Well, fall is finally in the air in Doha. The searing heat has ebbed, and the colors have begun to change... meaning the plants are turning green again. It was incredible the temperature change! We were still having upper 90s during the day just one month ago. Then, suddenly, in about two week's time, the nights became much cooler and the days became livable! Right now, we have midday temps in the upper 80s to low 90s, and nighttime lows in the 60s... gorgeous weather. Over here, the winter is when everyone starts enjoying the outdoors. The empty lots around town start to fill up with large majelis, or tents used to hold weddings. The larger empty spaces are now used for marathon cricket matches. People are walking outdoors... outdoors!!
A few weeks ago, some friends and I enjoyed a professional tennis tournament in town. The Sony Ericsson World Tennis Association Ladies Championship held a tournament at the tennis stadium. The top ten female tennis players in the world, and the doubles, played a long weekend match. Serena Williams canceled last minute with food poisoning, a common ailment here for foreigners. But I did get to see the gold medal pairs play the number one pairs in the world, including Elena Dementieva. Next up, I saw Venus Williams beat #1 in the world, Jelena Jankovic. A full day of world class competition, in a beautiful stadium, under clear blue skies... nice day.
But it's not all just fun and games over here. The last semester is always the busiest over here. You have third exams, final exams, grading, lab cleaning and prep for next semester... all while the students complain that they don't have enough time to study. I have one more week of teaching and grading, then it's two weeks of moving our research labs into our new building.
But I do have a lot of fun and games! Last weekend, some friends and I went for a weekend in Dubai. I took a few days to plan and thought, if I'm spending the money to splurge on a quick trip to Dubai... why not do it right? So I booked a room at Atlantis the Palm. This is the same hotelier as the Atlantis in the Bahamas. Five stars, brand new, one billion Euro cost. I flew over on a Friday morning with [NAME REMOVED] and took a cab to The Palm. Dubai is amazing... it is just skyscraper over skyscraper... all brand new, and each with its own unique and stunning architecture. You can see the Burj al Dubai tower from anywhere in the city... the tallest building in the world. It's only about 4/5th completed, but it's already the tallest structure in the world. When finished, it will be just under one kilometer in height. It dominates the skyline in a way that is unbelievable...
I also saw the sail shaped Burj al Arab, the only seven-star hotel in the world, anchored on an island just off the coast. You have probably seen Nike ads with sports stars hitting golf balls or playing tennis off of its helipad. Anyway, took the cab to The Palm, the first in many of reclaimed land built off the coast. Pulling onto it, you wouldn't even know you were on the Palm, because all you see is the line of high rise apartment buildings spreading out left and right. Next a tunnel, then you see the resort, Atlantis. It was magnificent!! You enter the lobby and see a Geoffrey Chihuly glass sculpture that is gorgeous. The room was great, with a tiny balcony overlooking the Palm. Dubai is currently building a monorail (no shitty El trains here), and the monorail has a station directly in the hotel! I spent the day enjoying the in-hotel waterpark. And this wasn't some rinky-dink SplashTown... this was built by the same family as Schlitterbahn! Uphill coasters, tube chutes, rapids, and a body slide that takes you into a dark pit, followed by a clear acrylic tube thru a shark tank! Killer!! One problem, the uphill rides are designed for the generally much smaller people of Arabia. I took an uphill run but bumped into the sidewall and slowed down... and I didn't have enough velocity to make the next uphill... and I stopped the ride. The cut the water, and I coasted to a stop, and took a very embarrassing walk down the stairs. Ouch. Also, the hotel has an incredible aquarium... 11,000,000 liters of water! The largest viewing window is about thirty feet high and fifty feet across! It was a very filled day. But the night was almost as good. We got a reservation to Nobu, one of the best (and most expensive) sushi and Japanese food restaurants in the world. You may remember it as the restaurant where Iron Chef Morimoto used to cook, and owned by Robert DeNiro... cool. An eight course dinner was to-die-for, and so was the bill. Best part, besides the scallops on miso chips, were the four greasy Russians with six of the most obvious hookers I have ever seen. We're talking six foot tall blondes with dresses so short I could count how many kids they had... plus twelve of the most uplifted, angriest boobs I have ever seen!
The one down side of our stay was that the main beach and pool were closed. The hotel's grand opening was in one week, and they were building a stage for the opening ceremony. They also were discussing the many barges floating out around the hotel and fronds of the Palm. Turns out they were firework barges... holding ten times as many fireworks as the Bejing Olympic opening ceremony!! You have to check out the video at http://www.atlantisthepalm.com/grandopening.aspx.
The next day, we met up with some friends at their hotel, and went to the Mall of the Emirates. We did some shopping, but were really there for the skiing. Yes, skiing. I went snow skiing at the famous Ski Dubai. A multistory, two run indoor ski slope with lifts, jumps, ramps, and even a landing bag... and hot chocolate. After a twenty minute struggle with the provided ski clothing (damn... my ass has gotten huge!) we took off for the lift to the top. I was a bit wobbly at first, but picked my form back up in no time. Now, the runs are fairly short, but it is just so cool knowing that outside it was 92 degrees, in the mall it was 72 degrees, and in this large room, it was -2 degrees. We had a ton of fun! Hopefully you watched the video above documenting the entire run. I only fell once when I was slammed into by a rowdy ten-year old on a snowboard. But I got him back by smacking him later with my ski pole. We were going up for our last run when [NAME REMOVED] slipped a little and took a fall. Unfortunately, her ski didn't come off and she ended up tearing a ligament. Ouch... But on the bright side, when we left, we were able to skip the taxi lines and got full handicap cutsies thru security and customs. Her pain... my gain. Thankfully, she's OK... just a little hobbled until she finds out if she needs surgery...
I had some more fun this past weekend... I stayed in my winter home! Some friends and I bought a large tent, got a permit, and went out to the inland sea to find a home. We caravaned over the dunes and searched around for our little slice of heaven. We ended up picking up a great spot just over a dune from the sea and went to work. It took a few hours, but we were able to get the tent up and ready with chairs, tables, coolers, and beds. We even have a screened in porch... and a separate shitter! After putting the tent up, we took a swim in the crystal clear inland sea to cool off, and spent the night relaxing under the bright stars. The occasional LandCruiser would pass by, and nearby tents were shooting off fireworks... but it was a beautiful night. The air got cold, we bundled up, and we lit our firepit to cook our handmade South African sausage. After a great night asleep, I awoke first to watch the sunrise over the dunes. On the way home, we stopped to take some photos of a wild herd of camels. Nice weekend.
I live... one hell of a life.