscathed.

Geoff Pound

Image: Outside the Louvre, Paris.

Going to the Salon or Saloon in the U.A.E?

This photo was taken of one of the main streets in Dubai’s suburb, Al Karama, the location for scores of shops that sell cheap clothes, bags and jewelry with fake brands. It is a picture of two shops where one may go to get a haircut or a beauty treatment. One is called a salon. The other, two shops along, is a saloon [click the photo for magnification].

A cursory glance around Dubai reveals that both of these terms are used for places where you can get your hair, face or nails beautified but the word saloon is more common.

In Fujairah, most beauty and hair places are known as saloons and one has to look hard to find a salon.

But isn’t a saloon a large hall in a town or a ship where you go for an alcoholic drink? Isn’t a saloon an up-market word for a pub, a bar, a tavern or a watering hole?

And isn’t a business for hair and beauty treatments a salon, a hair salon or a beauty salon?

The difference is only the one letter ‘o’ which suggests that the words come from the same source. The Online Etymology Dictionary confirms this and indicates that these words came from the French salon, meaning a large room or the Italian salone, meaning a large hall. Before the eighteenth century salon and saloon were used interchangeably to describe a large hall in a public place. Saloon initially became the anglicized form of the word salon.

From around 1841 the word saloon came into currency, particularly in American English, as the name for a public bar.

The use of the word salon to describe an establishment for hair and beauty care came into vogue from 1913.

People in the U.A.E. entering a saloon on a hot day looking for a drink may be disappointed to find that they emerge only with their hair cut. On the other hand, they might meet people, share some stories and experience the conviviality that is inherent in the original concept of a saloon.

Geoff Pound

Image: Salon and saloon in Al Karama, Dubai.

Monday, March 5, 2007

U.A.E. on High Bird Flu Alert

The U.A.E. is on high bird flu alert.

It is prompted by the 41 cases of bird flu since February 25, 2007, among birds (no humans) in Kuwait. Furthermore an Indonesian house maid in the U.A.E., who became sick after handling dead birds, sparked great concern until her test results revealed she had pneumonia.

The publicity machine is cranking up, informing U.A.E. residents about telephone hotlines and issuing a range of precautionary measures e.g. get your birds examined, keep domestic and farm birds locked up so they do not mix with wild birds and avoid contact with wild water birds.

Officials at borders and airports are on the watch for any attempted improper importing of live birds and several bans have been implemented.

The U.A.E. government has called for vigilance among hospital staff to ensure top hygiene standards are maintained.

The Ministry of Health has announced that it possesses an initial stockpile of one million ‘Tamiflu’ tablets.

Geoff Pound

Image: To contain an outbreak of bird flu in Nigeria, dead birds are taken to a dump for burning.

U.A.E. on the Map with New World Record

Thousands of people from different nationalities gathered in Abu Dhabi on Saturday (March 3, 2007) to form the largest human map of the world.

The full story and the impetus for the record is told in the article entitled, Largest Human World Map.

Geoff Pound

Image: Colourful human formation.

Terminations by Texting in Triplicate

Ahmed al-Haddah, the Grand Mufti in the U.A.E., has issued a fatwa that permits the divorce of a Muslim couple by mobile phone text messages. He noted that Islamic clerics are not unanimous in their support for this decision and approach.

The determination is not designed to accelerate the divorce rate but to proclaim that pronouncements by SMS have the same weight as those that are typed and signed.

Since this decree has been issued some critics have expressed their surprise and stated that making a marital termination by mobile is completely inappropriate. Others have pointed to this decision as a positive sign of Islam responding to modernity and the latest technology.

It will be interesting to discover how much demand there is for matrimonial messaging and whether this proclamation sets off a cacophony of ring tones.

But, why ever would one choose to end a relationship by the pressing of keys on one’s cell phone?

Perhaps for the same reasons that we use SMS for other purposes:
It is fast.
It is cheap.
It does not involve the heated, unproductive exchanges face-to-face or in the lawyer’s office.

It is a sure sign of how far a relationship has deteriorated that communication about something so important can be reduced to a press of a few buttons while we are sitting in our car at the traffic lights.

Geoff Pound

Image: ‘I just called to say…’

Not Enough Dough in Time of Knead

There’s a bun fight going on in Fujairah.

The Fujairah Municipality has decreed (22/2/2007) that Fujairah Bakers must reverse their recent price increase after customer complaints.

In their defence, the bakers claim that bread prices have not increased markedly for many years, yet, their overheads have been rising like yeast.

There appears to be a need for an effective independent body that can review customer complaints, consider business demands and make wise decisions.

Geoff Pound

Image: Preparing Arabic bread for the oven.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

U.A.E. Generosity to Earthquake Affected Regions

Many articles about the U.A.E. focus on the development and success of the young nation for its own prosperity and wellbeing.

