Abu Dhabi bubble shows #1 - First Impressions
Immediately upon leaving Jakarta, on getting on the plane in fact, I begin to notice differences. People seem larger – I’m surrounded by large men (one of them in my seat!). A lot of people are on their way to Mecca which is in Saudi Arabia. Mohammed, sitting next to me, seems a gentle giant, and politely teaches me a few words.
Once out of the airport, the next thing to hit me is the heat – temperatures here in summer regularly hit 50 degrees, and the humidity makes it pretty wearing. It’s not too dissimilar to what I imagine walking through the inside of a cow must be like, and thoughts of Damien Hirst works quickly fill my brain.
I’m quickly ushered into my car, a very flash brand new black Audi that feels like I’ve entered into some kind of Hithchikers Guide spaceship. Alll the trimmings, including a cooler in the armrest for drinks and plenty of flashy lights which I don’t understand.
Apparently there’s a car museum here which was featured on Top Gear. They loooove their cars, and showing off their wealth is a national sport.
It’s funny hearing all the reports of the heatwave in England… The online Newspapers and multitude of FB posts talk about at 32 degrees, how unbearably hot it is in the UK at the moment, and I think (and reply to FB friends) how it’s 6 degrees hotter here at 4 in the morning!
People say to me “it’s different though isn’t it.” Yep I think.. you’re right: it’s waaaayyy hotter! Literally impossible to do anything during the day. If I take my computer out to the pool to enjoy the pool-side wi-fi, I can only stay out for 20 minutes because the machine heats up to the point where I seriously worry it might explode.
But there is a difference of course, and the difference is that everything here is air conditioned. Probably not far off 90% of my time here is inside. They think it’s crazy that we have radiators….
I’m exhausted after my trip and can’t wait to get some sleep in my hotel. Unfortunately my room turns out to stink of stale cigarettes, and in the hour and a half it takes for them to decide to upgrade me (they don’t have another room in my price bracket) my patience begins to fail. The second room eventually turns up, and that smells too. Another hour goes by and eventually I am given a non-stinky room, pull down the curtains and drift off to sleep.
Later I awake and drift over to the venue to check it out, and meet my client for the first time. Becca (from Surrey) is my first point of contact. She’s nice and comes over to say hello during the Balloonatic’s last performance. She shows me around the event. It’s basically an indoor funfair, with coconut shy style booths, and an impressive obstacle course. A huge inflatable bed, the size of a house that you can jump onto from great height. A Deathslide. A separate stage with Sesame Street shows in Arabic (they are about to start filming the Arabic version of Sesame Street here), a Lego copy of the city complete with giant Sheiks and their wives, and best of all, the Cultural Heritage Arts Village”. A quick look in here blows your mind – amidst the face painting, hennae tattoos, and workshops, is something bizarre! 3 older women in near full berkahs creating traditional craft objects, whilst wearing false moustaches! (see “cultural differences” blog for more on this!).
I end up back at the hotel, celebrating their last night before heading back to the UK drinking with a bunch of expats in the hotel bar…. That’s what expats do.