Sunday, September 16, 2007

RSI flare-up

Sorry everyone but my RSI is kicking up again. Looks like I didn't rest it enough. Have to relax and cut-down on the typing and computer use. Damn, RSI is annoying.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

So, about Abu Dhabi

So what was I doing in Abu Dhabi you ask? Well Monday September 3rd was a national holiday so everyone in the office was planning four-day getaway vacations by taking Sunday off. A coworker and I were thinking about going to Damascus to look around.

Then one day in August an announcement was made from the Palace. Sept 3rd is no longer a public holiday! It will instead be replaced by a public holiday on Dec 18th. (In an absolute monarchy things like that can happen, with a wave of an Emir's hand public holidays can disappear.) Suddenly those 4-day weekend plans ground to a halt.

I still wanted to do something that weekend so I went down to Qatar Holidays to see if they had any deals for a 2-night getaway. Sure enough they had a deal that was too good to pass up - a shocking reasonable getaway to nearby Abu Dhabi to stay at the Emirates Palace Hotel.

Definately check out the link, this place is supposed to be one of the grandest hotels in the world (there is also a wikipedia entry on it. So with such a good deal I figured what the heck!)

I emailed my friends Mike & Elushka in Dubai to let them know I'd be around and they decided to drive down and stay a night as well.

Well the place was truly awesome - and huge! Upon getting to check in someone came by to give me a cold towel, followed by someone else with stuffed dates, followed by another person with water & arabic coffee. A clerk showed me to my room (something like 300m away in the East Wing) and at the desk in my room is where I signed all the check-in paperwork. Meanwhile the bellhop brought my bags and a butler(!) came in with a glass of orange juice. Once the check-in clerk left the butler showed me the various room features, including the 52" plasma TV. So far I was impressed. All non-alcoholic drinks in the mini-bar were complementary as well.

So the next day was spent lounging around the West Wing pools with Mike, Elushka and their son Keelan. The West pools had a current pool that went inb a circle for around 200m, plus waterslides. We had a great, and relaxing, time.

The next day I stayed at the East Wing pool, and hung out at the pool bar or relaxed on a lounge chair. I didn't do anything fancy or see the sights in Abu Dhabi I'm afraid, maybe next time.

So was it worth it? At the heavily reduced price that I got it was worth a one-time splash in luxury. Would I do it more often at that price? No, still a little pricey (one beer is approx $13). Would I do it at regular prices of $500+ a night? Heck No!! But it was nice to really experience how the other 1% of uber-rich people live, if only just once.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Brief updates on currency

Abu Dhabi was cool, more on that later . . .

As for the unified Gulf currency planned for 2010, an economist says it is unlikely to happen. Oman has backed out, Kuwait removed their currency peg, and the UAE is starting to waffle on the idea. Looks like a common currency is out. Shame, I appeciated how much introducing the Euro simplified things, and a GCC currency could have done the same.

In other banking news looks like the Central Bank is getting "tough" with banks lending money to individuals. Now such loans are capped at something like QR2.5 million (a paltry US$686,000) and the maximum repayment term is 84-months. That's cracking down?? No wonder these banks have so many defaults if they are willing to lend large sums like that over 7-years.