Same same but different

The Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi is same same but different compared to Dubai. Or at least that’s how I experienced it. In the taxi there – one long ride on a motorway, straight as an arrow. Every five minutes we passed a mosque. When the muezzin calls to prayer, the mosque must be so close that every faithful can make it to prayer before the call finishes.

We lived privately with my friend who now lives there with her consultant husband and their children. She has a job (not many of the “wives” have a job in Abu Dhabi) as teacher at the woman university. Oh my, I just can’t believe what it’s like to teach a class full of women in black black black, veils too. It’s possible though, says my friend.

The MAN in Abu Dhabi is this guy:

Sheik Khalifa al Zayed is the son of The Nation’s Father and seems to be a somewhat more sensible ruler than his counterpart in Dubai. Education, nature preservation and ART are some of the important issues on his agenda. The maddest, craziest, loveliest project is Saadiyat Island, where, in a few years’ time, more art will be on display in the smallest space than ever before. Louvre, British Museum and Guggenheim, door to door. Read about it here (official web page).

There’s also an “entertainment island”, called Yas Island. One of the attractions there is Ferrari World and a Formula One track. In the middle of the track is the Yas Hotel. A design jewel with wonderful restaurants. However, I wouldn’t like to stay there when the racing is on.

All this is made possible by underpaid and overworked immigrant workers from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, etc. etc. They are transported in ugly run-down busses to their workplace in the early morning and they are picked up again at dusk. At the time we were there, the climate was merciful to hardworking people. However, they work in the summer too, when it’s 50 degrees Celsius in the shade. They don’t work in the shade.


End of a Year

Hasn’t it been a strange year? It has for me. Started at a low, but ended well. Lots of ups and downs along the way. In a broader perspective I don’t know what to think! Obama is totally unpopular because he’s turned out to be only human and to constantly work for the consensus he’s always said he’d work for. This should be really strange, but isn’t, at least not in politics. Here’s a clip where he ads his five cents to the It Gets Better campaign. In the UK we got out in the nick of time – Oh me, can’t believe how Nick Clegg can sleep at night? Am told from people who move in the upper echelons of the British society that the only people NOT suffering from this deep crisis are exactly them, the VERY rich. The middle class is also feeling the pain, but it’s the working poor and the undeserving (that’s people who don’t work, no matter why) who are really feeling the axe. In Harrods, it’s business as usual.

In Denmark we have a conservative/nationalist government, which is luckily worn very thin. An election next year will bring some form of change, but I will not try to guess what it’ll be like. Hard, however, to imagine anything worse than what we’re experiencing now. The concept of “undeserving” as mentioned above is also very prominent here in Denmark. A very clever and passionate charity worker calls Denmark a “post-solidary society“. He’s right, but isn’t it sad?   I work for the Danish Refugee Council occasionally and that’s just so depressing. To get into the country is almost impossible with the Dublin regulation firmly in place and rigorously enforced, even though for instance Greece is totally incapable of receiving all these refugees and process their applications. Many countries in Europe have stopped returning refugees to Greece, but not Denmark. Obviously. Then to have your application granted is even harder. It’s like the bl**dy camel in the bible.

At my dad’s nursing home I regularly hear the old people abuse the immigrants who work there. And the management says that they can only admonish the staff, not the inhabitants. Imagine going to work every day, at the lowest possible pay, wiping people’s bottoms and then ON TOP listening to abuse for your skin colour and/or your (perceived) religion. I want to slap some of them. But you can’t, can you?

And then there are the wars. Everywhere there’s a war and in many places people who actually work actively to start one. Here, in my little segment of the privileged world it is totally and utterly incomprehensible. People get killed for no apparent reason and the dead are either totally innocent civilians or soldiers, recruited from the lower rungs of their society, more often than not without a clue what they’re getting into. That is clear from the books and stories we hear from soldiers coming home with their bodies but not their minds in one piece.

Our civil rights are threatened everywhere. And most people seem not to worry or care at all! Read here how the democracy United States of America is treating the 22 year old private Bradley Manning (allegedly behind the latest batch of  Wikileaks leaks). He has not yet been convicted of or even charged with a crime – nevertheless he’s treated like a convicted serial killer.

In many European countries you can now have your phone tapped or other measures taken against you without a court order. A great thing, however, is that the Danish court recently said NO, you cannot detain people because you THINK they are going to behave violently at a demonstration. Several hundred people were “administratively detained” before the COP15 summit in Copenhagen last year. But this is perhaps the only cheerful story among all the sad ones about how the “war against terrorism” is undermining the very society it’s supposed to protect.

In the midst of all the misery, there are still people who come up with amazing ideas and who are incredibly creative. I went to the TedXCph, which was a great event and there I heard some great speakers. The one that sat with me the longest was the most crazy and unlikely of them all. Had I been a smoker I might have missed it because the blurb was like “we want to build a mountain in Copenhagen”. You WHAT? Seriously. But I’m not a smoker and I did hear it. I suggest you hear it too. You must hang on till the second guy starts talking. He’s the kind of person who could sell sand in Sahara!


Christmas is the time of year where absent friends and family are most prominently on our minds. The ones I miss the most are the ones who are still alive, but who choose to not be around. On that account, I wish for a better 2011 and hope to understand my failings better.

I wish you all and our dear Earth a peaceful 2011.