Sunday, June 22, 2008

Travel, parties and Turkish soccer

Got back from a business trip in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday night. Was there for three days: one day into Abu Dhabi, two days in Dubai. The trip went smoothly enough but it was dusty much like the rest of the region. Took a taxi to get from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (about 160 km) which took us through all of the major developments in Dubai -- it is incredible to see just how much construction and development there is been in Dubai last few years. Tower after tower of residential and commercial development, and most of these buildings were an average 50 to 60 stories tall. Make Doha look like a minor construction zone. Traffic was bad as usual.

A coworker of mine is moving to Dubai soon and was looking at real estate prices. Two-bedroom apartments were sitting in the range of 2.6 million to 4.2 million dirham (~$720,000 to $1.15 million US). Isn't that crazy? How can people afford to live there with prices like that for an apartment? And yet people keep talking like the prices are going to go up 20 to 30% a year. I see it more as a team of hot potato -- speculators buy the apartments, flip it to someone else, who flips it to someone else when the prices have gone up enough, but eventually someone will get stuck holding the apartment when the price corrects itself and goes down.


On Saturday night I hosted a small dinner party for some friends. It always seemed that I was eating over at other peoples places and never returning the favor so it was high time that I hosted an event myself. What made it slightly challenging is that some of my guests are vegetarian, two of them are vegan, and I am generally a lousy cook! So I planned ahead about a month in advance began experimenting with vegetarian chili recipes. It seemed like a decent way to go as you just add various vegetables and spices to a boiling pot of water and let simmer (and I was pretty sure I couldn't screw that up). Have crackers, cheese, chips and grapes for starter snacks, ice cream, strawberries and cherries for dessert, and you have a well-rounded all-vegetarian and mostly vegan meal. Friends of mine brought over a blender so we could make mango juice with freshly picked mint, which was really nice in the summer heat. Overall I'd say that went pretty good. It went so well that my friend’s 92-year-old mother-in-law told me that if she were a bit younger she’d make a play for me since I'm such a good cook. (cheeky lady! And what is a bit younger -- 75?)


So did anyone catch that Turkey versus Croatia soccer game the other day? I watched it with my friend Serdar (a Turk, natch) and his family. What a crazy game! After the last shot at the end everyone was going absolutely nuts! If you don't know when talking about look up the game in online news. The entire country of Turkey must have partied all night.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Olympics results - and vacation plans

So Doha did not make the shortlist for the Olympic Games. The IOC decided to shortlist 4 cities and Rio Chicago Madrid and Tokyo made the list. Shame. I'm still not sure why exactly they did not make the shortlist, I suppose that information will be forthcoming over the next few weeks. It looks like Qatar is big on hosting some major event -- a newspaper article mentioned that Doha might try to place a bid for the 2018 World Cup. Uh, I'm not sure if they have the infrastructure necessary to host an event like that, that requires having a lot of very large soccer stadiums.

My friend Byrun wants Rio to get the Olympics. I'd have to agree, it would be nice if South America could host the Olympics for once.


Speaking of which, a friend Byrun has moved from Vancouver to Saskatoon to continue in university (so I guess I better update the link on the site for the new city). Good luck Byrun!


Weather here has been a "cool" 40°, mostly because of all the dust is being blown around blocking out the sunlight. Weather reports noted that there's been a shamal wind in the last three or four days that has been kicking up a lot of dust from the deserts. I thought that shamal was an Arabic word referring to a specific type of weather phenomenon only to find out from my Qatari colleagues that shamal simply means "north". So, it looks like a north wind is kicking up a lot of dust.


Summer vacation is almost booked! Looks like at the end of July I will be going to Slovakia and the Czech Republic for a couple weeks to visit some Czech and Slovak friends that I met in Bermuda. Initial plans are to go to Bratislava, Prague, Perdubice, and tour some of the Slovak countryside. Maybe I will even have time for a couple of days in Vienna. It should be a lot of fun.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


So tonight is it very important announcement for the country of Qatar -- the international Olympic Committee will be announcing a short list of candidates for the 2016 Olympics. Doha is one of the seven candidate cities vying for the 2016 Olympics (I think be others are Baku, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Prague, and Tokyo) and tonight the IOC shortlists it down to four or five.

I hope Doha does make it onto the shortlist because it will be a key step to hosting the Olympics. Now I don't mean the 2016 Olympics, personally I don't think Doha realistically has a shot at that. But before any Qatari reading this gets all bent out of shape I have two reasons why I don't think they will get it:

1) almost no city ever gets awarded the Olympics on their first bid (in fact I was always under the assumption that no city gets it on the first bid, but it may have happened in the past such as Atlanta -- I haven't researched it though)

2) from a geographic perspective it is unlikely that the games will return to a country in Asia this quickly. The 2008 games are about to start in China, the 2012 games are in Europe. It seems unlikely to me that the 2016 games are going to go back to Asia to a first-bid city with a population of less than one million people.

My personal bet is on it going to one of the Americas.

So why am I hopeful that Doha makes it onto the shortlist? Because it is an important steppingstone for the 2020 Olympics -- that's the Olympics I think they really have a shot at! But it is important that they get onto the 2016 shortlist -- by making it onto the 2016 shortlist Doha will undergo further IOC review, they will point out the weaknesses in their application and give Doha time to remedy them for a solid 2020 bid.

Now others may disagree with my analysis, and deciding on which city gets the Olympics always has had a bit of a political element to it, but I just can't see that it would be Asia's turn again. 2020 -- strive for it Doha. Don't give up if the 2016 bid doesn't work out.

We'll find out tonight -- good luck Doha!