September 2008

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EĪd mubārak

We can eat in public again. It’s a glorious day in Dubai! Beth and I just returned from having lunch out. We gave our doorman a gift of hazelnut dates. It’s like Christmas here. Everyone is “Eid Mubarak”ing everyone else. There were fireworks last night once word reached everyone that the moon was officially sighted by the proper authorities, and nobody is working today.

Very sorry about the lack of posts lately. As you can see from the last one I have a job now. So that is taking a lot of my free time. I’m not used to working; it’s a tough transition. It’s made even more difficult given the fact that the job I’m jumping into is one of the most demanding ever. The Masdar team is attempting to build a city for 45,000 people in three years and also have it redefine every assumption that we’ve had building cities for the last 500 years. So for example, there are not really streets. This makes construction a little difficult because you can’t maneuver mobile cranes through the city. The PRT (personal rapid transit) system is being designed at the same time as the infrastructure is being built to carry it. Needless to say, coordination is very important and a little demanding.

We’ll be leaving tomorrow on a trip to Muscat, so we’ll post lots of pictures and stories on Saturday night when we get back.

Masdar

This is the project that I’ll be working on with Yamasaki starting today. The company has some other major projects in the area that I may help out on as well, but I’m told that this will be my main focus. Here are some other links to the master plan done by Foster + Partners. The Abu Dhabi Masdar Initiative site is here.



I don’t know much more about this yet. They are just breaking ground now on the gateway building that contains the visitor parking area where the electronic personal conveying system picks you up. Yamasaki is just one of the architects that is working under Fosters + Partners on the actual design development through construction but if this building is executed well, they may get a majority of the buildings in the new city.

Coasting North

Yesterday, Elizabeth and I decided to just start driving north. It was a day full of beaches, camels, fruit stands, and other interesting sites and sounds. I had hoped to make it as far as the mountains but we had to turn back before then because we had to be home by 17. Below are some photos that tell the story of the day.






















This may have to be our new dentist who advertises with the great yellow tooth…





Little Things

It’s the little things that are the icing on the Dubai treat. There are the really thought-provoking little things (Elizabeth is getting inspired so often that she now has a list of about ten projects that she wants to put together). Then there are also the shallower variety little things and that is what this post is dedicated to.


This is the kind of greatness that you can find on the shelves of the hypermarket. We haven’t tried it yet but we’ll let you know how it ‘goes’ when we do. It’s hard to see in this image, but we love the ® in the before/after graphic and it’s also interesting that they have such a strong warning about not using water that is too hot.


We had fun last night trying some of the more interesting fruits that are available at the hypermarket. The custard apple really does taste like custard, the chickoo is like caramel cotton candy, and you can’t go wrong with a good guava.


Birds of the Emirates

Elizabeth is beside herself this morning after seeing a couple of these little guys just outside of her office window at the university.



Clicking on the photo will take you to the source blog “Experiencing The Emirates”

Birding is a huge pastime here since the variety of species is so vast and exotic, especially in the winter months coming up when migratory birds are stopping in on their way south.

Dubai International Financial Center

Last night we went to the DIFC to a dinner/meeting regarding the arts in Dubai, attended by art professors from universities around Dubai and Sharjah. We got to meet some great new people. After the dinner, we joined a mingling mass of art society types outside of an exhibition that was opening that night about photos related to the religious pilgrimage to Mecca. We sort of mingled for a half hour while everyone waited for the royal family member to arrive who was tasked with cutting the ribbon to the room where the photos were hung. We didn’t last long enough to see the show but we did get our photograph taken by a journalist who also wrote down our names on a crumpled piece of paper. I’d say to look for us in the society pages but I would be surprised if the correct section of the crumpled paper ever successfully was re-associated with the printed photograph, so it’s a long shot.















Maiden Voyage

We picked up the car today at around 13:30. It took all morning to get it insured and registered and then we were finally in. Elizabeth drove it off the lot, or she would have driven it off the lot, except that when we got to the door of the garage, we noticed that the only way out was blocked by a big tanker truck that was filling up or emptying its contents. So we waited. Then when they were finished, the truck would not start. So we waited and waited. After a while Beth had had enough driving and we switched seats. And watched as the men tried this and fooled with that, and attempted to start it again and again. Finally one of the employees who was on his way home and who was also blocked by the truck got involved. Beth noticed that if the dealership had the keys to a couple of cars that were parked next to the truck that we could get around the truck and eventually that is what we did.



So we picked up our friend, Nina, and went to look for some art galleries.

And we found three after a little searching. It just so happens that they are in the neighborhood right next to ours in a warehouse district called Al Quoz. The first one we saw was the Third Line Gallery where there was a photography exhibit. Interesting use of fire with film and contact sheets as prints. Also a well put together narrative piece around love, ennui, and war in Jordan and Israel.





Then it was off to B21 where there were paintings by an Iranian artist. More than half of them were sold and the show was only up a week or so. The paintings were listed at about USD5000 each and so we were remarking more about how quickly art sells here than the show itself which was impressive in its stylistic consistency but not the aesthetic cup of tea that Beth or I would enjoy.