It is pleasing to see reports of the U.A.E.’s generosity as it shares its wealth with needy people.

One example is the recent report from Online News-Pakistan, of the U.A.E. government’s gifting of two state of the art hospitals to the Azad Kashmiri people who suffered in recent earthquakes.

The design of these two 250 bed hospitals due for Muzaffarabad and Rawalalot was finalized on March 3, 2007. Work is expected to begin within three months with completion projected for 18 months.

Geoff Pound

Image: An example of the earthquake devastation in Kashmir.

More Hotel Beds for Fujairah

While the hotel construction business is booming north of the Fujairah township the walls have gone up around the construction site for this five star hotel (ground and eight floors).

It will be located on Fujairah’s corniche, a kilometre south of the Hilton Hotel.

More beds. More tourists for Fujairah.

Geoff Pound

Image: Promotional picture from the site.

Facts and Stats about the U.A.E.

Basic facts and statistics about the U.A.E. can be found in The World Factbook.

The U.A.E. details have just been updated.

Geoff Pound

Image: Map of the U.A.E.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

U.A.E. Takes New Korea Path

Links Being Forged
The links between the U.A.E. and South Korea have been strengthened this week

Korea Assists Fujairah With Water
In 2005, South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction Company Ltd. completed what is now a successful desalination plant in Fujairah which supplies 45,000 tons of fresh water every day, sufficient to support 1.2 million people.

Korea Giving Light and Power to Dubai
The Doosan Company has this week won the contract to build a power generation plant in Jebel Ali, thirty-five kilometres south-west of Dubai, due to be switched on in 2010.

Vision to be Number One
Established in 1962, the Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction Company has exported facilities to China, USA, Taiwan, Iran and India. It is already a leader but it is boldly declaring its aim to be the No. 1 Global Company in its business of power generation and desalination plants.

Geoff Pound

Image: Fujairah's Desalination Plant.

Diving Deeper in the UAE?

Further to our last posting, on some Fujairah hotels attracting people to stay because of the wonderful diving facilities available, I am reminded of this skilful piece of advertising.

To promote a scuba diving course, an advertising agency installed these posters (pictured) at the bottom of Antwerp's public swimming pool.

The posters read, "Not deep enough?"

Geoff Pound

Image: Underwater Scuba Diving Commercial.

Further Hotel for Fujairah

Yet another huge hotel is opening on Fujairah’s eastern coastline, north of Al Aqah beach and just near Dibba.

This week Nikko Hotels International announced it will open Hotel JAL Fujairah Resort & Spa on May 15, 2007.

The new five-star resort will be the first in the Nikko Hotels International group (owned by ACICO in Kuwait) in the Middle Eastern market. This will be followed by a further hotel projected to open in Dubai in 2008.

The Fujairah resort is being built along a third of a mile of private beach and will have 257 guest rooms, all facing the Indian Ocean.

Each of the new hotels along the Fujairah coast is targeting a certain market. The Hotel JAL Fujairah Resort & Spa is talking up Fujairah’s ideal scuba diving and snorkeling sites and it is featuring their state of the art diving centre.

Source: Hotel JAL Fujairah Resort & Spa

Image: Experiencing another world.

Fujairah’s Amazing Coastline

I took my rellies for a day at Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort this week for some sun and some pampering.

My visitors remarked on two things—the friendliness of the staff (I am not being paid to say this but the recruiting and PR teams are doing a good job) and the number of people we heard with European accents (especially German and Russian) as we swam and sat around the pool.

This week Patrick Antaki, the hotel’s General Manager, stated that Le Meridien team is returning to strut its stuff at the International Tourism Exchange in Berlin this month. Eager to maintain its title of the ‘Middle East’s Leading Beach Resort’ at the World Travel Awards for the second year, the hotel will be showcasing its facilities and its superb location on the Fujairah coastline.

By the number and sound of the European guests plus the friendliness of Le Meridien staff, attendance at such exhibitions is paying off.

Fujairah has one of the leading beach resorts in the world. The magnet of Le Meridien indicates that one of the greatest assets of Al Fujairah is its coastline.

Geoff Pound

Image: View from the sea of Le Meridien, against the background of the Hajar Mountains.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Report Claims U.A.E.’s Big Success at Significant Human Cost

A report today from the Ethical Traveler News Team claims that ‘Migrant Workers [are] Exploited While U.A.E. Prospers.’

The article describes the U.A.E. economy running ‘at full throttle’ to become a top tourist destination, a nation with one fifth of the world’s cranes working on a US$100 billion worth of construction and Dubai becoming the fastest growing city in the world.

