Abu Dhabu 2000 - 2001
Getting serious now...
We're in the new Millennium now - February 2000 - and I'm off to Abu Dhabi in the UAE. I don't remember how I got there - I remember flying into Abu Dhabi airport, but not sure if it was a direct flight or via somewhere else. Either way, I do remember waiting for my suitcase to come out, only to see it had opened during the flight and my clothes were spilling out. Nothing lost though. I was collected and taken straight to our new apartment in downtown Abu Dhabi. We were lucky - a nice 2-bedroom apartment just 10 minutes from work.
I don't remember much about the first few months, work was good but my main personal task was trying to get Alma over to join me. It was hard but we were committed - remember this is pre-mobile phone days, so it was emails and the occasional phone call that kept us going. Anyhow, I went through all the processes and managed to secure her a visa within a couple of months and she flew over in early June. We didn't get the logistics right and I remember she had a hard time leaving Cebu, but eventually got on the flight and we were together again. We look back now and realize just how much we hadn't thought it through. Unmarried couples are not allowed to live together yet we settled in to domestic bliss. We were engaged at this point though and the next few months were busy with planning our wedding later that year.
I enjoyed my work - I was a Manager for a proper Hotel chain and liked being part of something big. Everything was geared towards the weekends when seemingly the whole of Abu Dhabi headed to the beach. Our beach was highly sought-after - a real social hangout. My main task was to move into a new Health Club - long story but a new building had been ready for a good year or so, but no-one had made the decision to make the move. I did make it happen although it wasn't a popular decision - Members favoured the old place, but we had to look forward.
Remember that Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and as our hotel was the government hotel at that time, all visiting dignitaries stayed with us. I don't remember them all, but two certainly stand out. We used to host the Abu Dhabi Marathon which, due to the heat, started at 4am from the front of the hotel. I wasn't a marathon runner back then - I was organizing - and while waiting to start and a certain King of a certain Middle Eastern country rocked up after a late night out. There were regulars too and Yasser Arafat was probably the most frequent visitor coming cap in hand to meet Sheik Zayed. This was the time of the 'Second Intifada' and although we tried not to take a stance, fund-raising activities were very common at this time and it was hard not to sympathize with the Palestinian cause.
Back to our personal goings on and Alma and I flew to Cebu for two weeks in summer 2000 - not just for a holiday but also to get married. It was