Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oh dear oh dear Marlon you idiot!

Those that know me well will know I am an avid Watford FC fan (Championship League, UK - soccer). One of our heroes from a few seasons ago was Marlon King. In the season before we last got promoted to The Premiership he was our top goal scorer and became a Watford “god”. Through the season chants were sung regularly through the matches of “E i e i e i o,  up the Football League we go, when we win promotion we are going to sing, we’ve got Marlon we’ve got Marlon we’ve got Marlon King! “.

 

We knew Marlon had a short spell in jail for getting involved with a stolen car, but I guess he was just viewed as a loveable rogue. The picture below was taken at the 2007 Club Awards night when I sat on the same table as him.

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Now, however, a more sinister side of Marlon has been revealed (see below from BBC website). I don’t know why so many footballers think they can behave like this. Too much money, being fawned over so they really think they are “god”. Maybe in that way, I am part of the problem. We put these guys up so high, they think they are way above everyone else.

I feel very disappointed in the guy, but alas it seems he is just a total idiot.

By the way, he has a property on The Palm, so if you know where it is you can probably get a good rental deal on it – he won’t be needing it for a while!

Wigan to sack jailed striker King

Marlon King

King will be left without a club once he has served his sentence

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan says Marlon King will never play for the club again after he was jailed for 18 months.

The striker, 29, was found guilty of sexual assault and actual bodily harm after he had been "cold-shouldered" by a female student in a London nightclub.

The incident occurred last December while he was on loan at Hull.

Whelan told BBC Radio 5 live: "We will now be in the process of severing his contract. To say the least I am really, really disappointed."

Whelan, who only learned on Tuesday that King was on trial at Southwark Crown Court, must follow Premier League rules and pay the player's wages for 14 days before terminating his contract.

The Latics chairman went on: "It's really upsetting and it just sets such a bad example for any youngster coming through who wants to be a professional footballer.

"He was on loan at the time to Hull City but I don't blame Hull City. Marlon King has got to accept full responsibility for this."

After groping and punching his victim at the Soho Revue Bar, breaking her nose, King briefly returned to Hull before spending a subsequent spell on loan at Middlesbrough.

The father of three, born in Dulwich, south London, finally made his way back to Wigan in the summer, but is now left without a club.

In 2002 King served five months of a two-year prison sentence for handling a stolen car before being released on appeal.

Whelan explained how King had kept the club in the dark about the incident.

"It's been kept quite secret by the player. We knew he did something but we didn't know exactly what it was. When you read how serious it was, I mean striking a girl and breaking her nose and messing about like that, we didn't realise the severity of what was happening here.

"We knew he'd been charged with something but I was shocked by what he had actually done and I was shocked by the sentence. But if he deserves it then he's got to do it.

Marlon King

The jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict against King

"I sat down with Marlon at the start of the season and said 'Marlon, if you want to play for Wigan Athletic you've got to settle down, train hard and go on the field and give your best.

"He never mentioned anything about this case and he promised me that he was going to train hard and he actually has trained hard, I have to say that.

"Once he's served his sentence, if he manages to get back into football, so be it, but he will never pull on the shirt of Wigan Athletic again."

The Jamaica international started his league career with Barnet, before moving to Gillingham.

He was also signed to Nottingham Forest, who briefly loaned him out to Leeds United, and subsequently Watford.

In January 2008, he made his move to Wigan for an initial £3m on a three-and-a-half year contract with a £40,000-a-week salary.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

For Bert!

Bert, a fellow blogger (http://bandkschmid.blogspot.com/) , was trying to get some friends of his to understand what the parking is like in Abu Dhabi. He blogged a few pictures of mine, but I’m not sure they were the best examples of the problem.

Below is a picture taken tonight showing the parking area for my apartment block. There are 16 marked bays to serve the occupants of 72 apartments – hence the problem. At least we have 8 bays, most blocks do not have any. A wider view would show every available piece of road real estate that could possibly be used for parking (and some of the pavement), is used – leaving the narrowest of passages for a car to get through.

The protocol is to leave your mobile number on your windscreen so if someone needs you to move your car you can be contacted. If you cannot be contacted, after a while the police will be called and your car will be towed away.

Because of this system, parking spaces that are not blocking anyone else are like gold dust! It saves getting a call at some unearthly hour to move your car!

Bert – feel free to use it!

apartmentparking

It was only a matter of time…..