The report by Christy Hoover asserts that such success is coming at a human cost to the 2 million migrant workers brought to the U.A.E. Specifically Hoover makes the following allegations:
* Low wages—many work for less than $300 per month
* Recruitment agencies routinely force workers to pay for their visa fees, travel and sometimes recruitment fees (usually totaling between US$2,000 and $3,000) with the result that many workers are deeply in debt before work begins
* Illegal confiscation of worker’s passports for months (allegedly to ensure the employee doesn’t abandon the job early)
* Withholding of wages, without explanation, for anywhere between 2-6 months
* The frequent flouting of labor laws

Hoover does acknowledge that certain steps have been taken towards improvement. These include:
* The instituting of laws to protect workers against illegal practices
* The UAE government’s promise in September 2006 to increase the number of labor inspectors from 140 to 1,000 within 18 months
* The creation of a Human Rights Department by the Dubai Police to deal with labor disputes through mediation
* The establishment of a Permanent Committee on Labor Affairs by the Dubai Government to oversee breaches of laborer’s rights

Hoover’s report lacks evidence of specific research and first-hand interviews. While she refers briefly to “the UK Guardian and other sources”, her report would have more weight and balance if it revealed thorough, up-to-date and on the spot research.

It will be interesting to read any response to this report from representatives of the U.A.E. government.

Geoff Pound

Source: Migrant Workers Exploited While U.A.E. Prospers, Ethical Traveler News, March 2007.

Image: A glimpse of the construction scene in Dubai.

Fujairah: Getting Up Your Goat?

On our way home from Lulu’s Hypermarket this morning, we saw this scene.

A herd of goats feeding just behind the Fujairah Tower (the city’s tallest building) and fifty metres from the main street.

One of the features of Fujairah is its distinctly rural favour.

Geoff Pound

Spring Time in Fujairah

Turning into the month of March, Spring is in the air, here in the Middle East.

A man commenting this week on the noticeable change in temperatures said, “It’s as if someone has flipped a switch.”

The plant growth is also noticeable. The palm trees around Fujairah have an exquisite, light green colouring in their centre, where the dates are starting to appear.

Geoff Pound

Image: Date Palm in Faseel.

Sunrise over Fujairah

This picture captures the sun rising this morning over the Indian Ocean and two fishing boats.

It doesn’t get much better than this!

Geoff Pound

Thursday, March 1, 2007

World Billiard Champs Might Be Potting Holes

You might be forgiven for thinking this is a photo of a crater on the surface of the moon.

This is a picture of one of the many craters on the first roundabout you will encounter when you are approaching Fujairah from Dubai.

The road maintenance team must have a lot of work on to be leaving dangerous cavities of this magnitude unfilled. It is a pity that the welcome roundabout has not been repaired in time for all the visitors coming to Fujairah for the Eight-Ball Pool World Championship commencing tonight.

Or maybe the large holes in the road are left to symbolize the pockets on the pool table and thus make the billiards enthusiasts feel more at home.

Image: Pot hole on the entrance roundabout. Welcome to Fujairah.

Fujairah into the Pool

The publicity machine is cranking overtime in the United Arab Emirates, alerting people to the World Eight-Ball Pool Championship which commences tonight in Fujairah’s Al Bustan Centre.

Sixty-four players from forty countries of the world are expected to participate in the eight days of action (1-8 March). Two of the players will be representing the UAE.

This is the third time that the emirate of Fujairah is hosting the Championship.

Before you get rolling down to the Al Bustan Centre, here is a quick reminder of how the game is played:

* The game of Eight-Ball Pool is played with a ‘cue ball’ which is white.
* There are fifteen ‘object balls’ consisting of two groups of colour balls: a group of seven red balls (numbered 1-7) and a group of seven yellow balls (numbered 9-15)
* The ‘Eight-Ball’ is the black ball.
* Players strike the balls with a ‘cue’.
* The table has six ‘pockets’.

The object of the game is to win by being the first player to ‘pot’ a group of coloured balls in any order and in any pocket and then ‘pot’ the 8-Ball in any pocket.

It is a fast game. A player has a maximum of sixty seconds from the time the balls have stopped to play the next shot.

It is a simple game but check out the World Eight Ball Playing Rules if you want to understand the differences between a ‘standard foul’, a ‘non-standard foul’, a ‘serious foul’ or a ‘frame foul’.

Like all games there is some jargon to fathom. The same web site will get you up to speed on being ‘snookered’, making a ‘fair break’ or knowing how to ‘spot the ball’.

Geoff Pound

Image: One of the many publicity pool balls in Fujairah.

Breakfast in Fujairah

A group of free range donkeys nonchalantly grazing this morning in front of the Fujairah Hospital, with the city centre in the background.

Geoff Pound