Xfoil Creating a Custom Airfoil

Xfoil is a powerful tool for designing airfoils and is freely available for download. While the xfoil community is very supportive, I recently had a hard time properly formatting an airfoil data file in such a way that xfoil would load it. After many hours of working through it I decided to document what I found here. The main xfoil website is here:

http://web.mit.edu/drela/Public/web/xfoil/

This site contains basic usage instructions, downloads and history.

Questions I had and answers I found:

What filename does the airfoil data need to be in?

As you may have seen, most airfoil files are .dat files, but are read with a text reader. you can read in a .txt file.

What is the working directory of xfoil?

This is implied in many of the instructions as the local directory where you are keeping the .exe file, and this is correct. In your defense after many hours of seeing

‘File OPEN error. Nonexistant File: filethatactuallyexists.txt

*** LOAD NOT COMPLETED ***’

anyone will be second guessing themselves. To state this as plainly as possible: drop the airfoil data file into the folder with ‘xfoil 6.99’ in it, open xfoil, type ‘load’ enter, and enter your filename with file extension. If you get the above error it is not due to the directory it is due to the file. See below.

Steps to create an airfoil:

I created my airfoil in excel, it is not a typical airfoil, and I am not using xfoil for its typical application, but I ran into the same problems I’m sure others have had. Below is my ‘airfoil’ plotted out in excel. The more points you have in the data file will not effect computational time, the number of panels are controlled in xfoil. Note I did not upload it as a normalized airfoil. The ‘NORM’ function in xfoil will do this for you.

vane

Don’t use this geometry and expect to get good results, right now this will not converge, and I suspect it may never. Once you are at this stage take the leading edge point as your first data point. Subsequent data points are the next point up and around the trailing edge and back along the bottom until your last point is your first point. I listed these as an x and y column in excel and copied them into a .txt file thinking I was done, but there is some formatting to be done. Excel delineates the data with a tab, xfoil wants spaces. I did not study exactly what Xfoil wanted, I copied the format of a data file I knew to work. It was five spaces to the first column of data, and four spaces from the first to the second. This was done to every row in the .txt file. Once this is done it should load. A sample of what I had is here:

0.07474    0.017263246
0.07865    0.016782408
0.08256    0.016267853
0.08647    0.015719468
0.09038    0.015137132
0.09429    0.014520715
0.0982    0.01387008

If you do not have text on line 1 xfoil will ask you to name it when you load the data. Then be sure to normalize, and check the airfoil visually as well. The ‘PPAR’ function shows the airfoil you uploaded and allows you to modify.

Hope this is helpful!  Xfoil is a great tool.

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Hatta and Back

My time in Dubai is quickly running out; of my 11 week stay I only have 4 weekends left, so I made a list of all of the activities i wanted to accomplish, ranging from camping in the desert to eating Yemeni food.  I also began scheduling tentatively when these were to be accomplished.  Although horse racing was fun, the real meat of the weekend was a day trip to hike in Hatta then Dr. Mustafa was going to take us to a Cultural heritage center on Saturday.

I had never been in Hatta, but Stan and I had driven past to get our visas renewed and I knew that it was a small town and that there were some very nice looking mountains south of town.  Armed with this information I began researching how to get there and was thrilled to find a bus that leaves every hour with the bonus of a 45 minute time between departures on Saturday, it also cost only 7 dhm (less than $2) each way.  Upon consulting with the group I only managed to convince Nina to join.  Undeterred, I wrote down some notes on the bus station locale scheduled a taxi at 5:20 am and memorized the picture of hatta on google maps before going to bed on Thursday night.  Waking up at 4:30 was exciting and I was very efficient at getting ready except for breakfast which consisted of a mix of peanut butter, uncooked oatmeal, nutella, sesame seeds and cornflakes.  Our taxi came on time and consequently brought us to the wrong bus station, the employees of that station were very helpful and quickly directed us where to go, which was what I wrote down in the first place.  Even with the assistance of the bus station it took another two taxi drivers to get to the correct bus station.  I had to pay in American dollars at this point because we had run out of small denominations of dirhams.  Taxi adventure aside we were still chipper and the bus ride only amplified this.  The bus was the nicest coach bus i had ever seen.  It was a Volvo bus with cushy pleather seats with plenty of room it also had a sink and flat screen TVs showing the drivers view.  The driver stopped the bus at sunrise and told us to photograph the sun coming up!  I think it must have been for any Muslims to take care of their morning prayer, but none of the other three people on the bus came outside.  Further down the road we had to cross in and out of Oman to reach Hatta.  The Omani boarder guard boarded the bus looked at my passport glanced at Nina who was sleeping while sprawled out in the row behind me and asked if we were together.  When i said yes he handed me my passport back and left without bothering to check Nina’s.  The UAE border guard was just as lax with his viewing of my passport, but did look at Nina’s.  Hatta is about ten minutes further down the road after the boarder, and we arrived at around 8 am.

