The first GeekFest in Abu Dhabi is happening tomorrow at 6:30 PM at The Auditorium, Mezzanine Floor, Lime Green Building, twofour54. I’ve not yet decided if I’d be attending or not. But the basic fact that it’s a first is appealing enough. Add to that my interest to listen up close to Ali Al Saloom, the brain of Ask Ali, a portal of interesting information for newcomers and old timers in the UAE. Reported to be attending tomorrow, too, is Mark Makhoul, the author of the popular Kuwait blog 248AM.com. Yes, he’s the blogger sued for writing his honest opinion about the newly opened (franchised) Benihana, a Japanese restaurant.
More details about the GeekFest can be found here. If you’re coming from Dubai, the GeekFest bus is available. Registration is required.
Continued from the peek a boo with the dolphins and snorkeling in Balicasag Island
My senior companions could have foregone the visit to Chocolate Hills had it not been THE Chocolate Hills. What discouraged them was the tiring walk to the viewing deck. (In one of our neighbor towns in Laguna, there’s a church situated on a hill which requires at least 100 steps to get inside it. So, the experience was very reminiscent.) I was catching my breath when we went to the viewing deck at the town of Carmen (Bohol). What fueled me to “climb” better was the (embarrassing) thought of losing to my mother’s and aunts’ stamina in braving the numerous steps to the top.
(We trailed the waters as early as 5:30 AM to catch the dolphins at their playful hour.)
One of the reasons I timed my last vacation in the Philippines in December was to grace and attend the wedding of a good friend in Bohol. Since we’ve never been there, I was joined by my family and some of my relatives sans the wedding attendance. I’ve wanted to blog about this months ago but it took time to sort the thousands of photos from this vacation (yes, I do click the shutter a lot) and other things got in. Now that summer is approaching in the Philippines (and we still enjoy winter in the Lower Gulf), it’s about time to reminisce and share this rejuvenating experience especially to those who plan to visit Bohol.
Getting up so early to be at the boat at 5:30 AM was worth it. Each day there are several tourists who chance on seeing the dolphins. It helped that our boatman-guide was a strategist, or maybe it was coincidental that the dolphins approached the tip of our boat many times. You really need to be sharp especially if you intend to take their photos. They move quickly, teasingly; hence, that perfect shot is definitely elusive. Since we were there to enjoy the experience itself, I set my mind to just take at least two decent shots of the dolphins and devote the rest of the hour of the boat ride to appreciate the playfulness of these friendly creatures. Yes, the dolphin shows are also entertaining, but they are boxed there and movements were calculated. Seeing them at their natural habitat and interacting with them, without anyone commanding them where they should show up and what they should do, is far more fascinating.
(I think that the dolphins liked us, they approached us many times and I felt like winning a lotto each time they bounced as a group. Lucky!)
Two weeks ago I mentioned about being more careful when taking photos in the UAE and I think that I’m being too careful that I did forego my opportunity to visit the International Defense Exhibit the other day (showcasing all sorts of weapons and intimidating security tools), fearing that I won’t be able to control myself and take a photo of something which will probably be detrimental to me. (Yes, I underestimated my risk appetite.) It’s most challenging when we do things which we never thought (or tried to ignore) will harm us. In the UAE, there were a number of cases when the person who filed for rape case gets punished, too, i.e. because of illegal sex (outside marriage) if the person raped is single and illegal drinking (outside licensed premises) if that was a contributory reason that a person was raped.
This post does not intend to demean anyone, but most of the expats who were caught in the I-should-not-be-punished-if-I-did-it-in-my home-country situations in the UAE are British nationals (or the others are more careful?). Hence, it’s not surprising that the British Embassy has recently issued a booklet titled “UAE Advice for British Nationals” to spread the advice to the British travelers. That’s a commendable initiative and its circulation, even to non-British, will be helpful. In a nutshell, here are the dos and don’ts:
- Alcohol consumption is allowed only by non-Muslims in licensed restaurants, pubs, clubs, private venues and at home (for residents who have acquired an alcohol license).
- Drugs are strictly forbidden, even a residual amount.
- Sexual relationships outside of marriage are illegal, irrespective of any relationship you may have with your partner in the UK [I'd like to add: any nationality]. Cohabiting, including in hotels, is also illegal.
- The UAE has a zero-tolerance policy towards drinking and driving.
- Bouncing a cheque is illegal in the UAE.
- Dancing is allowed in the privacy of your home or at licensed clubs.
- Sexual harassment or randomly addressing women in public or taking their photos without permission is strictly frowned upon.
- Offensive language, spitting (remember Tiger Woods’ spitting controversy in Dubai?) and aggressive behaviour (including hand gestures) are viewed very seriously and can result in imprisonment and deportation.
- Holding hands for married couples is tolerated but kissing and hugging are considered offences against public decency.
- Smoking is forbidden in government areas, offices and shopping malls.
- Working without the proper visa is illegal. You cannot partake in any kind of paid employment without first obtaining a work visa.
Most of the pointers are actually generic facts and must be observed even in other countries. Hence, it should not be an excuse if the other embassies do not issue a booklet like this for their nationals. However, for the grey areas and/or extremely surprising disallowed acts in the UAE, that’s where the information campaign must be strengthened. I opine that the awareness must start from one’s self and should not solely depend on the embassy. When I first came here three years ago, I initially felt that there were so many restrictions. But soon enough I realized that there are laws which are there for the longest time, so no one should be extremely surprised and as we stand by the respect for one’s culture (the best strategy is to put ourselves in the shoes of UAE nationals), to abide became a natural thing just like a habit. When one’s back to his home country, he may want to party all he wants or stay as the “new” him.
Discouraged to come here? Don’t be. I can vouch that it’s indeed nice being here.