There is a new motorway opened that runs from the port area of Abu Dhabi across Saadiyat Island, over Yas Island and then joins the main Abu Dhabi to Dubai motorway. It cuts off about 20-30 mins. from my journey to Dubai. I have travelled to Dubai 6 days out of the last 8, so I have made pretty good use of it. Tonight on my way back I saw the inevitable – the first accident I have seen on it. I’m sure there must have been others but it’s the first I have seen. A car had driven into the side of a small van. The police were on the scene and had closed off 2 of the inside lanes.

Now, bearing in mind that there are 5 lanes each way and as yet there are very few cars on this road, I kind of think it is probably harder to hit something, than not!

…. this place is full of idiots!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Prayers

The mosque nearest our apartment is is always heaving on a Friday. Worshippers spill out into the overflow area and onto the roads and surrounding shop doorways. Today seemed particularly busy. The whole road junction was packed with men praying.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

White is the new silver….

Back home I would guess the most popular colour for cars would be silver… here it is most definitely white!

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Raffles Dubai today

I was at a business event today at Raffles, Dubai. I’d never been to the hotel before, but it looked very nice.

The meeting room next to ours was hosting a meeting of the UAE National Olympic Committee. We were told that we either had to leave our room and go to the restaurant at 12 noon, or wait until 1pm, because they had a Sheikh visiting next door at 12.15.

When I left a little after lunch, there was quite an array of very expensive cars parked at the entrance. I couldn’t resist taking a video clip. I pan across, taking a quick look at the two Government black Mercedes (reg numbers 208 and 209). From left to right there was: Bentley Continental, Aston Martin convertible, Range Rover, McLaren Mercedes 722S Roadster (only 150 made), Audi RS6 Special Edition, another McLaren Mercedes (!), 7 Series BMW, another Range Rover! Certainly over a million quids worth I reckon….here’s the video clip:-

video

Here’s a picture of the water feature in the hotel lobby (sorry, only from my phone)

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Mosque

New Mosque on 30th St.

I took this photo the other night on my way back from the F1 Fan Zone. It’s a new mosque that is soon to be opened. It’s of a modern design that has caused some stirrings amongst the traditionalists. There was an article about the subject recently in the paper together with some photos of some other new more radical mosque designs.

How should a mosque look? - The National Newspaper

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Desert Meet

Caroline is regular on the Abu Dhabi Women's Forum. One of the friends she has made there goes on regular 4x4 outings into the desert. Yesterday we joined them. We all met up at a service station just outside Abu Dhabi city on the way to Al Ain. I guess there was about 15 cars, 3 (including us) in saloon cars. We drove further towards Al Ain and then off into the farm areas in on a tarmac road into the desert. At a convenient spot we all stopped. The 4x4's let some air out of their tires and the saloons were left behind. We then made a short trip across the dunes to form a "base camp". There we set up out chairs/gazebos/BBQs etc.
























































Others had brought quad bikes, motocross bikes and remote control dune buggies.


















Some of there experienced members offered to take out some first timers on a simple dune run. It was right about now that I really wished I still had mine! Instead I went out in a friend's Nissan Pathfinder with him driving. When an experienced driver is driving it looks all so easy, but for the newbies we had to stop every few minutes as another one got stuck - including my friend at one point!


























After all the driving etc, some serious BBQing was in order as the sun set and the night turned black. We finished eating a drinking under the stars.


All in all a very enjoyable afternoon....












Abu Dhabi Big Band

The ADBB played at the British School Al Khubairat on Wednesday night in support of the school's own Big Band and Jazz ensemble. Some home video footage was taken by the mother of the pianist, so he is heavily featured - and I am sat right in front of him!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-GHAuGr2YI

Friday, October 16, 2009

Trip to Jordan

We had a fantastic few days in Jordan and I can highly recommend it as a destination to visit. We spent 5 nights in all; 1 in Amman, 1 in Petra, 2 at The Dead Sea and another in Amman. The country has loads of really interesting places to visit and right now the weather is great - it was lovely to actually have a couple of cool nights in Amman walking around the city in the evening. Below was our itinerary with some links to pictures. In no way am I attempting to make this a visitors guide -there are plenty of good ones already (we used the "Globetrotter Travel Guide" which is available on Amazon and came with a good travel map too), but just a snapshot of what we did and what we found interesting.

Here is the route we took:-



Day 1

We flew into Queen Alia Airport and picked up a car from Reliable Rent a Car. They were indeed reliable and had much better rates than the international companies. The car however did leave a little to be desired! It had a windscreen wiper blade that was shredded, so I couldn't clean the screen, a front tire that was well worn and most disconcertingly, the brake pads and discs were also obviously well worn judging by the juddering when braking! Not very reassuring when you see some of the mountain roads we crossed. However, we have equally heard horror stories from people hiring from the main car hire companies too. So if you are going to die, you may as well do it cheaper and leave more in your estate!