The Hatta bus station is on the outskirts of Hatta and i don’t think we ever did see the actual town.  When we got off the bus we just walked down the road toward the biggest mountains passing a few restaurants repair shops and clothing stores a mosque and countless small farmyards.  We had probably walked a mile when it became obvious we were walking out of town and the road began gradually sloping up and weaving to the contours of a mountain.  This then opened up around a bend to a large dam with no water on our side further investigation that involved a staircase that stopped just short of heaven we found a reservoir.  The area was very

Dam at Hatta

clean compared to the other dam we had visited and the road continued across the damn to the spillway where there was benches and a place to look out over the water.  No swimming signs dotted the area, but there was only one person in sight, a cleaner sitting on one of the benches.  We asked him about hiking, because we were worried people weren’t allowed past the dam.  The man responded with no problem in an Indian accent that was so thick i worried it was just the only phrase he knew.  Regardless we took it as it was, hopped the rail and landed on another staircase next to a no hunting waterfowl sign.  This was enough to ease my trespassing concern and we walked down to the waters edge.  The morning was warm and calm and there was a surprising amount of waterfowl for the desert, there were some kind of small black birds swimming along with a large crane hunting along the water’s edge.  The crane was strategically located on an island in the middle of the reservoir, but still found it necessary to put the full distance of the reservoir between it and us, and majestically flew off to the opposing shoreline.  We continued around the lake until it intersected a steep ridge, we could have bouldered the rest of the way around the lake, but we chose instead to climb the ridge, on the other side it was a straight drop into the reservoir below.  I could see fish silhouetted against the bright green water that stretched out before me, this hidden part about doubling the size of the reservoir.  Upon looking around i saw the Wadi bend off to the left and to my left there was a conveniently located pass that led to a plain above the wadi.  We hiked through it and dropped right down above the Wadi onto a plane that looked like something from the lord of the rings.  All of the rock that was facing the sun was Martian red, while the rock that saw shade was deep grey and most of the rock was cracking apparently from the summer sun.  We began trekking along the Wadi and immediately stumbled across a small lizard, who scampered under a rock.  The ensuing chase was probably not unlike a scene from Jurassic park from the lizards perspective, but ended with the tired reptile being pulled out from under Nina’s shoe.  He then sat motionless in the palm of my hand for about 2 minutes before diving off and hiding under a

The Lizard I found!

rock.  I decided i had traumatized that lizard enough for one day and we continued hiking.  We managed to get down into the Wadi and walk along the stream bed following the larger looking branches all the way up.  The branch we ended up following narrowed quickly near a rather tall mountain, disappointed in the Wadi we decided to climb the mountain.  The mountain was steep and

Bouldering

rugged like most of the mountains in the UAE, but apart from a eroded gully their wasn’t much of a way to get to the top.  The gully didn’t do much better, a short way up we started to come across small vertical walls culminating in a fifteen foot face that required some reasonably intense bouldering.  After this it turned into loose stone and became slippery and difficult to climb for the next forty feet.  The summit however reviled a nice place to eat a snack on the other side.  We sat down, ate some gorp and rehydrated.  I took some time to gage where we were and what

 

Great place for Lunch

the best rout to take was.  I quickly determined that the wadi went on for miles if we would have followed another branch.  I noted where the other branch was and began the descent.  The way back down was harder than the ascent and i recall the bouldering part as particularly difficult.  This was magnified by the fact that while i was hanging on to a vertical face with one foot on a rock face the other reaching out in front of me my only sturdy handhold failed on me, luckily it held on long enough for me to randomly grapple for a new hold with surprising success.  I then made my way off of the cliff face and gave Nina a spot while the adrenaline faded away.  She made it down without a hitch.  At the base of the mountain we headed back to intersect the longer wadi branch, which was just over a ridge from where we were.  We found it easily and set our new target on a large  mountain that seemed to be the end of the wadi.  Along the way we saw many more lizards, some bright blue and very fast, and another that was the same species as the lizard i caught.  This guy was sunning himself on a rock and wasn’t phased by Nina and i taking pictures.  We also found a small green patch in a random tributary with a date palm and assorted other plants.  Pressing on the Wadi took a sharp left at the base of the mountain we had put our sights on and began to narrow.  We continued to follow the wadi expecting an end, it forked with one fork ending in a pile of rocks while the other narrowed into a crevasse with sculpted sides then terminated with a few large boulders blocking the way.  I climbed the boulders, which required more skill than the earlier mountain and surfaced at the bottom of another large wadi.  I advised Nina to take the other fork because it looked easier.  We laughed once we were both over the rocks, because we had expected an end when actually the walls of this wadi were much higher than the first one.  We climbed out at our first chance and surveyed the scene.  We had made it halfway around the mountain and were standing on a plane with some bedowin ruins and a small ridge parallel to the wadi.  The wadi cut left again at the

Bedowin Ruins

base of some more high mountains.  The wadi also got deeper with the walls reaching 50 feet high and all made of mud and river stone.  Feeling tired, and content with the length of our hike we paused at the top of a very small ridge to take in the view, and then headed back.  Back at the bottom of the wadi i spotted the largest lizard i had ever seen sprinting away from us.  It was grey and must have been 2 feet long.  I followed, but lost it under some large boulders.  The rest of the return journey was uneventful, we were tired from all the hiking and walking on the river stones.  Due to our detour up the mountain the return journey was much shorter, this had me second guessing myself when the scenery no longer looked familiar.  My fears were confirmed when we rounded a bend to a rock quarry.  As i sat and pondered where i went wrong Nina climbed around and found the lake right there.  We then climbed out of the wadi and found the pass where we had originally traveled.  We climbed through and found many families walking around the reservoir and enjoying the view.  We didn’t want to disturb their day out so we continued walking out to the bus station.  As we made our way down the road we noticed the sky darkening quickly to the west, this made us think about how bad it would have been to be stuck in the wadi when it floods.  As the storm approached however it became apparent that it was a sandstorm not a thunderstorm and the villagers were preparing appropriately.  We were walking by the Hatta heritage center when the storm hit, and it immediately blew down a sign with a picture of the sheikh.  Four guys then tried to flip the sign over, being that we were just across the street i ran over and helped.  The local guys were thankful for my assistance, but spoke very little English.  We continued walking and were picked up by a random local man who insisted that we get out of the storm, i felt bad about getting his late model land cruiser with a leather interior dirty but he had it all wrapped in plastic.  He preceded our conversation in the car with “My English is not very good.” in almost perfect English, I just assumed he was being bashful, in retrospect he probably didn’t understand much of what i said.  He inquired on how we liked Hatta and how different it was from Dubai and dropped us off at the bus stop.  He left only after we insisted that we were perfectly alright and that we were sure a bus was coming.  Right after we had settled down to wait he pulled up again to make sure we were alright, we assured him and thanked him again (this time i was sure to pull out ‘afewan’ [thank you in Arabic]) and he went on his way.  The sandstorm subsided pretty quickly and actually did contain a few drops of rain.  This was a godsend because we were outside while waiting for the bus which took about 45 minutes to depart most of which was spent trying to wash the bus after it had obviously gone through the storm.

