Archive for March, 2008

Dubai World Cup: Querying the Queues

March 30, 2008


Yesterday was the Dubai World Cup.  Along with 50,000 other people I went along to the racecourse to socialise and take in some of the atmosphere.

We knew the traffic would be bad and it lived up to expectations. We’d booked a taxi and pre-booked and already collected our tickets (thanks Jaymster) to the International Village where they served alcohol.  The taxi dropped us off about 500 metres walk to the entrance which was not too bad considering the afternoon sun and me wearing a suit.  We arrived at about 4.20 which we thought was reasonable as the bar opened at 4 and the first race was not till 5.  The gates opened at 2 but hardly anyone was there at that time because you could not get a drink. 

The queue to get in was incredible.  Some people were waiting in the queue for 90 minutes – no toilets, no water and very warm weather.  I’ve read that others were in the queue for more than 2 hours and then some needed to add another hour if they had not already picked up their tickets. 

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As with any queue, there is a choke point and any processing system improvement consultant will tell you to work on these points to streamline the flow.  The choke point was the security system with two airport security devices for people to walk through for the 10,000 people trying to get in.  When it was my turn, I placed my mobile phone in my jacket – put it on table on the side of the machine, walked through and then picked up my jacket.  No-one checked the jacket.  I must have looked honest.  Girls with handbags were checked in a different queue.  It makes the current problems with Heathrow look relatively tame. 

The reasoning was to protect the dignatories.  My initial thought of the security was to protect us from terrorists and that this was crazy as someone could just walk up to the queue and cause carnage before the security system.  But the real issue was to protect the rich and famous inside.  It makes me relish the excellent systems in place for AFL football in Melbourne with 100,000 people filling in to the MCG.  Lots of gates for entering, minimal security checks (checking bags mainly for alcohol), and easy ticket collection.

We spent most of the time at the Bubble Lounge.  Champagne was only French- it cost a bomb – 500 dirhams or 160 Australian dollars for the cheapest bottle – and you could not buy a beer inside that particular enclosure.  The insiders were only interested in socialising – the hats were fantastic, the dresses very nice, the fillies were quite noice as well Kimmie (Australian cultural TV joke) and we spent some time deciphering tattoos.  Oaks Day in Melbourne revisited!

We did see the horses occasionally but as no gambling was allowed, the horse racing was more of a distraction rather than the main event.  Apparently Curlin won the main race but I was in the queue at the toilets at the time. 

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Of course, there was another queue to catch a taxi coming home.  None of these guys had ever seen how to arrange a taxi queue at a major airport and so you had only two or four cabs being filled with people whereas you could have easily had 16 to 20 cabs being filled at a time.  Only 35 minutes in the taxi queue as we left straight after the main race.

I’ve been here two weeks now and it seems that this epitomises Dubai in some respects.  Fantastic facilities, very modern but that some things are still not properly bedded down with inappropriate regulations or operations. 

Head for the Hills!

March 29, 2008


Yesterday I went for a drive to the East Coast.  It was something I was going to do the other day but now armed with two road maps, compass, hat, binoculars, field guide and bathers, I was ready. 

I took the longer way by the freeways this time to skip the traffic.  By just after 8 am, I was on route 88 heading for the East Coast of the UAE.  Success at last!

Dubai is flat – dead flat.  I’d seen some hills in the distance in my recent peregrinations and wanted to explore them a bit more.  The Hajar Mountains remind me a little bit of the McDonnell Ranges in central Australia except here there is far less vegetation!  I went off road a few times to do some exploring – the Yaris was thrilled.  The terrain is very steep with low shrubs, very dry grasses and the odd small trees that the goats seem to keep under control.  Birdlife is sufficient to keep a hardened birdwatcher entertained!  A few goats around as well in the mountains while the camels are in the sand on the flat.

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From Masafi I headed north to Dibba and then down the coast a bit to Al Aqah.  Dibba is home to pottery (hence these amazing monuments in the middle of a roundabout). 

Dibba Pottery

The East Coast was pretty but relatively humid compared with the drier mountains. There are a couple of resort hotels but they seem right out of place.  I was hoping that I might be able to see some forests or glades of trees but it was still the same very dry desert environment.  Highlights were a couple of Hoopoes (one of my favourite birds) and a Purple Sunbird that rudely interrupted a mobile phone call home (the bird was higher priority this time, sorry Lyn!).


