World Future Energy Summit 2010 in Abu Dhabi

WFES 2010 and it's main sponsors.

From January 18 to 21 Abu Dhabi hosted the second (or maybe third) annual World Future Energy Summit (WFES).  Masdar was one of the main sponsors of the event, and it was quite a show.  Something like 20,000 people came through over 40,000 m^2 of space (nearly 10 acres) from 130 countries (including over 70 heads of states, royalty, or government department heads).  What was awesome is that Masdar is such a hot topic and all of the companies attending want to somehow be affiliated with it that we got the star treatment there as students of the Institute.

My fellow students and I (Valur (Iceland), Joseph (Italy)) in front of the Masdar Booth.

There were hundreds of really awesome speaker sessions as well with some really well known environmentalists, energy experts, CEO’s, and leaders giving inspiring and interesting talks (though of course some of them were surprisingly poor speakers for people who do it for a living).

Me in the Tesla, $100K electric sports car. Bit of a tight fit though.

They also had these small roundtable breakout sessions where you got to sit down with an expert in a small group and talk about some issue or technology. It was definitely a fun week.

This is about how big some wind turbine generators actually are!

Best of all, though, were the dinners at night.  Though I may have put on a few kilos that week, we got to have some pretty nice free meals. Part of the WFES is the Zayed Future Energy Prize Award Ceremony and dinner. They’re essentially trying to make this prize become the Nobel equivalent in the energy field.  The winner gets $1.5M USD and the second and third place get $350K.  Last year’s winner was this guy from Bangladesh who developed training programs to teach local women how to put together and install small home solar photovoltaic arrays to provide people with their first bit of electricity in their homes, greatly improving the lives of the people and the women as well. It was a very heartwarming story, and showed how the money from last year has already gone to good use. This year, for some reason, Toyota won. It was a bit anticlimactic.  The Prius is a great advance in auto technology, and has had a large international impact, but it was so different from what everyone expected compared to last year’s winner, that we were all a bit disappointed. What does a multi-billion dollar company do with another million?

Dinner at Emirates Palace after the Zayed Future Energy Prize.

Regardless of the prize, the dinner afterwards was at the elegant Emirates Palace Hotel. It was awesome and they even served wine! We took full advantage of that. The next night we had appetizers and then one of the best dessert spreads I have ever seen (pictured below), complete with a chocolate fountain.  The last night we had a final dinner back at the Institute after we closed up shop. It was a good week.

Amazing dessert spread at the Fairmont Hotel, notice the chocolate fountain in the background.

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Back in Abu Dhabi – Golfing in the Desert

After a wonderful trip back to the good ‘ol USA, it was quite tough to get back on the plane to return to Abu Dhabi, despite the promise of warm weather. I had spent three weeks gorging myself with all the comforts of home, from pizza (which I’m convinced made me sick), to an awesome Christmas Eve dinner at the Ippolito’s, to The Tree in Rockefeller Center, partying in New York, Boston, Tucson, and Killington, my family, friends, Andrea, American Football, and last, but certainly far from least, Bud light and other cheap American beer.  Ahh, the things I now appreciate.

Well, classes start up again tomorrow, so this the last post from freedom for quite some time.

When I returned to the Dhabs, as it has come to be named, I got a call from a friend of mine who works at Masdar City that she had some two for one golf coupons, so I was of course happy to accept the invitation.  Remember, I was fresh off my trip to Tucson, AZ, where I played some lights out golf with my parents (and by lights out I mean the people living on the golf course whose windows I destroyed and now have access to enhanced natural light). Upon some further investigation, however, it turns out that the so-called desert courses of Tucson are nothing compared to the desert courses here.

We arrived at Al Ghazal Golf Club (http://www.alghazalgolf.ae/) to find that when they say desert, they mean desert. The fairway is merely smooth sand marked by stakes where you can hit off of an astroturf mat that you carry with you,

the rough is one giant bunker, the bunkers are still bunkers, and the greens are actually called browns and are just paved and packed sand.

Either way, it was a fun time for sure, and certainly provided many excuses for my terrible golf game (and probably improved my ability to get out of the sand).

An Abu Dhabi Thanksgiving

Well, I believe our Thanksgiving Feast was a resounding success!  We fed probably over 30 neighbors, professors, and students, with all of the trimmings, including:

  • Two 6 kilo beautiful turkeys with regular gravy and Josh’s pomegranate gravy, and stuffing

Our Turkey, hot outa the oven

  • Mashed potatoes
  • Momma Warshay’s Candy Sweet Potatoes
  • Green beans and a biiig salad
  • Josh’s homemade garlic biscuits
  • Steve’s bread-o-copia,

Steve's Bread-o-Copia

  • John’s homemade pumpkin pie and whipped cream

John, prepping for his pumpkin pie with mini-pumpkins, the best we could find

  • Josh’s homemade apple strudel and marble cheesecake

Josh's marble cheesecake

  • Steve’s homemade coconut custard pie, and
  • numerous other international dishes donated from other students.

It lasted from around 4pm until almost 11pm, with lots of good conversation, full bellies, and even two birthday celebrations! Our wishbone competition did not go so well, but we were able to get a surprising number of people to try the turkey neck, heart, liver, and gizzard. We could not have done it without the help of the local Germans, Italians, Taiwanese, and everyone else who attended and enjoyed.

Josh at the carving station, serving up our good eats

 

Thanksgiving Dinner

 

Thanksgiving in Abu Dhabi

One may not see many things in common between American and Emirati culture.  But one thing we do share is our commitment to doing things in excess.  And there’s no better way to embrace this common interest than by celebrating the American (and apparently Canadian, though we had it first) holiday of Thanksgiving.

In honor of this great tradition, we did some research and found a place that sells butterball turkeys (Spinney’s) for a mere 90 dhs (~$25) for a 6 kilo (~12 lbs) bird.

 

Good 'ol American made. Did you know, Butterball, founded in 1954, today accounts for 20% of turkey production in the USA (and probably 100% of the Thanksgiving turkeys in the UAE)?

On a side note, this wonderful supermarket also caters to the western folk by having a separate “Pork Only” section that is a sight for sore eyes.  You walk through poorly marked sliding doors into a heavenly pork and bacon filled smörgåsbord of hams, pork loins, frozen pork, pork belly, bacon, bacon fat, bacon bits, ham, honey glazed ham, slim jims, sausages of every make and model, and, best of all, American’s 15th favorite food (kind of), Spam. Oh, and did I mention bacon?

So we’ve planned somewhat of a potluck meal, with the Americans making the basics (turkey, mashed potatoes, candy sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, green beans) and some of the other students are making or bringing dishes of their own.  We’re looking forward to the day, and because we don’t get the NFL on cable nor can we drink, we’ll be searching for some things to talk about as well.  Please do not hesitate to submit your ideas.

Anyway, we’re all looking forward to a great Thanksgiving Day, and invite anyone near Khalifa City A on Thursday, November 26, 2009, to join us.

Cyprus Trip, October 2009

For our October break my friend Steve (from Philly, he was a track star at Penn St) and I wanted to get away from it all and took a little trip to the Republic of Cyprus.

Steve, chillin waitin for our first bus

Steve, chillin waitin for our first bus

We decided on Cyprus essentially because there were cheap direct flights from Abu Dhabi.  Our other incentive was that Cyprus is a recent addition to the European Union and was nearing the end of its tourist season.  This combination resulted in reasonably priced hotels, nice beaches, and the ability to drink beer on the streets. We landed in Larnaca and immediately took a bus to Ayia Napa, the partying capital of Cyprus, about an hour away. Fortunately, Cyprus is small enough that you can drive between almost any two cities in an hour or two.  We walked around for a bit until we came upon a deal we just could not turn down: 3 liters of beer for 12 euro!

3 liters of beer, 12 Euro, and two happy travelers.

Some info about Cyprus: It is similar to Greece in many ways.  The food is great. They have these Mezes, which are a price fixed meals where they bring you anywhere from 6-10 tapas type dishes of either meat or fish. We had them for dinner each night and definitely clogged some arteries. Also, I highly recommend the halloumi cheese. It’s awesome grilled.

Anyway, in 1960, the Cyprus it was granted independence from England.  Fourteen years later, Turkey invaded Cyprus and eventually a ceasefire was signed which ended up dividing the country.  Turkey still occupies the northern third of the country resulting in the Greek Cypriots having some serious feelings of resentment towards the Turkish Cypriots.  Apparently, after the ceasefire, there was a mass exodus of Greek Cypriots from the occupied territory to the Republic of Cyprus, and vice versa.  So, there are Greek Cypriots who abandoned their homes in the north waiting for the day to return. Unfortunately, their homes are now occupied by Turkish Cypriots, and, of course, the same goes for the Turkish Cypriots with their homes in the Republic of Cyprus.  The occupied territory is only recognized internationally by Turkey.

