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Leaving the ADIBF for Dutch Cuisine and Odd Cab Rides

I actually managed to leave the ADIBF for a few hours today to attend a special lunch at the home of the Dutch Ambassador. I was mainly there to talk with Maarten Valken about next January’s “Non-Fiction Conference,” which will be focused on e-books.

(More on this later, but in brief, this sounds like an amazing annual conference. Nine speakers—three authors, three publishers, three translators—limited to 10 minute presentations that all start from a provocative statement. And in contrast to some of the other popular e-conferences of late, this one seems like it’ll be more focused on the impact of digital everything on society, on the way we think about art. Instead of talks about cool new apps, it’ll be about what those apps actually mean in terms of how we think and relate to literature.)

The lunch was pretty amazing—great food, wine, and company—and the backyard was pretty damn sweet:

Note the grass. In Abu Dhabi, the more green, the richer the area. This is the desert after all . . . where it rains something like three times a year.

But the ride back to the fair was the fun part. Apparently there’s a law about how fast cabs can drive, and there’s a monitor in their GPS/Computer systems that notifies the driver when he’s speeding. So on our way back to the fair (I was riding with Rana Idriss, the coolest of all Lebanese publishers and publisher of Dar al-Adab), our driver’s system started flashing red, claiming that he was going over 80 km/hr despite the fact that we were crawling and being passed by bikers . . . Then the screen went blue . . .

“You see? You see this? Crazy Abu Dhabi. Crazy rules. I’m not even going 70. You look. Only 70. Damn. And now a fine! 100 AED! For what? Bullshit. This is bullshit. And I missed the Exhibition Hall. You can’t concentrate on driving when you have to think about speed. Crazy Abu Dhabi!”

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