The bus ride back wasn’t nearly as luxurious as the way there, it was on a normal city bus and there were a lot more people.  The bus started off empty, and Nina and i sprawled out in our own rows, but it became apparent that that wasn’t going to work, so i moved to the back of the bus next to her.  When we reached the Oman border the bus was rather full and there were people in the seats around us.  The Omani border guard walked through and checked everyone’s passport, as usual barely even opening ours.  He began walking off the bus, then paused came back to us and started yelling at the two guys in front of us.  He then made them move to the front of the bus.  I imagine this was because Nina is a woman, and Oman is more conservative but it was very surprising to everyone on the bus.  As we drove off everyone shot us intimidated looks as i looked bewildered, I felt like the guy who kicked Rosa Parks off the bus (assuming he felt bad about it).  The UAE border was also entertaining, somewhere in Oman we had picked up a man, when the border guard found him he started yelling in Arabic and dragged him away, as he came back on the bus to finish IDing he appeared to be making sarcastic comments under his breath.  Once again bewildered i wondered aloud what he had done and a man in front of me informed me that he had no ID.  The rest of the bus ride was uneventful and long, upon returning to Etisalat Academy (my dorms) we went to the cafeteria ate then passed out exhausted from the day.

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Meydan Horse Race

Meydan Stadium

This isn’t a harrowing adventure, however if your in Dubai for any extended period of time or just like horse racing i suggest you go to the Meydan horse races. Its a bit out of the way, but reasonably close to the Dubai mall and its free.  The races start at 6:30 however we were advised to arrive at 6.  When we arrived at 5:30 we realized we definitely could have cut it much closer.  Approaching the stadium is awe inspiring and it appeared that the road’s designer realized this as he gave ample time to gaze in wonder while driving around to the drop off point (the road is windy and confusing).  The building is a massive square topped with a roof that looks kind of like a piece of canvas held up by rope, but is actually metal and cantilevered out very far on each end.  Upon entering we were each given a card to ‘place bets’ and another card for a random drawing for prize money.  Gambling is illegal in the U.A.E. so the cards were free and won a prize, but winning was based on your picks and the prizes were a pot divided amongst all the winners.  Definitely bring a pen if you go, we all scavenged for a half an hour before on of the cleaners gave me one.  The pen then ran out of ink on me and when Steve tried to fix it it exploded on him.  I tipped the cleaner 5 dhm for breaking his pen and Allie flattered the guy behind us into letting us borrow his pen.  As i rushed to make picks i continually forgot the scancard was in arabic and was listed right to left instead of left to right.  In the end all the picks i had made I put on the card backward and everything else was a guess.  The first race started on the back half of the track where we couldn’t see, but there i an enormous screen directly in front of the stadium where the race is shown in triplicate with two more graphics depicting the race standings in real time.  The race terminated in an exciting close finish directly in front of the grandstands.  The screen depicted replay after replay of the whole race along with prize purses stats for the next race and the winnings being presented.  This all occurred in the drawn out half an hour that it took to set up the next race.  We all set a betting pot with a buy in of 5dhm and picked horses from the next race and some of the group went up to the fence to watch in close proximity.  The second race ended in similar form as the first and no one won the pot.  With another 30 minutes until the next race we decided to get dinner at the Dubai Mall instead of watching the next 5 races.

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Dubai Marathon 2011

The annual Dubai Marathon has the largest prize purse in the world with a total of 1,000,000 U.S.D. given out to the top 15 finishers for both the men and woman.  The winner gets $250,000 and if a world record is broken they get another another 1,000,000 dhms.  This lucrative prize purse and fast course lure in the best marathoners in the world.  Up until around Christmas i still had intended to run the marathon, but between the hospital visit and the lack of distance training I was convinced the 10k was a better fit this time.  There was also a 3k fun run associated with the marathon which i managed to convince four others to run; Allie, Kristen, Nina and Steve, Maddie was unsure and tagged along.

3k crew

The 3k Crew

The 10k started at 7:15, so i woke up at four and we were all in a cab by 5:30.  The cab driver was more talkative than usual and after a short dialogue in which i disclosed the fact that we were driving 20 miles to run 6, he reviled that he thought i was an insane dutchman! (he thought i was from the Netherlands).  We began to encounter the traffic associated with the race miles before the exit, and finally bailed out of the cab and walked a few hundred yards so i could have time to warm up.  This was my first 10k and i wasn’t sure how to pace myself, but i was sure i needed to jog around before the start.  This proved to be a mistake, i hadn’t anticipated the amount of people running and was positioned very far back in the crowed.  As i stood about halfway back in a group of 10,000 i began talking to an older British guy who made me feel better about not running the marathon.  Apparently it used to be a great run going past all of the landmarks and looping to the finish, but in recent years because of all the world record hype they just made it a flat out and back run.  At this point we all began to crowed toward the front in anticipation of the start, and when it came i didn’t hear the pistol, nor could i move.  I estimate that it took three to five minuets for me to start, and it was a back and forth battle to pass everyone.  At one point i almost ran over a short old lady and there were many photographers who had to relocate.  It always frustrates me in races like this how people who know they aren’t going to place well push up to the front.  I’m just trying to have fun, but fun for me is under a 6:45 split and doesn’t include running on the curb or in flower beds.  With the amount of people in front of me it took around a mile and a half to finally get free and i continued to pass people for the duration of the race.  The water provided was in bottles, which was very odd and unnecessary, i took my 2 sips out of one poured some on my head and guiltily threw it aside.  The road we ran on had only a few estates on the northern side, which made it easy to control local traffic.  I did however see a Rolls Royce heading toward the finish line as I was running the first half.  Coming back down the road some of the employees of the estates took it upon themselves to cheer us on.  As i began to near Dubai Media City i noticed that the race turned and went through an arch much like the finish line, panicked i sprinted.  The look of dismay when i crossed and realized that the race continued on for another half mile must have been epic, however i had been poorly pacing myself and pressed on at a faster pace.  The actual finish line ended up being another four blocks down and i was flat out sprinting at the end.  Breathless I missed my time, and stumbled to the gate.  At the gate a crowed of people congratulated each runner and handed us a goodiebag, with water Gatorade and a nice

10K Metal

medal.  Some searching and a lot of free energy drinks later i found the group save Maddie who had last minute decided to run the 10k.  She finished well considering her starting position and after congrats were awarded we waited around for the marathoners to finish.   The first man came in at 2:07 and i believe he was Ethiopian.  Surprising to me was the crowd presence both Ethiopia and Kenya had in the stands.  There were flags and outfits and chants, and a roar of the crowd when the finishers came into sight.  Then we waited for the 3k which started at 11:15.  We were all wearing orange RIT Dubai shirts we had been given to promote the university while we were racing however it was still hard to pick out our runners in the sea of people.  Everyone did well but there wasn’t much competition because of the people, it was listed as a fun run and nothing came of the finish but a medal.  We hung around the finish festivities for a little longer, getting our group picture taken with all of the vendors handing out free drinks, and finally began moseying our way toward JBR for lunch.  We ended up eating at the same Mexican restaurant as we had after the parachuting competition, during this time the weather switched from cool and overcast, perfect for running, to rain and gusting wind.  This is what we tried to find a van taxi in as we walked to the metro.  We finally ended up taking two cabs, the cost was worth the immediate warmth.  In retrospect i probably was in shape to run the marathon, but it would have put me in a recovery state for the 72k relay race on Feb 11th, and in more ways than just that I’m glad i didn’t.  The race results were 200th out of 4400 with a time of 44:01 (adjusted).

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Ski Dubai!

As a winter sports fan in Dubai for the whole winter indoor skiing was very inciting.  Coupled with the buy one ticket get one free deal in our family fun book, our group bought, it was irresistible.  We went on a weekday and arrived soon after it opened, to try and beat any crowds, it worked.  We paid for 2 hour passes and went to get gear.  Everything was provided except hat and gloves, i brought my own but they could be purchased at the gift shop starting at 15 dhms.  The ski equipment was of good quality, i believe i got Rosignol while someone else got Atomic (brand skis), I inquired about telemarking equipment because that’s something I’ve always wanted to try but they didn’t have it.  The coat and pants were thin, but adequate and gave the odd illusion that everyone on the slopes save a few were uniformed staff members.  After gearing up and taking lots of pictures we hopped on the escalator (which is unsettling in ski boots) grabbed poles at the top and entered the ski area through a revolving door.  It was just below freezing and felt great, the slopes were almost empty and the snow was soft, not powder, but not ice either.  We then dawned our skis and skated over to the gate,  here we scanned our ticket and it displayed the amount of time we had left.  When i reached zero it wouldn’t let you back on the lift.  The lifts were just like any other chair lift, except slower.  This was made worse by the resort selling tickets for people to ride the lift up and back just for the feel of it.  They would stop the lift at the end to let them off considering the time it took to come down the slope was so short the lifts needed to be faster.  That aside the skiing was good.  The hill boasted five slopes varying from blue to red, as far as i saw it they had a bunny hill and a big hill, the big hill divided halfway down to a steeper inside turn or a more gradual outside turn.  There was also a few rails and jumps under the chairlift and an option to get off the chairlift halfway up which i think they counted as separate runs.  With the length of the ride up, bombing the hill got boring quickly and i set out on a mission to teach myself how to ski backward.  I had seen my friend Steve do it, he was coming off a half pipe did a 180 landed backward and just slid himself around very gracefully, granted he had twin tipped skies, but i was still impressed.  I started out and was pretty good at getting some speed and then flipping around, but once i was going backward i had real trouble turning back around.  I ended up falling numerous times, but i got reasonably good at it.  By the time we slipped in for our last run (i had less than a minute left) we were getting cold and tired of the monotony.  I did a few last turnarounds, bombed down the second half and popped my skis off at the bottom.  Afterward we ate lunch at a great pizzeria in Dubai Mall and I split from the rest of the group to grab a taxi to RIT Dubai Campus to work on my senior design project.

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DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority Tour)

At this point I’m starting to get behind on my blogging.  Since this post was gearing up to be a dry lecture on the phases of water ill save you the agony and keep it short and sweet.

While I’m studying here most of my time is being consumed by senior design, a class in which over two quarters students go through the motions of the designing and implementing of a project.  Our project is a simple solar desalination unit, but half of the group is here in Dubai with no dedicated resources and the other half is in New York., the latter group having the luxury of a 2 hour lecture and dedicated space and equipment.  It quickly dawned on me here, however that we have the luxury of being located in the desalination capital in the world.  The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman desalinate most of their water, and they use a lot.

Shortly after arriving and starting class i began to try and set up a tour of a DEWA plant (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority).  I made little progress speaking English so i asked Mrs. Sara (RIT Dubai Student Advisor) to help with little optimism.  She rather quickly got a contact and handed it off to our renewable energies professor Dr. Freiss, who wanted to take our whole class.  One thing led to another and the day after my concept design review for senior design a bus picked us up from our dorms and drove us to the Jebel Ali Desalination plant (western part of Dubai city).

Along for the tour was all of the 11 Americans, Dr. Friess, Dr. Ghoneim and Dr Hensel, our Senior Design (SD) customer and the head of the RIT Mechanical Engineering Department.  Our guide was a portly, jolly Arab man who held up the engineering stereotype as far as public speaking goes, he did however know his stuff.  The facility contained 18 gas turbine power generators being fueled by natural gas, oil and diesel fuel.  Some of the turbines were the General Electric models with fuel injectors that i worked with at Parker Hannifin.  The waste heat from the engines was collected and run through a steam turbine to boost efficiency.  Finally the waste heat from the steam turbine was fed into a 19 stage flash desalination unit (google multi-stage flash desalination).  Multi stage flash technology uses slightly pressurized hot water then in each stage drops the pressure causing a fraction of the water to evaporate (flash) off.  In each unit cold seawater is run through coils at the top condensing the water which is then piped away.  The condensate is then treated and piped to homes and lawns all over Dubai.  The beauty of the system is that in the summer when power demand peaks because of air conditioning so does water consumption and they both go down in the winter allowing for maintenance.  The plant also had installed reverse osmosis systems which are more common in stations of this scale.  These systems however pulled power from the grid and weren’t favored over the co-gen multi-stage flash.  This was all conveyed to us through a power point presentation, afterward we loaded up onto a bus and were driven to each of the stages of water purification.  Then we went into one of the buildings that house the turbine generators and saw technicians performing routine maintenance on a GE engine.  As our tour wrapped up we were given sandwiches and goodie bags containing a computer mouse, a polo shirt and a book on how to conserve water.

I had not anticipated such an organized and open tour.  At the gate they had confiscated all of our laptops and cameras, and it was very difficult to contact them to set up the tour.  In the end however they took many grade schools and some high schools and colleges on tours there.  They did admit that we were the highest level tour they had ever given and had to beef up the presentation in an impromptu fashion for us.

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Parachuting competition

Did you know skydiving is a competitive sport?  I didn’t until i attended the second annual Dubai International Parachuting Championship and Gulf Cup in Jumirah Beach Residence this past Friday.  The event took place on what appeared to be a man made runway and festival grounds jutting out into the gulf.  after walking past the runway, there were a series of tents around a blocked off target area.  One of the tents had a bunch of cushions laid out and a few falcons outside of it, i imagine this was one of the gulf countries tents.  The countries i can remember who had representation were: U.S.A., Canada, Switzerland, Bahrain, U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia, but there were many more.  As we gathered around the target we watched the competitors fly in one after another and reach out with their foot or knee to the center of the target, and fall over every time.  As the skydiver grabbed his/her chute and cleared the pad the judge would yell in a thick accent a series of numbers.  Perplexed by the judging i finally broke down and asked a very tan shirtless man sitting on the ground smoking a stogie; he responded in an appropriate Australian accent and explained it completely.  Its very simple; the target has an electronic pad with a radius of 16 cm

Coming in for Landing

the score is the distance in centimeters from the center to the first impact.  When the skydiver hits it registers on a board and the judge reads it off for good measure.  During the competition there was a plane taking off to our left and a helicopter taking off to our right both ferrying competitors into the air.  They would jump deploy their parachutes then the first competitor would face his chute toward the ground and spiral down in basically free fall then fly over top of us and cut back to land.  About 20 seconds before landing they’re shadow would come over us, grabbing our attention as they dropped in for a very exact landing.  We watched in awe for about 40 minutes, then we got board and hungry.  The Mexican lunch we had was great, but was nothing to write home about.  After we headed to the local beach and laid in the sun for a while.  The weather was cool this day, but the temperatures didn’t prevent me from swimming for a bit.  I began doing my senior design log(thats why there’s sand in it Dr Hensel), but was interrupted by a trick plane that was bringing the parachuting festivities to a close for the day.  The pilot put on a spectacular show and as he headed in we also went home, bringing closure to a nice relaxing day.

