INGULFED

(Notes for the Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah)

Archive for Things to do

Falcon Guantanamo — غوانتانامو للصقور

(It’s actually a hospital.)
Scroll down for pictures.

At the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, the national bird of the UAE is given the royal treatment — as in, a treatment similar to monarchs in other countries: forced mani/pedicures under anesthesia, beak sharpening, and surgical repairs to their plumage.

The birds vary in value from 20,000 to 200,000 dirham, or about 5,000 dollars way on up above 50,000. White birds are prized, and falconers have a choice between species. According to falconpedia.com:

[In the] UAE three major species are used for falconry. They are Peregrine, Saker and Gyr. Peregrine is widely spread all over the world except Antarctica. Saker flies fast and hunts at low level. Gyr is powerful and prefers to catch larger preys.

Trends in breeding favor a cross between the Peregrine falcon and the Gyr: these alpha-birds have both speed and appetite, and have been known, at the top of their game, to take down gazelles.

Watching a bird go under anesthesia is like watching your mother-in-law get drunk very fast. SQUAWK! Squawk! Squawk. Squaaawk. As the knock-out helmet is put over them, they resist briefly, but wake up to find their nails trimmed and polished.

مطب — Bump

A cross-country trip in the United Arab Emirates is never very difficult. From Abu Dhabi to the Saudi Arabian border, no longer than four hours; it is no longer distance from the city’s warm insulated nook in the Gulf to the other side of the Emirati promontory where waters are cleared and cooled by the Arabian sea. Roads are wide, fast, straight — I could make no more than four turns and be through the low mountains to Fujairah, supine by the sea with a snorkel and a bottle of rum. It would be so easy.

It was sometimes a struggle navigating the HMS Matsuflex through the stream of white Land Cruisers racing past. A favorite local driving technique is to charge drivers ahead flashing high beams (day or night) to make them move: Give me passage or give me death. I shant change lanes. It must seem so convenient to drivers in their hulking SUVs to have a stick to the left of the steering wheel that simply makes traffic move. If you don’t take notice quick enough, if it isn’t nighttime and you haven’t been blinded by lasers in your rearview mirror, you’re finished.

Although a ’92 Benz won’t be the fastest in any Emirati fleet, it was easy to go the 120 kph speed limit (75 mph) without trouble (conspicuous radar detectors issue instant $200 fines at 140), but that wasn’t good enough. In the right lane, trucks inched along out of everyone’s way, in the center traffic still moved too slowly, and in the left lane, we were prey to assholes. On the high seas of the Sheikh Zayed Highway, we were in constant struggle.

After only an hour, the car seemed to be wheezing. She would reach a top speed and then jerk suddenly slower, as if struggling to change gears. The radio would turn off. The ship had become a horse — in short bursts with my coaxing she stayed speedy, but only for moments. We pulled into a highway gas station and turned off the engine. The battery died.

One jumpstart later, we were soon on the Dubai-Hatta road, following signs for “Eastern Regions,” and heading deadly straight toward the Fujairah coast. The wheezing seemed to have abated, and golden sand dunes sprung up along the roadside, red-orange from beneath my sunglasses. My god, the desert is actually pretty.

And that’s when I smashed into the back of another car.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fights: Preview — مصارعة: معاينة

Kushti or Pehlwani, south Asian wrestling; this time, in dirt
Just off Corniche Road, Rt. 103
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
(More on this later.)


Emirati bullfighting
Just off the Corniche, Rt. 99
Fujairah, United Arab Emirates
(More on this later.)


For a different kind of fighting:
Video from Afghanistan

عيد الفصح عند اليهود في ابو ظبي — Passover in Abu Dhabi

It happens. At least now it does.

“Seder”
Somewhere
Abu Dhabi, UAE

Welcome to the Desert, Call Me Sir

Sir Bani Yas is not the name of a long lost Arabian Knight, nor of an Englishman hidden away in the caves of the Emirates’ Western Region. It is a sizable island 250 kilometers down the coast from Abu Dhabi, reachable only by boat, and just a short ferry ride off the one road to Saudi Arabia.

Check-in for the resort — it is (of course) a resort — is on the mainland, miles away from the 34 square miles of desert island that was once as barren as its neighborhood coastline. But in 1971, the late ruler and founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed, built a palace on a hilltop, imported his favorite African animals à la carte, and established the island as a national reserve. And that — as they say in these parts — was that.

Read the rest of this entry »

The World’s Future — مستقبل العالم


When expecting anything from the organizers of the World Future Energy Summit, you are generally told that your energy will be better spent in the future. The global green technologies conference is coordinated by one company and subcontracted to another for general staffing, hosted in the national exhibition center but sponsored and organized by the real energy enterprise, Masdar, itself a subsidiary of a development company that is in turn owned by the government. The resulting backstage chaos is not only commonplace in the Emirates, it is essential to the expo experience, and the requisite favor-trading, blood clots, and temper tantrums administrators, assistants and the like could not feel whole without.

The key is to find someone who has stake — in anything. Generally, you are told to go over there, and when you get there, the word is still that the action is here. Here, there’s another there where you should be, and there, there’s yet another further there — that’s where you want to be. Except that it isn’t. Once you get far enough away, a misguided assistant (to someone so many degrees removed they don’t know the name of the company your contact works for) inquires gently if you’ve ever been to where you came from three hours ago. Yes, you’ll say, and collapse into a heap on the floor.

Read the rest of this entry »

Send-Off/Kickoff — توديع\بداية

For the next week or so, to send you off into the new year, INGULFED will turn into a photoblog with a picture or two posted every day. So spend your precious vacation time reading something more worthwhile, like Proust… or Twilight. To kick things off, here are some photos from the FIFA Club World Cup Final between Inter Milan (F.C. Internazionale Milano) and TP Mazembe Englebert, the cinderella story from the D.R. Congo.

Mazembe had a full brass band, permanent cheering line (unfazed and unfaltering down one, two, three goals), and zebra pelt in their section.

Goran Pandev draws first blood. (13′)

Eto’o’s got groceries. (17′)

Presented by Etihad.  Stewardesses. Merry Christmas.

Checkers

Nationalism is left outside the gates of the FIFA Club World Cup, where the winners of all six continental confederation cups (plus the host nation champion) are gathered in a kind of mini-Olympics. Inside the stadium, Pakistani and UAE locals go crazy for Inter Milan, watching as they demolish their Korean opponents. Sometimes its nice just to be on the winning side — many fans still wave FC Barcelona flags at the jumbotron cameras (last year’s winners, not even in the tournament).

Also left far outside the gates is the self-evident truth that all bags are created equally likely to be checked. No, here, bag-checking is a sophisticated process that involves profiling on many levels, bolstered by the analysis of “is this really worth it” on the part of the checkers. You never know whose father bought that bag.

Read the rest of this entry »

منتصف الطريق — Middle of the Road

At the fish market near the port and harbor, Mina, everything is way too easy. A four-pound fish fresh from the morning catch, a half-kilo of calamari, another half pound of shrimp — all for about 80 dirham (22 bucks). And around the side of the market, half a dozen grilling and frying experts wait outside their restaurants to spice and cook everything you’ve just bought right on the spot (25 dirham). Get some minty, spicy arabic salad (from the same guys) and a couple lemons (from next door) and it’s without a doubt the best lunch in the city (priceless).

Abu Dhabi is a city that lacks a middle. There isn’t much of a middle class, or a stable one at least — the kind that spends christmases in the UAE. And there aren’t a whole lot of midrange places to eat where a sandwich might cost eight bucks, coffee would cost two, and everything else would be something else average. Everything is either high or low.

Read the rest of this entry »

بار متسفايا — My Bar Mitzvah


They both took off their baseball caps, and under them — yarmulkes. Dressed and bearded to the nines of Hasidic custom, these two Chabad rabbis had come via Dubai from Brooklyn to light candles with relocated Jews on a legally nonspecific floor of our Abu Dhabi apartment building (lets call it twenty-three). It was the fifth night of Hanukkah, a night that for its inability to ever fall on the Sabbath — the week’s most holy day — is distinctly holy. The rabbis resolved the apparent paradox: clearly, this day must need no help to get holier.

The rabbis, henceforth Rabbi Bob and Rabbi Khaled (for puzzling social, possibly legal reasons), led the Hanukkah blessings, touching the shamas to all five candles, now burning brightly with the green light from the minarets below. Everyone felt that all around us, there was Islam and spirited expatriatism — not as marks of oppression, but as marks of distinction: what made us run-of-the-mill deli patrons in New York now made us bakers of homemade bagels and fasters at unpredictable seasons. And with shared distinction comes a kind of solidarity, a kind of fort-like refuge. Still, we mustn’t build a moat — the hardest part is joining together without snubbing those who aren’t gathered. But with blessed juices flowing, chocolate coins clinking against the tile floor, and kids screaming encouragement at their dreidels — that didn’t really seem like a problem.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: