Spence Green

التكرار يعلم الحمار

I work at Lilt. In addition to computers and languages, my interests include travel, running, and scuba diving. more...

Weekly Post

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Well, I haven’t attended to this site with much regularity over the past month, have I? I arrived on Jan. 3 after a much needed rest at home. My intent was to rest on Wednesday and Thursday and then run the Dubai Marathon on the Friday, the 6th. I awoke Wednesday morning with no trace of jet lag, much to my delight. Upon inspection, my refrigerator yielded two eggs, a half-stick of butter, and some jelly that sported a new hairdo. After a short run, I thus drove to the market for some rations. As I pulled into the lot, all of the radio stations suddenly switched to the Quran channel. Such is never an idle indication in this region. My training partner called a few minutes later with news that Shaikh Maktoum, the Dubai ruler, had died of a heart attack. The marathon was postponed, work cancelled, and the country forced into forty days of mourning. My initial thought was to buy kerosene and guns, but then I thought better of it.

These guys tend to “die” just near major Islamic holidays like Ramadan and Eid. This fellow passed on just a few days before Eid Al Adha, the short respite just after Hajj. Rumor has it he royal family keeps dead shaikhs on ice for just these occassions. Shaikh Zayed, for example, the first UAE ruler, supposedly died six weeks before the announcement, which coincided with the conclusion of Ramadan. Now the Umm Al Quiwain (another of the seven emirates) has contracted some illness with nine months to go before Ramadan. This situation might require a strategic response, such as a Cryonics facility. Ted Williams’ family could provide some references.

The newspapers carried thousands of advertisements related to Maktoum’s death over the ensuing weeks, all of identical form and content. On one particular day, I counted 54 pages of them in the Gulf News. All media outlets carried eulogies, which referred to his “sad demise.” I found this translation quite amusing, for demise seems appropriate only when referring to the fall of Rome or Macaulay Culkin’s career, for example. At any rate, things had just returned to normal a few weeks ago when Shaikh Jaber died in Kuwait. The imams again had the whole radio spectrum as their collective mouthpiece, though the government did not mandate any federal holidays.


Last week a sandstorm blew over the base. I went outside around noon and made about 50 feet of progress before retiring. Small dunes had formed at the door; visibility was about twenty feet. The sand does not hurt the skin or eyes, but is quite an annoyance, much like a swarm of gnats. Further, I did not have a rag for my mouth, so I inhaled a pound of the stuff before I could get back inside. I weezed like an emphysema patient for the remainder of the afternoon. Several hours later, the wind had abated and I went out to my car. The afternoon light reflected off the sand in the atmosphere, creating this startling ambient luminance quite unlike anything I had ever seen. The shadows seemed to retreated, as if terrified by the prospect of a superior force. The sun itself seemed amplified; I kept my head lowered as I trudged to the car.


Yesterday I attended the opening round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. We arrived around noon when many of prominent players–Colin Montgomerie, Sergio Garcia, John Daly–were just finishing. After walking around the course for an hour, we caught up with a fine threesome on the sixth hole: Chris DiMarco, Thomas Bjorn, and David Howell. We followed this group the remainder of the afternoon. I had never attended a golf tournament. It’s a pensive affair, isn’t it? At times it was more placid than the library. I’ve posted some pictures; the compound seems reminiscent of South Florida. Notice the clubhouse: it was built in the shape of a falcon, the national symbol of this country.

I’m off to the beach.

Written by Spence

January 20th, 2006 at 9:38 am

Posted in UAE

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