The last gallery we saw was the Jam Jar which is more of a community oriented gallery. They were setting up for a piece about Soffreh which is billed as a digestible food installation and performance piece. So of course we all got ourselves quickly on the reservation list for next week’s performance. I’ll be sure to write about that then.





Nina had a dinner to attend at the home of the Dean of her school and so we headed off toward his part of town near International City. We got lost which was to be expected and we ended up at a mall in Mirdif where we dropped Nina off at a cab waiting there. It was too late to keep searching and we figured the cab would know the way. But as it turns out, we decided to try our luck going that direction anyway afterwards and of course Beth had been right about the way we should have been going all along. So we did find our way to International City, probably following close behind Nina’s cab though we didn’t see her. Right next to International City happens to be Dragonmart. It is one of the biggest malls in the world, the largest trading hub for Chinese goods outside of China, and it’s dedicated to all things over the top. You can see it from space and it’s even shaped like a dragon.
We loved it. Really there were some great things in there amid the kitsch, and some things that maybe just we thought were great. There were a lot of architectural interiors stuff like tile and fixtures and fabricators of things. Almost everything was extremely inexpensive and can be custom made to your specifications if you like.















Lazy Friday

Beth and I spent most of the day laying around the house today. We watched a couple movies on MBC which is a really great set of stations in English with Arabic subtitles. And we went to Lu Lu Hypermarket and got goodies that we’ve been snacking on all day. After this post I think we’ll work out a little and maybe have a jump in the pool.


Here’s Beth getting on the “school bus”. It’s the shuttle that takes the people living at Summerland Apartment Building to the University. Doesn’t she look beautiful?


This is the Burj al Arab, the tallest and most expensive hotel in the world, etc. Notice how the sunlight reflects off of the glass into three beams of light that stand out against the sky. As you drive down Sheikh Zayed road at the right time of day it is really impressive how bright the beams of light are.






The Peugeot dealership.


We’re not sure what this is. It’s about 5 inches long. We pushed it with a stick and it was squishy. It’s been there for a week across the street from our apartment building entrance. It might be an alien life form. It seems to be dormant so we’re not going to poke it anymore.

Carlessness

If all goes according to plan, we will have the car Saturday. I apologize for the lack of new photographs this week. Not having a car is holding us back from doing more exploring. And we’re really working now, Elizabeth at her job and me at landing one. I’m also writing a small article for a publication about Abu Dhabi despite the fact that I’ve never been there. And I’ve finally figured out this whole metric scale thing so that I can get down to really designing the tower for the competition that I entered into. But I promise to have something more graphic next time I write.

We attempted to get our liquor license yesterday, but we did not have all of our ducks in a straight enough row. We were missing a stamp from the University which we did not know that we needed. It’s funny because the University is where the form came from so it’s odd that they didn’t stamp it before distributing it. We also need another ORIGINAL letter with a stamp and a blue signature declaring Elizabeth’s monthly salary and we only had a copy of that. Additionally, I get to sign a letter as Elizabeth’s husband that states officially that I have no objection to her purchasing alcohol, even though it is her job right now that is providing the means to do so which struck me as the most blatant establishment discrimination example that we have come across here. All of this just so that we can enjoy a little wine with dinner in our own home. We did get to walk into the store last night and it has a wonderful selection.

We have a 3.5G mobile USB modem now that just started working yesterday.


This means that I’m writing at this very moment from our apartment. It also means that I’ve been wasting time online more than I should be, but I’m making up for lost time. We can get phone calls now at our 412 number while we are at home and the computer is on. We had a nice skype call with mom and dad once this morning before they went to bed on the East coast and once this afternoon after they woke up (I think still on the East coast). And we had a call with Karen last evening too. We can’t tell you all how thrilled we are to be out of the desert of mall internet. It’s not cheap to have this thing but neither was paying the mall $5 per hour.

Elizabeth and I got up early and used the gym upstairs this morning for the first time. We couldn’t figure out all the equipment but it was fun. I ran 4 times around the track with the treadmill and Beth used the bicycle and some of the weights. Tonight I think I might try and tackle the steam room…

Fasten Your Seatbelts

I finally have the video up that I shot a week ago. You can see it broadcasting on the screen to the left and you can click “full screen”, or the link at the upper right “mogulus” will take you to the channel at the hosting site. It may stream better there and you will also see our nifty banner marquee (ha ha).
The soundtrack is entirely from the car stereo so you may be impressed by the quality. I apologize also about the dirty windshield during parts of this. I thought it would contribute a stunning sense of nouveau-realism to the film but I was wrong. Also I was out of wiper fluid.

Here are some random photos:


This one is for Sarah. As you can clearly see in this photo, Pittsburgh and Dubai are cosmically linked as sharing a unique liberality about which way one orients one’s car while parking on a two-way street.


Yes. We are tempted but have not done it yet.


A lot of the trucks around here are decorated beautifully like they belong to Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. Of course we’re going to step up when we finally get the Peugeot which may be this week.

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