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Oh man! in Oman

U.A.E. tourist visas last for 30 days plus a 10 day grace period, after they expire you are charged a fine per day your over.  Since our RIT group is only here for three months it was easier to get this type of visa and renew it twice during our stay.  Since I stayed in the country during our Christmas break I was due for a new visa this past weekend (Jan 7 2011) along with my partner in crime Stan.  The easiest way to renew our visas was to drive to Oman which borders the UAE in the southeast, but considering its a 2 hour drive and a new country i wanted to make a trip out of it.  Stan and i discussed it and decided on hiking and possibly a beach visit afterward.  I then hit up google maps and began investigating how we could get ourselves lost in the rugged mountains of Oman.  I found Highway 7 cutting right through a pass about 3 hours from Dubai and was sold.  So Stan and I once again rented a car, this time actually managing to get home without a hitch and set out the next morning.  The drive down was completely uneventful until we got to the border, well one of the 3.  The route we were taking brought us into Oman then back to the UAE and finally officially into Oman.  The first border crossing involved two guys in full military garb and one of them carrying a machine gun, they just checked our passports and let us go without a hitch.  Coming back to the UAE was the same way; man with gun, passport check and through.  There was then a short drive near the town of Hatta to the Omani border.  First we came to the UAE exit station, we had to park and get our passport stamped by one of two men in a very small nondescript building.  Parked outside of the building was a semi truck with a G-class AMG Mercedes and a SLS AMG Mercedes, if you don’t know what those are, its about the most expensive SUV you can buy and a very nice sports car.  Then about a mile down the road we had another checkpoint where they looked in the trunk and handed us a receipt.  Finally we hit the Omani border, where we had to park and enter a very nice building modeled off a classic Arabian palace.  Upon entering the building there was a desk with two men at it, we explained our situation and they happily directed us to a form then window 2.  When i had questions on the form one of the men told me that I didn’t need to fill in all the spots, just the ones i knew.  I chuckled and walked my incomplete form to window 2 which had no line.  The man behind the counter validated our passports, charged us 200 dirham and stamped in our Omani visa.  After this we had one last police checkpoint and we we free to galavant all around Oman.  The whole experience was much better than the U.S. where they treat you like your a convicted Drug trafficker until proven otherwise.

In Oman we drove on basically the only road for miles until we hit the coast which we followed south for about an hour until we hit Sohar and the Intersection with route 7.  We drove on 7 west for about 20 minutes and started getting into some more mountainous terrain.

The ridge we climbed (the smoke is from a mine not a volcano)

In order to return the rental car on time we had to be pretty quick so we just pulled off the highway near a particularly rugged outcropping and began to hike.  The terrain was similar to the other hiking trips but there was almost no trash and no sign of human activity except the Highway and a mine off in the distance.  As we walked in the flat area it was obvious that they had gotten water recently from all of the sprouting seeds, there were also camel and goat tracks sporadicly.  We approached the ridge with the loose goal of summiting it.  The first bit was the most challenging because it required the climbing of some small rock faces, no more than 15 feet high but we ended up in a small gully that went directly to the top of the highest ridge.  Along it were a lot of little caves and we investigated hoping to find something interesting, but they were all empty and shallow.  Some of the larger caves appeared to be large enough to contain a big cat but upon looking inside there was nowhere to go.  The trail grew steeper and looser as we approached the ridge but it was manageable, and when we summited the view was very nice.  We ate a small snack on the top and made our way down using the same gully all the way out.  When we got back to the car we continued on 7 west to see the countryside.  To my dismay the mountains got much more rugged and the highway followed a big neat looking wadi with large peaks all around.  I would have liked to have hiked again but we didn’t have time.  We turned around on one of the only exits we could find at a small walled in quaint looking town, i retrospect we should have walked around, but its very unlikely that they would have spoken English.  We then headed back to Sohar juggling whether we should go to the beach or get food.  Just in case we were going to the beach I put on my bathing suit, but forgot to tie the string.  We followed the Sohar public beach signs, but decided to get food and i wanted some Omani rials (currency).  We stopped at a gas station with an ATM, when i stepped out of the car i stretched and as i did my bathing suit fell to my ankles, startled i quickly yanked them back in place, but not before the two gas station attendants, cashier and Stan dissolved into fits of laughter.  I laughed too, but i was somewhat nervous that that was considered a crime and i was going to be arrested.  Apparently nobody saw cared enough to do anything but laugh and i got my 20 rials ($52) in ornately decorated 5 rial bills.  We ate at a restaurant called Africa, which was excellent but i felt like most of the cuisine was Indian rather than African and it was a bit pricey (it was in a nice resort hotel).  When we got our bill It read 9.028, i thought it was very odd that the decimal was carried out so far.  I paid with 15 rials and asked for a lot of change back when i came i has a 1/2 rial bill and a few 100 basia bills which i found interesting.  I had never heard of a country splitting its change into 1/1000ths, even more odd was the fact that there didn’t appear to be anything smaller than a 100 Baisa bill and no coinage.  After eating we went home, the borders on the way back were easier than coming in.  We ran into the Oman entrance to get a receipt for our entrance 4 hours before and after we spent a few minutes trying to convey receipt to the front counter we were directed to window 2 and granted a pricing list.  At the UAE border i finally started to realize the convenience of a U.S. passport when we bypassed a line about 15 cars long of GCC citizens (Gulf country) and got stamped in 5 mins.  The other two borders didn’t even require a complete stop, we just rolled right through at the approving nod of a man with a big gun.  The rest of the ride was uneventful and we managed to return the car with plenty of time to spare.

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Underground Bars with Liberian Tastes