After quite a night out we took a bus the next day to the capital, Nicosia. Here we learned that there is one significant benefit to the occupied territory: Casinos. In the capital city, Nicosia, the world’s last divided capital city, there is a ‘green line’ that separates the Republic of Cyprus from the occupied territory.  This is where we really appreciate a US passport. We could easily walk back and forth between the two ‘countries.’ And in the occupied territory are casinos! I was lucky enough to play some roulette and ended up winning 75 euros, not a bad evening at all.

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One of the 'green line' checkpoints.

Nicosia is also a really old, cool city that is surrounded by a wall built by the Venetians in the 1500’s.  It was really cool to see some very old architecture after living in a city for nearly three months that was built in the past 30 years or so.

Me at the Famagusta Gate, Nicosia, Cyprus

Me at the Famagusta Gate, Nicosia, Cyprus

After a night in Nicosia, we took a bus to our next destination, the coastal city of Limassol. Here we had a hostel booked for two nights and were looking forward to being able to chill out and see some old Greek and Roman ruins as well as take a hike through the Troodos Mountains.

Toughass Hikers

Toughass Hikers

Sick view from Kourion ruins

Sick view from Kourion ruins

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The stadium at the Kourion ruins

Me vs. Me

Fun with my camera

October 2009 Updates

Since our last little escapade to Dubai, we’ve actually been pretty busy just doing our schoolwork and research, going out mostly here in Abu Dhabi on the weekends. My research is slowly, but steadily coming along. What’s exciting is that in early October, Boeing officially announced its partnership with Masdar on my project! So, if you google “Masdar Boeing” you’ll find a host of articles about the research I will be doing, with quotes from my advisor, Dr. Sgouridis. So that’s actually been really exciting! (http://www.greentechmedia.com/green-light/post/masdar-boeing-upo-plot-biofuel-from-marsh-grass/)

Otherwise, today we had our very first test, a math test, and it was terrible. Fortunately, most of the other students agreed, so hopefully there will be some leniency in the grading…we shall see.  Also, on Tuesday of this week I got elected to the first full Masdar Institute Student Council as a Member-at-Large! It seems that I will be heading up the Facilities and Transportation Committee, which, with the hopeful move the Masdar next year, should be a lot of work, but might give me a chance to really help improve the lifestyle of the future students.  The elections, not surprisingly, were not without their own fair share of drama, though, but I won’t discuss that here.

In more exciting news, I saw a world famous DJ, Paul Van Dyke, a few weeks ago, which was an awesome show. Since Napster came out I have been listening to his music (thanks to Nappy and Rich too).

And last week some students organized a trip to the National Avian Research Center (NARC) about an hour south of Abu Dhabi. We saw a presentation about this massive effort to save this bird, the Houbara Bustard… wait for it… so that the Emiratis can continue to hunt them with their falcons. Ironic? Yes. But for a good cause overall? I guess so.  However, the most exciting part of the trip was getting to run amok in the nearby sand dunes and to enjoy an awesome dinner afterwards (free of charge!).

Desert Sunset

Desert Sunset

Conquerors of the Sand Dunes

At the desert dunes

At the desert dunes

Most importantly, I’m going to Cyprus tomorrow (actually in 7 hours) because we have all next week off from school! Woohoo!

Dubai Late Night

baghdad tv!

baghdad tv!

Because we have not had access to internet at our villas, I have not been able to make any drunken posts. Well, it’s holiday and I am drunk and I have internet access, so the logical conclusion I can come to at 4 am is to write something that may or may not be somewhat intelligible.

Five of us came to Dubai today, with high hopes and fantastical dreams of a party city that goes on forever. Well, the setback we realized was that we were five dudes, no girls, and the typical male to female ratio in this town is that or worse.  After attempts to enter no less than five bars/clubs, two of which were closed, some that would not let us in and some that weren’t worth entering, we finally came back to one and got in to a place called Zinc. And, all in all, it was really fun. We had a bunch of drinks and partied as best as we could.  Now, I am the last one awake, eating leftover pizza and hydrating. And so it goes…

i.e. Salim, after our night out. Passed out on the couch as is necessary.

i.e. Salim, after our night out. Passed out on the couch as is necessary.

Our apartment/hotel room view, in Marina, Dubai. No wonder Salim fell asleep on the couch.

Our apartment/hotel room view, in Marina, Dubai. No wonder Salim fell asleep on the couch.