Sunday, 26 February 2017

Rain rain... please do stay..!

UAE is a divided country at the moment - all over the weather!
It's been raining, for what seems like weeks, and I can see on my FB feed and on Instagram that some seems to have had enough of the grey skies by now. Many others (me included!) just LOVE it and can't get enough!
I love, love, LOVE these cooler temperatures, the grey skies, the unusual rain, the puddles and the fact that I get to snuggle up in knitted cardigans, warm socks and drink hot chocolate..!


Actually it has been rather rotten and grey weather most of the time while Grandma and Granddad have been here, but it hasn't bothered us too much. Fortunately they are not really here for a beach holiday!
Although we had a bit of a wet visit to the Grand Mosque today... so we had to skip visiting Wahat Al Karama as it wouldn't have been much fun in the rain. We are hoping for a dry day tomorrow so we can squeeze that in too before they leave. Here's a small clip from the mosque:

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We even had to use the car window wipers on the full speed setting today:

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Saturday, 25 February 2017

#RideToAbuDhabi

The Abu Dhabi Tour is here for the third year in a row. This is the only Middle Eastern race on the UCI World Tour calendar. 16 UCI WorldTeams and four UCI Professional Continental Teams are here to ride the four day long race, and many of the best riders in the world are here; well-known names such as Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali, Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Alberto Contador and Caleb Ewan to name a few.

The opening stage took part on Thursday, started and ended in Madinat Zayed and ran entirely through the desert, 188 km long.

We all went into town yesterday to have a look at stage two, which started from the new Al Maryah island. We started out by watching the group as they came down the Corniche on their way out of the city, and then once again when they came back just before the sprint out to the Breakwater, after 155 km.


We were very impressed on how quickly they cleared the street, they only started a mere 5 minutes before the riders came through. But I guess when you get police cars like these tooting at you, you move!



There they came, a huge peloton zooming past!





When they had passed, we went to spend some time in the Fan Zone in Nation Towers.




This whole venue was dedicated to the sponsors, and it also had a kids' area and a large screen where they sent the race live.




We also had time for a coffee break on the balcony of the Nation Towers, while we waited for the riders to come back.



(Yes, Dan the man had come over from Doha for the day too!)


We had a superb view from up there, when they came back through before they went out on the Breakwater:


They had 2 km left when they passed us, so we just had time to run back into the Fan Zone to see them all finish on the big screen!


Today we have watched the third stage, the mountain stage, from the comfort of our sofa, aaahhh. They have been riding out in Al Ain for 186 km and finished off with the climb up the Jebel Hafeet mountain. Impressive how much juice they had left in their legs for that last uphill sprint!


Tomorrow evening we will be going to the Yas Marina Circuit to see the final stage, which is held entirely on the F1 track. They will do 26 laps - 143 km.

World Airline Cycling Challenge 2017 - Day 2

Wednesday was Day 2 of the World Airline Cycling Challenge, and it was a time trial held at the Al Wahtba Cycling track. Nathan rode with an Etihad team, and Bruce got a spot on the "International Team" together with a couple of riders from Etihad and one from Emirates.


They did the big lap around Al Wahtba, 30 km. It was a beautiful morning with near to perfect cycling conditions, no rain this time.



They finished the 2017 WACC at the Stills Bar Wednesday afternoon with a prize giving ceremony. Only Bruce and Nathan went on to that one (hence I have no further photos...), us girls hung back with the kids at home.
Paradise on earth for these boys, a big group of pilots gathered together - who all loves to ride bikes!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

World Airline Cycling Challenge 2017

The World Airline Cycling Challenge kicked off yesterday morning at the Yas Marina Circuit. Bruce, Yvonne and Nathan left the house early, early in the morning as the race started even before the sun was up.



I joined them once I had taken the kids to school a little bit later. By then the race was nearly done, I made it just in time to see the winner, and the rest of the riders come across the finish line.




