Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the 2009 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my husband Roger and I discussed what we wanted the next part of our life to be like. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more airport project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for an exotic location? As usual, Roger came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This blog is a recap of our "leap-of- faith" wanderings around the Middle East and beyond. We joyfully share these expat experiences.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Prince of Sea . . . . A Royal Seafaring Day in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE

We are headed out to sea on the Prince of Sea sailing yacht when the deck hand Tamer motions for me to come to him.  He's holding a woven rope basket  that he's been vigorously rigging since we left the dock. I look around thinking he means someone else, but no, he really wants me. I hand my camera to Roger and walk gingerly towards him.

The contraption is indeed a basket to sit in. I notice it is attached to the boom of the sailboat but what that implies doesn't exactly register. He motions for me to sit. I glance over at Roger and see his look of trepidation. 

Katie in the rope swing.

The minute I am in the basket Tamer lets go of the rope and I swing out over the water on the ship’s starboard side. The swiftness of the movement startles me. As the basket tilts at a dangerous angle, it takes a minute to comprehend that if I don’t hold on really tight I will plunge headlong into the briny deep. Is this a modern version of walking the plank?

I careen alongside the starboard hull of the speeding yacht inches from the water; I feel like one of the dolphins I have seen racing next to excursion boats.  I am just about comfortable with this, when Tamer hoists me higher and I quickly fly over the boat to the port side only to be sharply brought back again getting a great seagull view of the surroundings.

Wait a minute – this is great! 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ramadan Iftar Dinner . . . A generous gesture of mutual respect

The Camp
The stark compound is bathed in the fading sunlight.  The cream colored containers blend with the sand into a monochromatic landscape. It is very still on the island with only the movement a mild gulf breeze breaking the searing heat of the day.  

I see a few men dressed in shalwar kameezs (baggie trousers and long tunics) and lungis (sarong like skirts) waiting around the gate entrance with wary anticipation as we position our cars full of food and gifts just up the hill from the camp. My welcoming wave receives no like response.  I admit that this makes me apprehensive. What if we don’t have enough for everyone? What if we've brought the wrong food?  What if they don’t come for our gifts?

Volunteer Farooque Rao assists the men to
 line up to receive their Iftar dinner and gifts. 

It is the last Friday of Ramadan and the Al Reem Ramadan Charity Project is delivering its first Iftar dinner and gift package to the 250 men living in a labor camp on Al Reem Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE.  Just three short weeks before, through emails and flyers, I began gathering generous souls to help. My goal was to fund one Iftar dinner (the celebratory evening meal during Ramadan) and give the men a gift bag of 5-6 essential personal items and food. (The team so over achieved this goal!)