Tag Archives | Spinneys

no parking, no problem: parking lot freestyle

The other day I went to Spinney’s, a grocery store that caters to expats. Spinneys has a pork room (aka “the hall of shame”) and next door to the grocery store is the liquor store (hall of double shame). And upstairs at Spinney’s is  Mug-and-Bean, where you can get bagels. They’re not the best bagels in the world, but they’re better than the doughy pucks from the freezer section.

Because Spinney’s shares a parking lot with Etisalat, the cable company, the lot gets really crowded. Luckily, Abu Dhabi drivers–expats and locals alike–are a resourceful bunch, so they can always manage to find a parking space.

For instance, a lesser human might have thought “gosh, that curb is painted with yellow lines, which probably means I shouldn’t park there, especially because it’s the exit lane from the parking lot.” An Abu Dhabi driver is made of sterner stuff:

A newcomer to Abu Dhabi–say, me–might look at the main ingress/egress lanes of the parking lot and see a space big enough to allow people to back out of a parking space easily. Clearly, I need to change my perspective. Those nice white lines down the middle of the lane? Those aren’t dividing lines, you newbie idiot. Those are parking lines. And you should park on those lines right up to the wall at the end of the lot, so that if you accidentally drive too far down this vehicularly divided lane, you have no choice but to back up, alllllll the way to the beginning:

And then again, if you can’t find a place to park on the dotted white lines, or on the yellow striped lines, or even the red-and-white striped lines, then by all means, just pull up to the bumper, baby. Or at very least, the sidewalk:

So I don’t know what this all means; I’m new here. Maybe it’s just the natural response of people with big cars in small spaces, or maybe this lot says something about the national character, or the characters of anyone who comes to live in a brand-new city in the desert: maybe we’re all just channeling our inner Bedouin and hopping off our camels wherever it’s convenient.

All I can say is that when we’re back in Manhaattan over the winter holidays, that whole alternate-side-of-the-street rigamarole will look sillier than ever. Just pull up on the sidewalks, let the street cleaners go by, and be done with it.  That’s the Abu Dhabi way.


Update: I am told by people who have lived here longer than I have that regulated parking of any sort arrived in AD only last year. Before that, “parking lots” were a kind of frontier state, where the best you could hope for is that the guy whose car blocked you in had left a piece of paper with his mobile number on it tucked into the dashboard so you could call him to come move his car.  Sometimes the call worked and the guy would come move his car, and sometimes…you’d have to leave your car where it was and go find a taxi.

Continue Reading · on December 9, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, expat, UAE


People here speak English.They also speak Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Tagalog, Gujerati, and god knows what else.  Most of the cab drivers here speak better English than the cabbies in New York.  On the one hand, yay! Everyone should speak English, shouldn’t they? I mean, shouldn’t there be a law or something? And then, of course, on the other hand, we earnest expats wonder where we will find the “real” Abu Dhabians?

The city seems a bit like Los Angeles or NYC  in that almost everyone here is from somewhere else…and the people who are really “from” here are very hard to find.  Plus that, when you leave the downtown area, where we live, the neighborhoods look like any swanky nabe, anywhere: walled villas set back from the road, green grass (green!), expensive shops and car dealerships: BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, Lamborghini, Ferrari.

On my way to Spinneys (a British grocery store), the cab drove through one such Al Swankia neighborhood and for a moment I could have been in Beverly Hills.  When I walked into the grocery store, the illusion of Western life persisted: orderly aisles, food from Waitrose, rows of Campbell’s Soup, Betty Crocker pancake mix, frozen pizzas, organic frozen vegetables.  All very Whole Foodsy (with prices to match), all very familiar.

And then…this:


Behind sliding glass doors, at the back of the store, a section of the grocery store set aside for us pork-eaters. In this room you’ll find porky happiness: babyback ribs, pork chops, and bacon, which comes with a sort of Surgeon General’s warning:

I wonder: what would constitute “pork for Muslims?”

Also in the pork room? Wee packets of pork scratchings, which I think are what George Bush the First liked to eat, yes? Pork Rinds? (Ah, the Bushies. What a classy group.)  The pork room also held shelves of Pop Tarts, that lard-based breakfast of champions. Should we call them Pork Tarts from now on?  (And yes, yes, I confess, if the box hadn’t been almost eight bucks, I would’ve brought some home. I loves me some Pop Tarts. )

Pork, it seems, resides in unexpected places. For instance, in seafood:

So yeah, everyone here seems to speak English, and yeah, there’s a Baskin-Robbins two doors down from our building, but squid balls and the pork room remind me that we’re a long, long way from home.

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Continue Reading · on August 18, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, expat, food, lost in translation, NYC, shopping, Travel, UAE

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