Sandy BeachWent for a swim at Sandy Beach near Snoopy Island – a beautiful spot next to a resort where the expats hang out (the locals go to another nearby beach).  Lots of gulls and terns to keep me amused trying to identify them. 
Came back a different way via Ras Al Khaimah and found some other wetlands after climbing the top of a coastal dune.  More flamingos with lots of waders that I could not get close to but could pick out Curlew, Redshank and Oystercatcher.  Up to 45 species in total now for the UAE!

Al Riffa wetlands

Back home by 7.30 pm quite tired after driving about 400 km.  Feeling a lot more grounded now having got out and about a bit to see the countryside.

Off to the Dubai World Cup today!!  Sort of like Melbourne Cup and Oaks Day all rolled into one.  Not too sure about having to wear my suit today but it’s an evening program so it should have cooled down a bit later.                                                                                                                      

An explosive morning

March 26, 2008

Woke up to the clearest morning yet since I have arrived in Dubai.  Good visibility right down Sheik Zayed Road and I worked out that I can just see the top bit of the Burj (tallest building in the world) poking up from a building in the foreground plus as well fairly good views of the Burj Al Arab (the 7 star hotel with the round helipad).  You can make out the latter hotel on the left hand side of this photo.
A clear morning
Decided to celebrate with a beautiful run along the beach.  Lyn would have loved to have done Qi Gong down there this morning – clear and fresh – but hardly anyone swimming! 
Came back and the view had changed a bit.  About 7.30 this morning there was an explosion in a factory in the industrial area about 10 km away.  My photo is not nearly as good as the ones in the Gulf News.  Apparently, people had been storing illegal fireworks in a toy factory. 
explosion in al quoz

Home is where the TV and Internet is on

March 25, 2008

Been a couple of days since I posted so I thought I had better put something to paper (oops keyboard).  I am now sitting on the couch in my apartment with the laptop on my lap with the Internet connected.  And what’s more, cable TV is back on as well although the channels remain as they previously were with the 120 non-English channels and about 30 ones that I can understand.  Even so, there is not much choice and there are hardly any sports channels – one Dubai sports and a couple of AlJazeera sport channels don’t really count.  Might need to buy a router so that I can have both going at the same time the Internet connection does both).

Tonight I went to the Mall of the Emirates where I parked under the ski slope.

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Just to be able to have dinner, buy some bread and maybe find a Spinneys (local Supermarket chain) as David found a Field Guide to the Birds of Arabia there.  OK with the first couple, no luck with the Spinneys.  Tomorrow maybe.

Celebrations today that the work on Kiva has finally completed!  Now to start paying it off!

Plans for the weekend is to go bush on the Friday (I’ve bought some maps so it will be harder to get lost!) and then to the Dubai World Cup horse racing on Saturday. 

Easter Sunday at Work – and “The Eye”

March 24, 2008

It’s Easter Sunday and no chocolate for me.  The Easter Bunny must have got lost on the way.  Besides, I think that the chocolate would melt on his trip but then again, when a whole aisle at Geant is devoted to chocolates of countless varieties, I think there is still a healthy market for them here in Dubai.

So Easter Sunday and off to work – sounds crazy but true.  A busy day redesigning the wiki into a project plan. 

Tonight I went off to the Ibn Battuta mall again for dinner (I will cook again some day) and a movie.  I saw “The Eye” with Jessica Alba – well I wouldn’t have minded seeing the film with Jessica on my arm but she was on the screen instead.  Sort of a thriller Ghost Whisperer type of movie.  Kept my attention all the way through which was good (Jessica did, the plot was off the planet only a couple of times – not bad for a US flick).  But typical Hero’s story plot that is too-often repeated in US culture.  But not a bad way to spend a night.  Had to laugh though as I could choose my seat allocation – even though there were only about 20 people in a 200 seat theatre.  So I got the one that opened on to the aisle so I could stretch the long legs (typical Luke seat, Lyn, I know). 

Biggest news is that David found a copy of the field guide to Arabian birds at Spinneys – a local supermarket type store.  Will go there myself and see if I can source a copy. 

So no photos today – here are a couple then of previous days to keep you amused. Just a couple of shots of the animals that you can see on the beach at the Hilton down from my apartment – lots of sights to behold!

Camels at the HiltonBeach at JBR