For those of you who don’t know, this is a month long event in the Moslem calendar where people don’t eat, drink or smoke during the daytime – as far as I can ascertain, it’s a time of thinking about others, family time, abstinence and an opportunity to celebrate their religious beliefs.
Generally, as I learn from the expats, it’s also a time when many people take their holidays. Both locals and expats. It’s not an easy time to be in an Arab country. For one, pretty much everything is shut during the day, so my shows all happen after dark, and there’s not a lot to do during the day. My days are slow… they crawl by with me spending too long on Facebook, watching one of the many blackmarket dvd’s I picked up in Jakarta (thank god!), keeping up with emails/work, and chilling by the pool (once the heat of the day has passed).
Doesn’t sound too bad right? And it’s not. In many ways, I appreciate the down time. I don’t get an awful lot of it at home with two kids and two businesses to run. Thank god there’s a pool at my hotel… my first hotel closed their pool after the first few days, and I quickly started to feel like a battery hen. Cooped up in my hotel room all day, no-where to go, and no outside space to chill. So I figured this was a good time to go out and see some of what Abu Dhabi has to offer.
Unfortunately, what Abu Dhabi has to offer at any time of year, doesn’t really fit with me. Look up top attractions on Tripadvisor, (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g294013-Activities-Abu_Dhabi_Emirate_of_Abu_Dhabi.html) and maybe you’ll get a sense of what I mean. This one I found particularly funny: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g294013-d2358809-Reviews-Al_Maqtaa_Fort-Abu_Dhabi_Emirate_of_Abu_Dhabi.html
Mostly, it’s either malls, or visiting the extravagant hotels… or there’s Yas Waterworld which is a pretty extravagant theme park.
So I went to Emirates Palace – the most opulent hotel of them all. The grounds are lavish, and the interior, gold plated! There’s a vending machine that sells gold!
It would be nice maybe if I was staying there, but after a while I just figured ‘what’s the point?’
And Yas Waterworld? Something about being a 41 year old man going to a theme park for the day on his own feels a bit wrong. Know what I mean?
So I jumped back in a cab and asked for Marina Mall. It’s a mall. Shops you could go to in England. And some others. Even if they were open which they’re not because it’s Ramadan, they don’t really hold anything for me.
Not only that, but I am expected to respect the Ramadan tradition by not eating or drinking anything in any public area. If I do so, I can be fined £500 for the first time, a LOT more for the second, and imprisoned for the third.
I DO respect their tradtion, but that doesn’t mean I have to follow it! And what would the Emirati’s in UK say if we insisted they follow Christmas, or Easter?
The result of this is that after half an hour out and about, I get so dehydrated I have to return to my hotel just to drink some water. I am later reliably informed that I can lock myself in a toilet and drink there of course, but as I say, Malls and flash hotels? Who cares?
So, I go back to my hotel, become a Facebook freak, and see if I can actually come back from a gig with a tan. Believe me, this is rare.