On the eve of the eve of new years eve (December 29th) Stan and i decided to grab a drink with one of the RIT Dubai students at a bar close by.  While waiting at the bus stop however our plans were revamped, as Abba, a somewhat professional soccer player from Cameroon and his Nigerian friend convinced us to join them in going to a friends place.  We hopped on a series of buses that took us downtown and into the gold souk where we caught a cab to Abba’s friend’s.  Upon arrival we met his friend, a Liberian girl who went by the name of princess who lead us up to an apartment in a somewhat run down but obviously once beautiful building.  As we filed into the small apartment and sat down I began to realize that the resident here was not a friend of Abba’s but a proprietor operating an underground bar.  This thought was confirmed when i found out that every single one of the other people there were Liberian save one who was from Angola and there was a woman waiting on us.  Stan hit it off well with the man from Angola because he had lived in Portugal and knew Portuguese (Stan was born in Brazil) while i struggled to converse about Liberia.  Oddly enough i knew almost nothing about it other than blood diamonds, but the rising tensions in the neighboring Ivory Coast were an excellent and relevant conversation topic.  As we got settled a large woman in her mid 40’s handed us 16 oz beers for the cost of a few dirham.  The beer was called red horse and was a Philippeno ice beer, ironic I know, but it was fine, and for the cost it was respectable.  While i sipped on my cheap beer i couldn’t help but notice the apartment was about the size of a dorm room yet the floors were a beautiful marble, it appeared as though old posh sweets had been converted to low income housing.  After a few beers Abba ordered a fish, which the woman brought out on a very large tray with two water bowls to wash your hands and a small dish of chili sauce.  The fish itself was some saltwater variety that was rather intimidating and i dug in along with Stan and Abba’s friend almost in the interest of self preservation.  It was smothered in tomatoes cucumbers and grilled plantains and when eaten all together with the chili sauce it was amazing.  We picked the fish clean in a very short period of time, but by the time we were done there were few people left.  We said our goodbyes and headed out Princess leading the way.  When we got to her car she claimed she had other ‘friends’ and asked if we should go visit them.  At this point i was thoroughly enjoying my collisions with African culture and agreed along with Stan.  We then all piled into Princesses Jaguar and went to another apartment complex, with the familiar run down, but clearly once very respectable feel to it.  We got off the elevator to a spectacular albeit cracked marble entryway belonging to a few girls.  The floors subsided in the other rooms to beaten up hardwood and we sat down in a small room and were again offered red horse.  I accepted and struck up a conversation with a Somalian man about Somali Pirates and the current state of affairs in Somalia.  He was a very interesting man, his family still resides in Somalia and lives in a walled and guarded compound.  When he visits he carries an AK47 around whenever he is out of the compound and it is apparently the norm.  The government has very little control and local bands of militia rule, hence the piracy.  As the night rolled on the conversation ran out and we left, grabbing a taxi back to the dorms.  The fish and the Somalian man stuck with me as some of the most interesting cultural experiences yet, and I’m glad i did it.

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Break Week

Most of the RIT Dubai exchange group made elaborate plans for the week we got off for Christmas, but I was not one of them.  It was lucky i hadn’t booked plane tickets because it wouldn’t have been wise to travel a week after being very sick, however it was a missed opportunity.  I did get to do some exploring of the UAE which i had wanted to do.  I am after all here for three months and might as well get more of a feel for the life outside the touristy metropolis of Dubai.  The ensuing research led to two separate trips to the UAE’s east coast on the Gulf of Oman.  The first trip was on Christmas Day to Snoopy Island which supports a coral reef.  This trip started the night before when Stan and I set out to rent a car after Christmas Eve Mass.  The man behind the counter was willing to rent us a car despite our young age but required a credit card and a passport and Stans attempt to use his got his card disabled (he didn’t tell them he was travelling).  So we did a back and fourth to get his passport and the card situation resolved and rented the car, a Honda Civic with a GPS and full coverage for 230 dhm.  The car was parked in the mall parking lot and we were travelling in a busy part of the evening in Dubai so we should have foreseen getting lost, but i wouldn’t have expected how bad it was.  I entered our destination into the GPS and it didn’t seem to have a problem but driving was near impossible.  The GPS was ordering U turn after U turn exiting all the time crossing four lane crowded roundabouts, at one point we missed an exit because we were staring at a shiny white Ferrari that was occupying the space we needed to be in.  After about 40 minutes of driving we passed the mall we started out in and another 20 minutes later we were leaving the Dubai municipality on the wrong side as where we needed to be (headed toward Abu Dabi).  The U turn resulted in us lost in Sharjah (the town east of Dubai), a half an hour later.  Luckily our dorms are near Sharjah and the GPS managed to pull through in the end.

We woke up early for our departure but didn’t actually get going until 9.  The drive was very easy once out of Dubai, there are very few roads to get lost on out in the desert.  The roads that do exist are packed with trucks who all drive on the shoulder of the road slowly allowing cars to pass with ease.  The landscape changed as we left the coast form a tan crusted dirt to red drifting sand and some trees and then to mountains.  Not very tall mountains but very rugged and beautiful in their own way.  In the desert environment it appeared to only support camel farming while in the mountains there was a lot of date palms and goat farming.  The agriculture increased as we approached the coast and was joined with quarrying rock i believe for cement.  Once on the coast there were a multitude of resort hotels.  When we arrived at snoopy island we immediately assessed that renting gear was way too expensive and doubled back to a small town called Dibba and bought masks from a ‘high quality supermarket’ which was as large as my dorm room and sold us some dusty snorkeling equipment.  Once back on the beach we had to swim to the island which was about 400 yards in rather deep water and the tide was against us.  The struggle was definitely worth it, as we approached shallow water there was an abundance of fish and coral on the bottom.  This is where my underwater camera excelled and i got an candid of a fleeing pufferfish before joining Dylan on the island.  Dylan being a climber immediately set about  climbing the island .

Beach Panorama, Snoopy Island is on the left.

I began to follow him, but was deturred by the sharp rocks, instead i plunged back into the ocean and continued to chase fish.  This is a situation where pictures are worth 1000 words so here are some:

Parrotfish

Butterfly Fish

The water wasn’t crystal clear and i couldn’t get too close, but for amateur photography I’m happy.

I didn’t keep track of time while i was swimming it tired me out and after probably an hour i was ready to go back.  As we began our return journey the tide was once again against us making the swim a bit difficult.  Upon reaching shore we laid out in the sun and slept for a while then went home.  We traveled home a different way than we arrived for some different scenery and decided to stop at a roadside stand.  This stand was much less stressful than the touristy souks of Dubai and contained a multitude of fruits with vendors eagerly pressing samples on us.  after filling a grocery bag full of mangoes, guava, papaya and honeydew i wandered and found raw dates and rambutans which i also purchased.  The latter of which looked almost like a crustacean, was neon green and red and i had never seen or heard of them.  I carefully placed them with the dates so if it was a crustacean it could eat those before my leg.

The produce haul rambutans are on top of the mangoes

The ride home was rather uneventful, because i slept for most of the two hour ride and we didn’t even get lost on the way to return the car.

The second adventure was hiking into the mountains that had caught my eye on the previous trip.  This time we convinced Michelle (an RIT administrator) to take us.  We also got out early packing in the car at 10 after 5 in the morning, however my hopes of catching an Arabian Leopard at dawn was dashed by us getting lost.  We finally followed a villager from a small town out to the place Michelle wanted to start.

 

You can see the dry dam on the left and the wadi(gorge) at the foot of the mountains. The ravine in the middle is the one we climbed, and the middle mountain was the one Dylan summited.

It was a huge dry dam that obviously had held a lot of water recently, but was bone dry when we arrived.  From the top of the dam the scenery was barren, sharp, mountains, with sparse almost non-existent vegetation.  There was no apparent trail, so we climbed down the dam and into the gorge below.  There was cracked dried mud everywhere which left interesting evidence of a cat with prints the size of a medium sized dog wandering the gorge (you can id cat prints because their claws are retractable and don’t show up when they walk).  There were also watermelons growing in the cracked mud, some wikipedia research reviled that watermelons are native to southern Africa but were cultivated early on.  Considering the bitterness of the fruit id say these were an invasive species from a very long time ago.  The distraction of the watermelons didn’t remove us from the trail of the mysterious cat and we followed the dried prints into a ravine where they were much more prevalent.  About ten feet in there was a hole that the cat appeared to have dug, but it didn’t contain anything and the prints went away with the mud shortly thereafter.  Nevertheless we continued on the same path admiring the rock that was cut away by the rushing water.  As we climbed higher the creekbed gave way from bedrock to large rocks and then hit a divide where the water ran off into another tributary of the dry dam.  We climbed down to this which was a landscape of gravel and rock and then up the highest mountain pictured above (the one in the middle), about halfway up we broke for lunch.  Here we speculated on climbing up all the way and down the other side to which Dylan eagerly left to trail blaze.  After a while i grew board and began to climb after him.  The mountain quickly grew steep and i found myself scaling small vertical faces, but i could see the top of the rigeline so i continued giving up on the peak.  Looking back down the mountain i realized that it would be a very long way before i stopped if i slid.  This didn’t help my reserve and as i peered over the ridge the combination of nerves and fatigue had my legs quaking.  The view from the top was spectacular and well worth the climb, but i could see that we weren’t making a passage over this and a drop of a stone over the other side confirmed that it was a cliff face.  I could see Dylan about to discover the same thing as he crested the mountain peak to my left.

View from the ridge looking back toward the ocean.

I basked in the view for a few minutes to delay the inevitable climb down which i knew was going to be harder than getting there in the first place.  I took my time and slowly ambled down, the only hiccup was when climbing down a face i overcomitted to a foothold that didn’t exist and as a result my hand hold pulled away.  I managed to find something with my foot and carefully set the betraying rock down where it wouldn’t fall on anyones head.  The sharp stinging adrenaline rush faded quickly and i continued my descent.  Shortly after i met back up with Stan and Michelle, Dylan also joint the group and we hiked off the Mountain into the gravel wadi at the bottom.  During the whole hike I noticed trash everywhere and as we reached the bottom of the mountain i noticed Dylan filling up a bag and i joined in the trash collection.  When we finally arrived back at the car we had accrued multiple 10 gallon water containers a plastic firewall lining for a car and about 6 grocery bags of trash and we hadn’t scratched the surface.  Appropriately there was no trash can in sight so we had to leave the big stuff at the top of the dam and drive out the bags.

After the hike we set about finding a famous wadi with a waterfall and swimming hole, this was much easier and after one turn and a winding road we were overlooking this spectacular oasis.  We then set about trying to get down into the wadi, which appeared to have

wadifall

Waterfall and swimming hole in the wadi. Notice the graffiti all around

vertical walls on ether side, as soon as we discovered that there was no obvious way to climb down into the wadi we saw a Dodge Durango driving right up the middle.  Since there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and there wasn’t an easy way to get down to the wadi bottom Michelle volunteered to drive us in her Ford Edge with two nails in the back tire.  We backtracked two or three miles and found the path down the wadi, about a mile in we abandoned the car and hiked another mile.  The hiking was over mostly river stones, very rounded stones about the size of baseballs and once again there was trash everywhere.  The waterfall was picturesque, but there was graffiti everywhere and it was obvious that this was a place where kids came and camped out.  Dylan and Stan lost no time in swimming, and both found that the pool at the base of the waterfall was plenty deep for jumping from the rocks.  Dylan jumped from about 60 feet with my camera but the footage is difficult to see.  During this time a family of locals has arrived and was watching our antics with amusement.  I tried to strike up a conversation, but when the man just smiled at me i realized he didn’t speak English.  When the family left i was afraid we had chased them off, but when we hiked further up the wadi picking up more trash they returned to the waterfall.  We then hiked back to the car, about 3/4 of the way there a local man offered for us to stand on his running board as he drove out which was a welcomed ride after a long days hiking.

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