Sunday, July 29, 2007

land of sand and glass

so i've been in the uae for almost two weeks. i was originally planning on being in syria at this time but i opted to stay and fly to syria the same time as ayham. this allows me more time to try and arrange interviews as well as a chance to do some more fun things in the area. first off, let me explain a bit about what i have learned from my time here.

the uae is not just dubai, though that city is definitely the busiest and craziest. i've been staying mostly in abu dhabi, which is the capital city and the emirate with all the oil. both are growing quickly, however, the atmosphere in dubai is a little maniacal in that there is an obsession to build and build so that the culture of that place is rooted in the fact that it is desperately looking for a culture. there are gleaming shopping centres, giant hotels, skyscrapers everywhere but the sense is that it is a city in progress. there are more buildings with cranes on them than ones completed, the road systems are a spaghetti plate of roundabouts and overpasses that are seriously obstructed by construction to the point where even the best vehicle gps systems are useless. the night life in dubai is great but expensive, as it is noticeably more liberal in terms of dress and attitude. in abu dhabi, however, there is plenty of construction and growth, however, it seems more planned, more controlled. i suppose it is because there is always the reassurance of oil money here, whereas, like a younger child growing in his older sibling's shadow, dubai seems in a rush to make a name for itself, often stumbling but ultimately growing into an eccentric billionaire. there are other emirates as well. on the other side of dubai is sharjah, where men can't wear shorts and sheesha is forbidden. each has their own laws, speed limits and i find it a bit confusing.

anyway, i've been eating really well here. plenty of middle eastern places as well as western fair. there are also many great places to sit and chat, smoke sheesha and drink tea.
last night ayham arranged for us to go on a desert safari. it was great. we drove across giant sand dunes through the desert to a more touristy spot where we ate, watched a belly dancer and basically let our stomachs settle from the turbulent ride. the best part was by far the dunes. there is so much sand. an ocean of it really. i don't know how it got there but it is very impressive. four wheel drive jeeps were zipping tourists all over the place, kicking up sand and sliding down steep slopes. i'm surprised that no one gets into accidents. i got some good pics though so check them out.

hope everyone is doing well wherever they are.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

oman...oh man!

so i arrived in the middle east. so far it has been pretty amazing. there has been some good luck and some bad luck but ultimately things have turned out great.

despite some confusion and mishaps in the uae (flat tires, delays, cats in the engine), ayham, diab and i managed to cross the border into oman, a small gulf country made up mostly of sand, rock and water. i didn't know this, though i guess it was a major news story over here, but oman took the brunt of a major hurricane a month ago and much of the country's infrastructure was destroyed along the coast. that being said, our plan was to do some off-roading along the coast and camp out along the many beaches. none of us knew where we were going but we managed to reach the city of muscat, oman's capital and from there drove into the mountains into a fairly secluded area and a gorgeous beach where we camped the first night. it was in this area that we first realized the destruction caused by the storm. a whole village by the beach was pulverized, their date palm plantations uprooted and roads demolished. sufficed to say, there were no tourists and hardly any locals around so we had the beach pretty much to ourselves. it was gorgeous. we built a big fire and smoked sheesha all night long.

One thing that happened that was truly amazing was we went for a swim at night and were terrified to see that the waves were glowing in the dark. at first we thought it was the moon but there was only a small crescent moon. we went into the water and every step we took, the moving water (more specifically small particles in the water) glowed an eerie green light. we began splashing around, noticing that the algae, plankton, shrimp or whatever they were somehow absorbed the kinetic energy. when we splashed each other, the particles would remain glowing on our skin for two or three seconds. it was insane. even though it was pitch black, we could see each other swimming under water, glowing like mermaids or something. i don't care if you don't believe me because we all witnessed it. at one point i put my foot down and something bit me and i screamed like a girl, running towards shore, glowing water splashing all around me. it was all a little too freaky. the rest of the night we spent sitting on the shore watching the waves materialize out on the water, rippling like the scales of silver fish across the expanse of beach as the water ran over our legs, receding to leave the particles glowing on us like LEDs. eventually we went to bed.

in the morning, i felt sick and ended up pucking florescent yellow until i produced a small white worm with a black head from my stomach. i don't know where itcame from but it was obviously not meshing with my body's chemistry because when it was out i felt great. we explored the beach for a bit and then headed out into some mountainous areas to find an oases where we could sit in the waterfalls. unfortunately, along the way we witnessed more of the hurricane's destruction. the mountain roads were so badly destroyed by landslides and areas where large flash floods ripped away the roads we couldn't proceed to much of the areas we wanted to go on our second day. we spent the whole day driving, getting lost at detours where the bridges were washed out until finally finding a place to eat.

there was one town that was literally abandoned. the only inhabitants were goats, sitting in window sills and on door steps. it was like all the villagers were turned into goats by the storm. i think i might write a short story about it. anyway, we decided to turn around and head back to muscat and stay in a hotel. we went for some drinks at the intercontinental there (you can only get alcohol in hotels) and played darts and pool and just relaxed. we made it home the next day, despite some hassles at the border. ultimately it was a fun trip. i want to go back to that beach from the first night though. that place was magic. here are some pics.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

off again

this is sort of like timelapse photography except that there is little correlation between shots. ultimately, these pics are just glimpses of my life the last couple months. the first is canada day in toronto. the second my pally andrew and his gorgeous daughter. my cousin sean and i at a bar after seeing kid koala play. finally, a pic of the view from my mom's front yard in the beach. i'm messing with it to see how i could use it for some flyers or somethign. anyway, tomorrow i leave for the uae, oman and syria. i'm pretty excited but not nearly as much as i would expect. i guess it will hit me when i get there and i see my buddies ayham and diab. i'm going to try and keep this blog going like i did in asia. hopefully you will all be able to keep up with me in my travels. i will be glad to have the company. good luck, peace, love, happiness and all that... j