Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New Year's resolution

I know Christmas is behind us and everyone is now on the countdown to 2011, but I just came across something on Gulf News (one of the main local papers in the UAE) that got me thinking…

Published on December 15, the article is all about inspiring people as they pick gifts for the festive season. Basically, the editor asks people in the UAE quick questions like, for example, ‘what was the best gift you ever received?’

Answers: a trip to Madrid, Paris and Rome, an Armani suit, a Cartier necklace, a car, a business…

Is it just me or does this all seem a bit too much? What happened to love and peace or something simple, coming straight from the heart?

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d also love a trip somewhere, an expensive jewelry or a fancy car – keep it in mind for next year, ok babe? (LOL) – but living in the UAE, where people seem to have so much money to spend, makes me feel in a parallel world – one that is far, far away, from reality.

I know, I know. You probably think I am being too harsh. They were mentioning their best gifts ever. They don’t get stuff like that every single day, just out of the blue. Right?

Well, I am not so sure. I do know a lot of people here who can’t seem to get away from Chanel, Tiffany’s and other luxury brands, who always have a new and expensive gadget at hand, or who are constantly trying to show-off what they have and what they can do with their money.  

I too spoil myself sometimes. What can I say?

I don’t know. I am probably still caught-up in the Christmas spirit here. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time people – including me – rethink their priorities. Not only during Christmas, but throughout the year.

Working with internal communications and change management for such I long time, I’ve learned that we should always lead by example in order to promote change.

So, I have decided to challenge myself in my New Year's resolution: during 2011 I will try, as much as I can, to only gift people with memorable experiences or original items personally made by moi, me, euzinha – all coming straight from the heart.

Tips and advices are welcome starting now!!!!!

Note:
Dear friends and family, no need to start worrying or freaking out - at least, not yet. I hereby solemnly promise to be extremely creative and always respect my limitations. I can't really promise staying away from cheesy or corny alternatives though... Hope you don't mind!

Thank you all so much for visiting me at BurCArioca. I loved having you around and I hope you continue to come back for more.
I wish you all an amazing 2011!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Getting around

To get around in Abu Dhabi you have a few choices: walk, take the bus, rent a car or hail a taxi. Let me take you through these options so you know what to expect from each of them…

Walk
I personally love to get around on foot. One of the things I loved most about my time in Boston, USA, was the fact that I could walk everywhere. I rarely took the T (subway) or any other means of transportation – except for when it was freezing and I couldn’t really face the cold wind blowing or the snow falling outside.
In the UAE, walking is not that simple and Abu Dhabi is not really the best city to walk around. There is a lot of construction going on, not much sightseeing to do (except in very specific areas of the city) and many crossroads for you to get by, meaning you can’t really relax and enjoy because you have to pay close attention when crossing the streets (remember: drivers here are mad).
In addition, it is hot and humid most of the time and all you really want to do is be inside, enjoying the benefits of one of the best inventions of humanity: the air conditioner!

Take the bus
If you were in Europe or the US I’d probably suggest you try the subway.

Unfortunately, we can’t really rely on that since we don’t have a subway in Abu Dhabi. With that in mind, I’d say you should turn to the most affordable option in the city: the bus.

Problem is the bus system is fairly new around here and it won’t really take you to all places you need to or want to go.
Check-out the website below for more information on the bus transport service in Abu Dhabi. It will give you access to comprehensive maps with all bus routes and their timings.

Rent a car
If you have some extra money to spend, I guess a car will probably be your best option.
Just bear in mind that although a car will give you freedom to come and go as you please and you won’t spend a fortune with gas (thankfully, that is very cheap here), you might find it hard to actually find a parking space in Abu Dhabi – and if you find one, you will probably need to pay for it through a system called MAWAQIF (www.mawaqif.ae). So keep coins in your pocket!
Before heading out to one of the many car rentals in Abu Dhabi (yes, you will find them all here – Hertz, Budget, Avis, etc.) please remember to check what documents you will need. In most cases, you will be asked for an International Driver’s License.
Note: If you are coming over to visit friends or family members and are planning on using their car, think again. I was told you can’t drive a privately owned car here unless you have a local driver’s license. If you get caught, you and the person who lent you the car might face a heavy fine and even some jail time.