We checked into the Al Qasr Metropole hotel which I would rate as a 3 star hotel, which was all we wanted for this stop over. It was clean and the staff were friendly, so that was fine. We discovered when we arrived that there was a parade taking place to celebrate their countries centenary. It was going to be in the "Downtown" area which we wanted to head to anyway, so we made tracks.

Amman was known in Biblical times as Rabbath-Ammon, capital of the Ammonites who fort many wars against the Israelites (no change there then!). In the 3rd century it was renamed Philadelphia after the Ptolematic ruler Philadelphus. Like Rom, Amman was built on 7 hills. On one one them you can see The Citadel, site of the ancient Rabbath-Ammon. In the museum you can also see some of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

A walk down the hill takes you to the Roman Forum and Theatre and it was in this area that we watched the parade. They were celebrating all aspects of their society, so even the municipality workers were featured - which they looked very happy about!


Amman, Jordan 09/10/09

Day 2

We got up in good time and started the journey to Petra. We wanted to make good time so we took the Desert Highway, rather than the Kings Highway, which is a slower more scenic route that we would take on the way back. When we arrived at Petra, after about 3 hours, we checked into our hotel, The Valley Stars Hotel. I would say this was a 2 star hotel, but again was clean staff again were friendly and helpful. We were happy with a budget hotel for this stay as we were only going to be there for one night to put our head down.

After checking in we headed down to the main Petra sight. What we saw was absolutely amazing and will stay with us forever - honestly it was that good. Some fascinating sights and stunning scenery. It is definitely "must-do" if you go to Jordan and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city was created by the Nabateans, a great trading race who moved into southern Jordan from the Arabian Peninsular 2000 years ago. They made Petra their capital and controlled the trade routes from Africa to India and China. The city's decline started after the area was conquered by the Romans who eventually changed the trading routes. Earthquakes further destroyed parts of the city and it was abandoned. It was only rediscovered by a Swiss traveller in 1812. The caves there were inhabited by Bedouins right up until the mid-1980's when the site was developed as tourist destination. Some of the traders still working there were born in the caves and we had the privilege to talk to some of them.

To get to the main city you walk down this amazing gorge (or Siq) where eventually you reach this astounding caved building in the rock called The Treasury (which was depicted in the Raiders of the Lost Arc film - although unlike in the film, there is really nothing much behind it, just a smallish room)

After you walk past this you see areas like "The Street of Facades", what looks like a Roman theatre, although it is Nabatean - some royal tombs, various other buildings, colonnades etc (see the pictures). The next part of the journey is to the monastery. This entails walking 800 steps up the mountainside! We chose the alternative transport - a donkey! After a very precarious ride up the steps we reach the drop off point for a further walk up. The monastery was again a spectacular site, especially given it's location. A further walk and we saw some great views across the mountains.

Even walking back down was knackering - our calves are still recovering! But we both agreed it was well worth it.

We went to a local Arab restaurant that evening (Al Arabi) which sold traditional Arab fare at a reasonable price.

From our hotel hearing the mosque prayer calls was cool as the many mosques sang out their calls and they bounced around the mountains. Below is a clip of it, but it really doesn't do it justice. Annoying as it was to be woken at around 4.30 the next day, in the silence of the morning it was awesome.


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Petra, Jordan 10/10/09

Day 3

We took the Kings Highway towards the Dead Sea, via Al Karak Castle. The route we took was really interesting as we went through many local towns where I really don't think they see many westerners. Karak Castle as built by the Crusaders under King Baldwin I. The road from Karak to the Dead Sea take you down what the locals call "Death Road" because it winds through the mountains with some sheer drops you don't want to get too close to! The view from the mountains as the Dead Sea came into view was stunning. On the road that runs alongside the sea up to the hotels, you can see on one of the cliff edges what is supposedly Lot's wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt by God for looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah after they were banished. (see pictures)


Journey to Dead Sea via Karak Castle, Jordan 11/10/09



Day 4

A whole day relaxing at the Movenpick Dead Sea Resort. This was superb 5 star resort, built in a traditional Arab style. The facilities, restaurants and staff were all excellent - which of course came at a price. But we were given a free room upgrade on arrival which was nice and meant we were close to the pools, restaurant and beach.

