January 15, 2012
You Say Hello - and I Say Dubai!!

Regular readers will recall that this time last year, we were planning a trip to Dubai. The day of travel, literally as we were headed to the airport, we got word the event had been cancelled.

So I was sincerely pleased when the invitation came in again this year and accepted cautiously. The dates were changed on us twice, and there were some issues about advanced reimbursement of air ticket costs. (remember Borneo!) But details were finalized with days to spare and in the end, Jim Martin and I boarded flights for the long trek to the Arabian Gulf.

Dubai is a sparkling new city in the United Arab Emirates where everything is bigger, more opulent, and shiny. Think "bling" on a metropolitan basis. The event was billed as Dubai's first international kite festival -- although I had actually been there for another event twelve years ago. No worries. Like everything in Dubai, it was all new again.

Festival Logo

Guests for the event were team Mangalore from India (selected to appeal to the Indian population in Dubai), Team Buhammad of Kuwait (selected to appeal to Arabs), and Team Gomberg (to appeal to ex-pats).

We arrived late Thursday night and were whisked off to a comfortable hotel. The next morning, a taxi was dispatched to bring us to the festival. We piled the gear bags in the back and climbed in. The driver took us away, and after about ten minutes, turned asked asked which terminal we wanted. Terminal. Hmmm. He was taking us back to the airport!!

A quick phone call sorted out destinations and we were delivered to the back side of the Dubai Outlet Mall. It was a dry, dusty space decorated with banners and a stage. We dragged out bags out to the dunes and set anchors.

Festival Kites Festival Kites Festival Kites Festival Kites Festival Kites

Winds were moderately strong, moderately gusty, and moderately warm. Jim and I chose to start with SkyForms and tails to set some color in the sky. It was challenging flying, but the growing crowd seemed to really appreciate the effort. And everyone on the field had bought tickets to join us.

BTW - have you noticed we are starting to shift over to the Skyforms as lifters to provide a bit more color and flying flexibility. They don't pull like Pilots but do offer a good show if a single lifter is all you can launch.

As you might expect, the media were out in force, so despite gusty condidiotns, we did all we could to color the sky.

The public attendance continued to grow as morning waned. Some people told us there was little else to do on Saturdays after prayer time. Many westerners brought out their children. But mostly what we saw were Indian families who are the dominant population in Dubai. And since this festival coincided with the traditional kite season India, everyone was ready to fly!

Center of Attention

Tents at the edge of the field sold traditional Indian "patang" fighters made of tissue and bamboo. Spools of abrasive "manja" line were also for sale, and soon, the sky was filled with darting kites and the field was covered with discarded lines. Fighters maneuvered, attacked and were cut away as the flying teams cheered each victory. Those of us with larger kites cowered.

Buhammad pulled down first with bridles on the Tiger damaged and a pilot literally sliced in half. Mangalore lost a large display piece over the mall roof. We suffered a cut tail and later a broken line. Fortunately, our lifter fell just a few feet from the buildings.

Local Fliers Local Fliers Local Fliers Local Fliers Local Fliers

I have to say that people were happy and friendly. But there was also a frustrating lack of respect for personal space or property.

Personal Space Personal Space Personal Space

Your feet are tired but the ground is dirty? Why not just sit on this handy kite! Hey kids -- did you know that if you pull in a lifter twenty feet and then let go, the kite may deflate and crash?? Kite down?? Don't worry! We're happy to try and re-launch it for you!! Which way is up??

But as I said, people were friendly and it was hard to get upset. besides, we were guests and subject to their rules, not our own.

I even took a turn flying a Patang and managed to slice two down before my line was cut and tissue fighter drifted away downwind.

Most disturbing to me was the mass of broken kites, lines, and discarded winders littering the field at days end. I was told that 10,000 kites had been sold and 6000 winders! Twelve thousand people paid to join the fun.

Aftermath
Coverage

The "first" Dubai International Kite Festival was a one-day affair which generated plenty of media and attention.

Organizers Uttam and Zona Kumar of Tamquest Entertainment promised they would be soon be planning a second event -- perhaps with designated fields and a few organizational changes for 2013.

All things considered, it was a good first effort and a definite success.

With jet lag slowly winning the fatigue challenge, we took a day for some sightseeing. We visited the largest shopping mall in the world. We saw the largest fish tank. We posed before the tallest building in the world and then the most exclusive hotel.

Sight Seeing Sight Seeing Sight Seeing

I didn't buy anything,at the Dubai Mall, didn't go to the top of the Burj Khalifa, and couldn't get into the Burj al-Arab Hotel. I guess I should also add that I didn't go scuba diving in the fish tank. But it was still all good fun.

I'm flying home now. Seven hours to Frankfurt; a six hour connecting, and a 12 hour flight to San Francisco. This is being written in Germany.

The distances and delays between terminals make me wonder if this airport was designed by the same engineers that developed the autobahns (except that the highways work!). The hike from Terminal A to C can exceed 40 minutes! There are several check-points and bottle-necks. People are frustrated. I saw one hapless traveler sent back to the end of the line for complaining to an official about the long waits at security stations.

It has been a quick trip, with as much time spent on travel as on the ground. Jim and I were happy to be part of the effort and hopefully get a good new event off the ground. Two days home and then off to KTA!

We test flew a new lifter in Dubai. I'm still still struggling with a new name for it. Any ideas??

This kite has the simple bridle and keels of a Flowform, and huge open cells like a Pilot. Tabs on the back will easily hold a matching streamer.

it flies at a high angle and pulls plenty. The distinctive feature immediately apparent was how quickly it inflated and launched. Our working title is the "EZ Up"

List price on this new piece will be $420 (a bit more than a Pilot 90, but also a bit larger). Order one before February 10, and we'll take 25% off as a introductory bonus. Offer us a new name we like and we'll take 40% off for you!

EZ Lifter

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