INGULFED

In Shanghai

Archive for Things to do

Falcon Guantanamo — غوانتانامو للصقور

(It’s actually a hospital.)
Scroll down for pictures.

At the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, the national bird of the UAE is given the royal treatment — as in, a treatment similar to monarchs in other countries: forced mani/pedicures under anesthesia, beak sharpening, and surgical repairs to their plumage.

The birds vary in value from 20,000 to 200,000 dirham, or about 5,000 dollars way on up above 50,000. White birds are prized, and falconers have a choice between species. According to falconpedia.com:

[In the] UAE three major species are used for falconry. They are Peregrine, Saker and Gyr. Peregrine is widely spread all over the world except Antarctica. Saker flies fast and hunts at low level. Gyr is powerful and prefers to catch larger preys.

Trends in breeding favor a cross between the Peregrine falcon and the Gyr: these alpha-birds have both speed and appetite, and have been known, at the top of their game, to take down gazelles.

Watching a bird go under anesthesia is like watching your mother-in-law get drunk very fast. SQUAWK! Squawk! Squawk. Squaaawk. As the knock-out helmet is put over them, they resist briefly, but wake up to find their nails trimmed and polished.

مطب — Bump

A cross-country trip in the United Arab Emirates is never very difficult. From Abu Dhabi to the Saudi Arabian border, no longer than four hours; it is no longer distance from the city’s warm insulated nook in the Gulf to the other side of the Emirati promontory where waters are cleared and cooled by the Arabian sea. Roads are wide, fast, straight — I could make no more than four turns and be through the low mountains to Fujairah, supine by the sea with a snorkel and a bottle of rum. It would be so easy.

It was sometimes a struggle navigating the HMS Matsuflex through the stream of white Land Cruisers racing past. A favorite local driving technique is to charge drivers ahead flashing high beams (day or night) to make them move: Give me passage or give me death. I shant change lanes. It must seem so convenient to drivers in their hulking SUVs to have a stick to the left of the steering wheel that simply makes traffic move. If you don’t take notice quick enough, if it isn’t nighttime and you haven’t been blinded by lasers in your rearview mirror, you’re finished.

Although a ’92 Benz won’t be the fastest in any Emirati fleet, it was easy to go the 120 kph speed limit (75 mph) without trouble (conspicuous radar detectors issue instant $200 fines at 140), but that wasn’t good enough. In the right lane, trucks inched along out of everyone’s way, in the center traffic still moved too slowly, and in the left lane, we were prey to assholes. On the high seas of the Sheikh Zayed Highway, we were in constant struggle.

After only an hour, the car seemed to be wheezing. She would reach a top speed and then jerk suddenly slower, as if struggling to change gears. The radio would turn off. The ship had become a horse — in short bursts with my coaxing she stayed speedy, but only for moments. We pulled into a highway gas station and turned off the engine. The battery died.

One jumpstart later, we were soon on the Dubai-Hatta road, following signs for “Eastern Regions,” and heading deadly straight toward the Fujairah coast. The wheezing seemed to have abated, and golden sand dunes sprung up along the roadside, red-orange from beneath my sunglasses. My god, the desert is actually pretty.

And that’s when I smashed into the back of another car.

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Fights: Preview — مصارعة: معاينة

Kushti or Pehlwani, south Asian wrestling; this time, in dirt
Just off Corniche Road, Rt. 103
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
(More on this later.)


Emirati bullfighting
Just off the Corniche, Rt. 99
Fujairah, United Arab Emirates
(More on this later.)


For a different kind of fighting:
Video from Afghanistan

عيد الفصح عند اليهود في ابو ظبي — Passover in Abu Dhabi

It happens. At least now it does.

“Seder”
Somewhere
Abu Dhabi, UAE

Welcome to the Desert, Call Me Sir

Sir Bani Yas is not the name of a long lost Arabian Knight, nor of an Englishman hidden away in the caves of the Emirates’ Western Region. It is a sizable island 250 kilometers down the coast from Abu Dhabi, reachable only by boat, and just a short ferry ride off the one road to Saudi Arabia.

Check-in for the resort — it is (of course) a resort — is on the mainland, miles away from the 34 square miles of desert island that was once as barren as its neighborhood coastline. But in 1971, the late ruler and founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed, built a palace on a hilltop, imported his favorite African animals à la carte, and established the island as a national reserve. And that — as they say in these parts — was that.

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The World’s Future — مستقبل العالم


When expecting anything from the organizers of the World Future Energy Summit, you are generally told that your energy will be better spent in the future. The global green technologies conference is coordinated by one company and subcontracted to another for general staffing, hosted in the national exhibition center but sponsored and organized by the real energy enterprise, Masdar, itself a subsidiary of a development company that is in turn owned by the government. The resulting backstage chaos is not only commonplace in the Emirates, it is essential to the expo experience, and the requisite favor-trading, blood clots, and temper tantrums administrators, assistants and the like could not feel whole without.

The key is to find someone who has stake — in anything. Generally, you are told to go over there, and when you get there, the word is still that the action is here. Here, there’s another there where you should be, and there, there’s yet another further there — that’s where you want to be. Except that it isn’t. Once you get far enough away, a misguided assistant (to someone so many degrees removed they don’t know the name of the company your contact works for) inquires gently if you’ve ever been to where you came from three hours ago. Yes, you’ll say, and collapse into a heap on the floor.

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Send-Off/Kickoff — توديع\بداية

For the next week or so, to send you off into the new year, INGULFED will turn into a photoblog with a picture or two posted every day. So spend your precious vacation time reading something more worthwhile, like Proust… or Twilight. To kick things off, here are some photos from the FIFA Club World Cup Final between Inter Milan (F.C. Internazionale Milano) and TP Mazembe Englebert, the cinderella story from the D.R. Congo.

Mazembe had a full brass band, permanent cheering line (unfazed and unfaltering down one, two, three goals), and zebra pelt in their section.

Goran Pandev draws first blood. (13′)

Eto’o’s got groceries. (17′)

Presented by Etihad.  Stewardesses. Merry Christmas.
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