Hail a taxi
This is the most interesting option of them all – a real experience through which you will see, feel, hear and smell things you haven’t ever imagined before!
The first challenge you will have is to actually get a cab. Depending on the time of day (rush hour or prayer time), it is actually hard to find one. So, be prepared to wait.
Then, you will have to find a way to get through to the driver. Most of them speak very poor English, so you might want to try other forms of communication like drawing or mimicking! Jokes aside, do ensure you write down the name of the place you want to go and also a few landmarks to help guide the driver (remember: as mentioned in one of my previous posts, there are no real addresses here in the UAE).
Once you are on your way, enjoy the ride: see the car speedometer go up to 140km/h – or more – in a matter of seconds, feel the hot wind in your face (yes, although it is 50 degrees Celsius outside the driver will sometimes have the windows open until you actually ask him to close them and turn on the AC), hear the loud music (usually Arabic or Indian) blasting out of the speakers, smell the nice scent of sweat with a hint of curry and a touch of smoke odor left behind from a previous passenger or the driver himself. Excited?
Well, all I can say is that the situation is improving. It has actually changed a lot since I first moved here almost four years ago. New cars are replacing  older models, drivers are receiving more training and a series of surveys are helping shape up the customer service.
Now you have the option to call (600 535353) and book a regular taxi in advance, for an extra charge of only AED 5. It is still cheaper to do this, than to call one of the posh taxi companies (Al Ghazal Taxi or National Taxi, for example).
You can even choose to travel in a women-only taxi. That’s right! The silver and pink taxis, with floral designs on the doors, bold neon signs with ‘Ladies Taxi’ on top and a woman driver at the wheel are available for women who are uncomfortable with a male driver or simply feel safer to be driven around by a woman. For more info:

Whatever your choice is, I am sure you will enjoy exploring Abu Dhabi!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas tree decoration = US$ 11 million

The UAE might just be on its way to set another record: the world’s most expensively decorated tree.

Emirates Palace, the most luxurious hotel in Abu Dhabi, has definitely gone the extra mile this year to provide its guests and visitors with an unbelievable Christmas experience by setting-up a 13 meter high tree decorated with ornaments worth US$ 11 million. That’s right. US$ 11 million.

Here is an image I got from Gulf News, one of the main local newspapers here in the UAE. But I’ll be going there myself to see this with my own two eyes, so be sure to check this space for more pictures later on.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Do you have wasta?

Wasta is a catchy little Arabic word you will often hear in the UAE. It has to do with the power, influence and connections that one might have.
Your nationality, family or job can give you wasta. The people you work for or have close relationships with can give you wasta. Your connections to people high up in the authority scale can give you wasta.
A bit of wasta can give you access to people and places, smooth or speed up long and bureaucratic procedures and even get you out of difficult or tricky situations.
Now, very important: do NOT mistake wasta for bribery. Wasta is about who you know and not about money. If you try to bribe someone, like government officials for example, things can get nasty – especially since most of them will probably have more wasta than you!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

BurCArioca in the media!

Check-out the article published yesterday, Saturday, December 11, 2010, by Caderno ELA, O Globo.


Just a quick correction: my husband works for ETIHAD AIRWAYS, the National Airline of the UAE.

Some tips for the Colorado fans...

After the glorious performance of my team – Flamengo – last year, I was really hoping to see the players in Abu Dhabi for the FIFA Club World Cup. But, after so many not-so-great-developments over the course of 2010, I guess the fact that they didn’t make it isn’t really a surprise…
So, I decided to root for SC Internacional (the famous Colorado), the Brazilian team to make it all the way to the United Arab Emirates and who will be playing its first match on Tuesday, December 14, against TP Mazembe Englebert of Congo.
The team is already in the UAE and the fans are starting to arrive. Actually, I  got a few messages asking for some tips on what to do around here. Well, here are a few suggestions for all the Colorado fans who will be making it to the UAE:
Abu Dhabi
Stay
-    For a luxurious stay, try the Emirates Palace (www.emiratespalace.com) or the Yas Hotel (www.theyashotel.com)

-  For a more affordable stay, try the Hilton, Meridien, Intercontinental or the Holiday Inn.