Of course we had to try the whole Dead Sea experience so we covered ourselves with the sea mud, which is supposed to be good for your skin, and then when it is dried, wash it off in the sea. The whole floating experience of the sea was really weird - you can't sink even if you tried! I did at one point get some in my eyes and it did sting like hell! Luckily there are lifeguards on hand with bottles of water for anyone who gets it in their eyes or mouth.

Early that evening we went up to a panoramic viewing point over the Dead Sea, looking out over the West Bank. A map indicated how far we were from various points. It was 34KM to Bethlehem and 36KM to Jerusalem. At least from here we would see any rockets coming over from the West Bank!

To finish the early evening off we went to a great chill out bar at the resort which had the sun setting over the sea as the DJs back drop, while we listened to her chilled vibes drinking a G&T & Mohito, watching the lights of Jericho coming on... yummy!


Dead Sea, Jordan 12/10/09

Day 5

We started the day by visiting Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the site where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. Since those days the Jordan is a considerably smaller river and has changed course. They have excavated and reconstructed some of the original site and the Russian Orthodox Church have built a new church at a new baptism site next to the river. Exactly opposite is an Israeli controlled visitors site at the same spot. The armed guards and machine gun laden armoured car kind of spoilt the atmosphere a little!

Next we headed up to Mount Nebo, which the Bible refers to as the mountain Moses climbed to looked out onto the promised land God had told him he would never be allowed to enter. From here we stared our trek back towards Amman and further north to Jerash.

Jerash is often called the "Pompeii of the East", as one of the finest and largest ancient Roman cities to be found outside of Italy and only rivaled by Ephesus in Turkey. It has a Triumphal Arch built for the Emperor Hadrian for his visit to the city. It has great colonnaded streets, a cathedral, theatres, city gates, a hippodrome for chariot racing and a fantastic oval plaza. The area was struck by an earthquake in 1926 which further damaged some of the remains and made the whole roman streets "wonky" where they were flat before.

This night we stayed at the Imperial Palace Hotel which I would say was 3.5 star, which again we were very happy with.


Bethany Beyond The Jordan, Mount Nebo & Jerash, Jordan 13/10/09


Day 6

Flew home - Booo!



All-in-all a fantastic trip which I could highly recommend. Feel free to ask me any questions you may have if you are considering going....which you should!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Home from Jordan today...

Just got back from a fantastic trip to Jordan, alas I haven't got time to blog fully about it now and I haven't sorted out my photos yet... so watch this space!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Rule Britannia

Tonight we went to ADNEC (Exhibition Centre) to see The Household Cavalry at ADIHEX (International Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition). They performed "The Musical Ride" for the first time outside Europe. The evening stirred all our most patriotic feelings and made us feel a little home sick. It was great to hear the National Anthem played (by the Abu Dhabi Police Band - conducted by Andrew Berryman who was until recently playing with the Abu Dhabi Big Band), and Rule Britannia at the end. Our "chaps" on horseback put on a great performance and didn't let us down!

The event was overseen by His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces (picture below, at least I think that is who it is - someone may be able to verify).






















Driving change

I have realised that it has been a while since I last blogged about the driving standards here, or about some ridiculous driving incident. It's definitely not that driving standards have improved, I think it is more that after 15 months of driving here (and I can't believe I am saying this), I am getting used to it! The things is, the unpredictability of their driving has become predictable! I think sometimes I know what they are going to do before they do themselves. I now just ignore the tailgaters on the highways if I am overtaking myself, I just figure that they will just have to wait until it is convenient for me to pull over. I refuse now to be intimidated into pulling over just because they can't wait for me to overtake. Of course many are still impatient enough that they will pull onto the hard shoulder to overtake me, but that now longer shocks me.

There was an article in the newspaper recently describing the bad driving as like a virus that spreads. I have to agree, because I think I have caught a mild strain of it! I find myself performing manoeuvres that I would never in a million years consider doing at home - mainly for fear of pissing someone off enough that they get out of their car and stab me! And, in a way, that is part of the problem. No one gets out of their cars to rant and definitely no one gets their head kicked in or stabbed! Everyone just seems to accept that bad driving is the norm and because of this, I have joined the masses to some degree. I don't think I drive badly as a matter of course, but I do know that when I realise that I am going to miss my turning, none is going to care if I pull across 4 lanes to get to it!

Maybe it's a case of "if you can't beat 'em , join 'em" (the French should do well here), but I'm sure my mild outbreak is never going to be as severe as the virulent masses.