21 hours ago
Friday, July 9, 2010
Dinner at the Lebanese Flower
I'm in Abu Dhabi. Soaking it all in. Still in that dream world where everything just seems a little off. Here's the whirlwind summary to catch you up:
Flight to Amsterdam: no sleep but got to watch "Date Night" which I've been wanting to catch in the theaters at home but never got around to. Also watched a great Indian movie with subtitles "Paa"...highly recommend. Sat next to Liam who was on his way to Ireland to visit his grandmother. We got very intimate. I couldn't help myself: I tickled his feet under the blanket. Before you get all excited for me I have to tell you the Liam is 4-years old and would have talked to me the whole way if I hadn't worn out and put my earphones in.
The two-and-a-half layover in Amsterdam I spent walking the kinks out. Stocked up on gin at the duty free and also salami's (and cheese) at the Holland shop. The salamis were an after thought due to the unavailability of pork product here in UAE. The gin and salami were very happily received on this end. (Note to future visitors: salami and gin are good presents).
Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi, got a good snooze in (thank you Ambien!) and arrived on time, fairly rested. My welcome team had gotten stuck behind a multi-truck accident on the airport road so I arrived to no welcoming committee. Clearing customs was so easy: the guy didn't even ask the purpose of my visit. When I came out and there was no one there to greet me I talked myself out of a panic and settled in to watch the "crowd." The airport is not that big: not for a capital of a country. Immediately I notice the dress: most women are in abaya of varying degrees of privacy (abaya are the (usually) black gowns the Muslim women wear). Some women are completely veiled with no visible eye holes. Some just slits for eyes. Most have their full faces showing. I find the fully veiled and just slits for eyes un-nerving.
As I am going over options in my head about where to go and how to get there because my ride has not shown (I had a great Maguiver plan started) Melissa and Manuel come running down the hallway. When we step out of the airport building I am nearly knocked to my knees by the hot heat. Very much like the steam sauna Julie and I had at Olympus Spa. Supposedly it's already cooling down as it's after 8 PM but I am impressed with the heat none the less.
We drive through the City and I soak in the traffic, the lights, the "Arabic strip mall" feeling of the first floor retail in all the buildings we pass. Soon we are at our building and cirle around a few blocks until we find a space to land the car. I had heard about the creative parking in Abu Dhabi and am still impressed with what I see. Cars nosed in wherever there is (just barely) adequate clearance. We find a place within a half block of our flat, fortunately, as we have big bags to move in this hot temperature.
We take the elevator to our flat (floor 13 of the 15 floor building). Transpo has two flats on this floor. Currently they are "the boys' flat" and "the girls' flat." Melissa lets us in to the girls' which will be my homebase for the next month or so. Rose is on vacation in the states for a few more weeks so for now I have my own room and Melissa has the other. The flat is quite decent. I'll post pictures in a future post (haven't taken many yet, and besides, I hear uploading the pictures takes a lot of time and if I stop to wait for that I will surely pass out from exhaustion). The whole flat has ceilings 10+ feet high. Nicely airconditioned (which I find out all indoor spaces, including cars, are at all times), whitewashed walls. Large living room with big bright gold overstuffed furniture, a large flatscreen TV (with sattelite cable), a simple dining room set and really, really tacky art work (think hotel art) on the walls. There are two bathrooms (one with tub), both with bidets and with these spiggot hoses (I mean like the sink spayers with the kitchen sinks) next to the toilet. There has been much speculation among the team as to what people do with those hoses. I will have to ask a native once I get to know one well enough. Picture to come. The kitchen is small: fortunately the stove has a panel that comes down over the burners to provide extra counter space when not cooking. There's a decent amount of cupboard space. However I can't reach most of it as they go all the way to the ceiling, which as I noted earlier, is really high. There's a funny looking clothes washing machine and a very small deck with just enough room for a garbage pail and a clothes rack. Melissa and I were speculating if you could grown a tomato plant or herbs...something we might try some day. I looked around and said "too bad there's no dishwasher." To which Melissa said "yes we do. Maid comes every other day." That will take some getting used to but I am willing to learn.
The two bedrooms are decent sized with lots of closet space. Of course I can only use about half of the space. I can barely reach the hanging rods of the lower half. There could be all kinds of things in the top but I'd never know. Have no idea how folks reach the cabinets that high.
After we drop off our bags we walked about a block and a half to the "Lebanese Flower" restaurant. Had a delicious meal of hummus, babaganoush (eggplant dip), fatoush (a salad of tomato, cucumber, herbs and fried bread) and mixed grill. Absolutely delicious. I will not starve in this country. We are seated in the upper level of the restaurant, the "family level" and adjacent to us is a family of about 20. A little girl at the table notices us (we look very different than most folks around here) and stands at the end of our table and stares at us. The whole meal. This seems fine with the parents: we are good entertainment for a restless child. When we are done she grabs a hand full of leaves off the houseplant nearby and tosses it in our direction. This does get her parents attention and she if finally called back to the table. I forget what drink I ordered but Melissa ordered a "cocktail" which in this Muslim (dry) country means a beautiful looking fruit concoction made with avocado, mango and other fruits, There are a few almonds and other tidbits on the bottom. Something I will have to order in the future. This yummy dinner comes to the equivalent of $150 Durhams, divided three ways that's about $13.
After dinner we walk to the Al Wadah mall, across the street (using the underground passage) to get some cash from the ATM (it worked! phew). We wandered around a bit so I could see what it was like, including a tour of LuLu, the grocery store. I'll save a description of that for a future post. From there we returned to our flat through the sauna that is my unairconditioned world now. Downed an Ambien just to assure a good night's sleep and made it through until the call to prayer shocked me into "where the heck am I" awakening sometime early this morning.
It's been a full day since then, which I will give details on later, maybe tomorrow before we leave for Dubai. It's been a full and pleasant day. I am still in shock that I have moved here, but hopeful that it will be survivable, maybe even thrivable. Sweet dreams to all.
Posted by Lou Woods