- For a different experience, try the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort (http://qasralsarab.anantara.com), located in the middle of Liwa Desert, with several activities for its guests, including camel rides through the dunes.
Eat
 Al Fanar (Le Royal Meridien) is a revolving restaurant with a wonderful view of Abu Dhabi. Make a reservation for the Friday brunch!
 Fishmarket (Intercontinental Hotel) is a seafood restaurant where you can choose your fish as if in a local market. Fresh!
 Vasco's (Hilton Abu Dhabi) is an international restaurant where you will find a little bit of everything. This time of the year, with low temperatures, try the outdoor terrace.
 Marakesh (Millenium Hotel) is a Moroccan restaurant with excellent food, live music and bellydancing.
 Prego's (Beach Rotana Hotel) is one of the best Italian restaurants in the city. You can also buy Italian products such as olive oil and pasta.
 Relax@12 (Aloft Hotel) is a trendy bar located on the rooftop of Aloft Hotel. Stop by at 5pm to watch the sunset and have a few drinks before dinner.
The Shangri-la Hotel Qaryat Al Beri also has several restaurants, such as the acclaimed Bord Eau (Francês) and Hoi An (Vietnamita).
See
-    Emirates Palace
    www.emiratespalace.com
Step in to visit the hotel grounds of the most luxurious hotel in Abu Dhabi and also to check-out the permanent exhibition on Saadiyat Island – a new island currently under construction which will have a Cultural District (home to the Louvre, the Guggenheim and several other museums).

-    Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
    www.visitabudhabi.ae/en/szm.aspx
This fabulous Mosque is open to visitors of all nationalities. Take the complimentary guided tour (usually 10am, 11am and 5pm every day of the week except for Friday) and learn about the spirit of Islam.

-    Yas Marina Circuit
    www.yasmarinacircuit.com
Stage of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix. Several events are held here throughout the year, so check the schedule ahead of time to ensure you don’t miss out on anything!

-    Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
    www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com
The world’s first Ferrari theme park and the largest of its kind, with over 20 attractions.

Dubai

If you go to Dubai, I suggest the Big Bus Tours (www.bigbustours.com), which will take you all around and show you the main points in the city. Then you can choose the best ones and go back to them if you have time.
You can also try the Dubai Mall, one of the many shopping malls in Dubai. This one has an indoor aquarium and access to the Burj Khalifa, the highest building in the world. If you intend to visit the Burj Khalifa, do make a reservation online ahead of time (www.burjkhalifa.ae).
Another alternative is to try the one and only indoor ski at the Mall of the Emirates
Now, an overall reminder: This is a Muslim country and some attitudes or behaviors will not be tolerated here. So, to be on the safe side, remember to dress appropriately, check where you can consume alcoholic beverages and act respectfully.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas time in the UAE?

I got back to Abu Dhabi yesterday, after two weeks away in Brazil. With nothing in the fridge, my husband and I decided to go out for a late lunch before stopping at the grocery store to get some essentials.

Funny thing though was the soundtrack to our afternoon. We ate and shopped listening to Christmas songs. All I want for Christmas is you, Deck the Halls, White Christmas, Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Here comes Santa Claus, Silent Night, Jingle Bells – the whole repertoire!

Don’t get me wrong. I loooove this time of the year and Christmas songs make me all chirpy and warm inside. I guess the whole thing reminds me of my time in the US: the Thanksgiving turkey was not even totally digested and the Christmas spirit was already everywhere. Pretty standard procedure there. But you have to agree with me that the UAE is not the kind of place you would expect to hear Christmas songs 24/7.

Although I am thousands of miles away from my family and friends and I always have to pray December 25 falls on a Friday or Saturday so I don’t have to work (Christmas is not a holiday here), I still find it pleasant to spend Christmas here.

It’s fun to watch the expats walk around in a different ‘radio frequency’, humming and dancing as they decide on which Christmas decorations to get for the house or as they start their annual Christmas shopping marathon.

I also enjoy looking around for different versions of Christmas in the UAE. Yesterday, for example, I was able to find one: Christmas cards and decorations with camels instead of reindeers! Is this cool or what?




Don’t worry… I’ll keep my eyes open for more. Meanwhile, ho, ho, ho to you!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

National Day

Around this time of the year, the streets of the UAE receive special decoration. Christmas? Well, perhaps in other parts of the world, but not here. The country just celebrated their National Day, on December 2 - the day the independent emirates became a union called the United Arab Emirates and wrote their first Constitution.

A series of activities to mark the UAE's 39th National Day take place all over the country. People can attend exhibitions on tradition and heritage, folklore performances by dance groups and singers, parades, and even a historical musical entitled 'Zayed and the Dream'. There is definitely something for everyone.

I really enjoy seeing the country dressed up in red, green, white and black (the colors of the UAE flag) and the huge displays of fireworks organized in hotels and landmarks, but I must confess I was glad to be very far away from the UAE on National Day for the first time around.

Why? Well, let's put it this way. For those of you in Rio, it's kind of like being at Clipper, Leblon, celebrating Brazil's title (1st place of course) in the World Cup. For my friends from Boston, try to picture yourself at Fenway Park watching the Red Sox win a season. Get the picture? Hectic, noisy, crazy!

In any case, a happy belated birthday to the UAE!