Bruce and Nathan both also looked on from the sideline by this stage. Bruce had dropped out after about half the race because he couldn't control his heart rate, so he thought better safe than sorry.
Nathan on the other hand had come off his bike in a crash caused by another rider. Luckily his (brand new, high tech and super expensive, grrrr) helmet had taken most of the impact - which I guess is good, otherwise it would've been his head... The helmet was both scratched, and cracked!
Apart from that he "only" got scratches and bruises on his shoulders, hand and legs; but at least no broken bones.
The guy from the bike shop just called back to give the verdict on the frame though, and it's cracked... Strangely Nathan doesn't seem too upset about that... he gets to buy a new bike!




Bruce having a photo with the two guys from one of the previous airlines he worked at, Jet Airways: 


The Malaysian Airways group:


Some of the Etihad Airways crew in their new outfits:


Group shot of all the riders! (Nathan in the front right in brown/white without a helmet, and Bruce at the very far right). Yas Marina Circuit and the Viceroy is such a great backdrop!


Yvonne and I got to help out to hand out the goodie bags after the race, with t-shirts and medals. Then it was time for morning coffee!



Bloooooood..!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Preparations

Nathan has been a busy bee today with the last preparations for a bike race that he has helped organize together with Etihad - the World Airline Cycling Challenge.
The WACC consist of two days of challenges. The first tomorrow being a 15 lap challenge around the Yas Marina Circuit, about 85 km. The second event on Wednesday morning will be a Team Time Trial around the Al Wathba Cycle Track.

Nathan and Bruce packed all the goodie-bags today:


The participation t-shirts:


The participation medals:


They are expecting 50+ cyclists, airline employees and/or their immediate family. Cyclists from Emirates, Malaysian Airlines, Air NZ (guess who?), Jet Airways and British Airways have signed up, and the age range is from 17 to 68 (guess who again?).
I'm sure it'll be a good day!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Wahat al Karama

Another thing I participated in this week was a Masterclass organized only for Abu Dhabi tour guides, at the new Martyrs Monument inaugurated end of November last year. I had planned to go here soon anyway, so I really welcomed this chance of an organized visit.


The Wahat al Karama is located in a strategic place right between the General Head Quarters of the Armed Forces of the UAE, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Al Bateen airport where the fallen heroes are returned to. It is rather surprising how big the area actually is, there is definitely more than meets the eye when you just drive passed it. It really is an impressive and beautifully symbolic monument.
We got to walk around with one of the local cultural guides, all got busy taking notes!


The Memorial Plaza, with the big amphitheater that can seat 1200 people, and the shallow reflective pool, which makes for great photos of the mosque. This pool can also be drained and filled again in just five minutes, which can leave room for military ceremonies such as the celebrations on Martyr's Day itself.



The Memorial, which is made up of 31 aluminum-clad tablets. They are all leaning on one another, to symbolize the unity, solidarity and mutual support between the citizens, the service men and women and our leaders. They are inscribed with a series of poems and verses by the late Sheikh Zayed and several other members of the Royal family.



This here is the "spine" of the whole monument, and it has the Pledge of Allegiance of the UAE Armed Forces engraved along the top, to represent the support the Armed Forces give to the nation.


Throughout the whole park, there is a channel of water that runs (inspired by the traditional Falaj irrigation system) from the entrance, under the panels and into an Infinity Pool, which symbolizes the infinite gratitude to the fallen heroes of the UAE:


The Pavilion of Honour. This is where each and every hero of the UAE is honoured with a name plate. They date from the start of the union in 1971 until, currently, 2016. The name plates are all made from aluminum recycled from vehicles in service with the UAE Armed Forces.


The seven glass panels in the middle of the Pavilion, represent the the seven Emirates:



We were there right on time to see the daily 5pm salute. How special.




Such a serene and beautiful site.


A bonus with these kind of workshops is that you get to reconnect and network with other Abu Dhabi Tour Guides. This is Karina, also from my guide course: