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The United Arab Emirates, First Impressions

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Monday, 6 September 2010 | Views [502]

This is an email I wrote home after my first day in the UAE:


Dear all, I have completed my first day of the Arabland Induction process. The first stage was being told on the plane that it's 38 degrees centigrade outside and it's midnight. Then my mate tells me it's also very humid - bang went my dreams of very hot yet dry heat with perhaps the odd cool breeze and 18 degrees at night. It's the hottest climate I've ever been in easily. I think it got up to about 47 today, but we didn't spend much time outside. That will all change once we start working fulltime on the OUTDOOR PURSUITS programme.

Whoever dreamt of doing outdoor activities in this country must have been crazy, or just didn't care. The locals have the right idea - they just don't go outside. The arrogant Emirates (pure-bred locals) will even pull up in their big expensive 4x4's, shout from the car window at a poor indian in his little shop to get them what they want and tell him to carry the goods to their car - basically make a purchase without leaving the air-con of their car.

It's a wasteland here - there's nothing here. From what I can gather so far, somewhere along the way, the super-rich Sultans decided that they had money to burn and wanted the UK in their country and went about trying to force it. Problem is, their climate is awful and their land is awful. It's good for nothing except drilling for oil. It's utterly bizarre - there's big buildings sprouting up all over the place, mostly going to be hotels and you have to think 'who's going to live there'?

EDIT: There are grotty shops and a nice big mall with a supermarket, plus good diving, gorge-scrambling (when it's not roasting) and climbing nearby.

The 2nd stage of the Arabland Induction was to meet the arabs. I met my first one at the Visa desk. He was sat with his feet up on the desk texting on his Blackberry. When he'd finished, he decided he might as well do a bit of work and quickly put me through the eye scan with not even a hint of caring. Every arab I met in the airport was playing with their mobile while doing a bit of work at the same time. They just don't care and seem very aloof.

There's distinct class divides here - at the top you've got the royalty and their pictures are everywhere. Then you've got the emirates - rich local arabs who think they are the most important people in the world and treat the indian immigrant workers like, erm, 'poo', Mother. I've heard these Indians earn about £200 a month for working in the midday heat doing hard manual jobs. I haven't seen one of their buses yet but apparently they get ferried around in buses with no air-con, which would be unbearable. And they work 14-hour days. Apparently, in Dubai, the security can be really bad at times because the indian security guards are too afraid to assert themselves to westerners, in case they get into trouble. It all gets a bit depressing really. Most of the guys I've met who work here hate this country and I can understand it. It's the attitude of the emirates towards the 'lower classes'. Westerners come here to work for the big money and I'm pretty sure no-one would if it wasn't for that. The Sultans want westerners in to do the jobs that their people can't do, or to train their people how to do it. Like I said, it's like they're trying to force a UK when they just don't have the land or climate for it.

I'm quite happy though because I've got the hotel and I can go diving and stuff, but there's just alot of people who can't and it's in your face the whole time.

Anyway, onto brighter things. The 3rd stage of the Arabland Induction was to wake up this morning and look out of the window to take in the view. Well, there isn't a view, it's just a wasteland really - a decrepit building here, a half-finished hotel skeleton there, a struggling lone tree in the sand etc etc. And then the heat. Well, let me tell you it's hot. When you step outside it feels just like a sauna, except more humid. Not QUITE as hot as a sauna, but really not far off at all. The breeze does nothing to cool you down. When you put your hand in the sea it's really strange because you know your hand is wet but you can't really feel anything because the water is exactly the same temperature as the air around you.

Today was mostly spent in air-conditioned rooms getting told alot of things. They seem like a very professional company - well organised. Everywhere's air-conditioned here (except for the indians' buses and labour-camps). It would be virtually impossible to function without it. Apparently it takes about 2 weeks to acclimatise and it gets a little bit easier. So our job is to take outdoor development to the arabs and show them why it's great idea to do strenuous activities in the desert, risking heat-stroke, when they could be inside with their air-con. Most of the clients are military recruits, some towards the end of their training before going out to Afghanistan to complete it. Others are arab teenagers who have been deemed to be bad and it's our job to show them they can be ok too if they want to be. Some of them are massive apparently. Someone told me today that one was so big he sunk a double-kayak. Not sure how exactly that happened.

I passed my company driving-test, which consisted of driving around a bit trying to work out why there's no road markings anywhere. I still passed even though I started on the wrong side of the road.

We finished work about 3 o'clock and a few of us went to the gym to try and work miracles on our bodies. Then a shower, then the pool outside, which was fantastic. It's lovely in the pool and then you can doze on the sunbeds and it was the time of day when the sun is low in the sky and the warm air was lovely. We then went en-mass to a local restaurant. We had a huge meal which was nice too, all for 13 dirhams each, which is about £3. BARGAIN ;-)

I could write more but I've put you through enough already. Basically, it's been alright so far and an eye-opener too.



Tags: emirates, middle east, the emirates, uae, united arab emirates



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