Getting rid of termites, cockroaches, stray dogs and cats in Al Ain

Termites can be a problem in Al Ain. We got these unwelcome visitors in our new villa recently. Here’s what we found behind one of my bookcases…


You can see the gap at the end of the row of tiles in the skirting board where they were coming through. (Houses aren’t brilliantly put together here in Al Ain from my experience.) The gap was big enough for this gecko to crawl through too!…

Gecko Al Ain

Here’s what you do if you have a problem with termites yourself…

Ring 993: a freephone number. (If the person who answers the line does not understand the word ‘termites’, as one man on this line didn’t, use the word ‘ants’.)

I rang on a Thursday afternoon and got a visit from a pest control company, Orkin, on a Saturday morning at 8.30am. (We rendezvoused at a local landmark, the Al Ain Paradise Gardens – and it so happened that the Orkin office is next door!)

There is no charge for this service: it’s free – paid for by the Municipality. Here’s the Orkin pickup truck outside our home…


The queen in the termite colony needs to be killed to stop the infestation from spreading: it’s not enough to just seal up the gaps: they’ll just find somewhere else, up the walls or round the door frames, to get through.

A team of 4 technicians and one driver came to our home.

They drilled into the grouting between various tiles…


…and then injected a chemical called Premise…


Then they mix Premise with fresh grouting…


…and plug all the holes.

There is no smell. The grouting needs to be left for 2-3 hours to dry.

I spoke to one of the team while the others did the work. Orkin UAE is a franchisee of Orkin Inc., so it is an American brand that is locally owned and operated.

The workers that came to our villa were all Filipinos. There are 20 teams in Al Ain. Some teams handle termites, cockroaches, etc. Others handle rats, stray cats and stray dogs.

Tom Kruszewski from Orkin UAE told me by email: “We have numerous nationalities working for us… at last count I believe the number is 21 different nationalities (which makes us unique because we are familiar with the different languages and customs of various cultures.) What’s more, we may be the only Pest Management Company in the Eastern side of the world that employs female technicians.”

Termites and rats are a problem in the district of Shaib Al Alaskhar where we live. In town, cockroaches are a problem, especially in apartment blocks where restaurants and snack bars are on the ground floor.

The team were in our home for about 20 minutes. Amazingly they brought a vacuum cleaner to suck up all the dust from the drilling as the drilling was being done: the professionalism was similar to that at a dentist’s when having a filling done! (I’m used to workers coming to our home and leaving us to clean up after them!)

You will be asked to sign a form and sign on the screen of a Pocket PC when the job is done – and encouraged to write a comment about the quality of work done etc.

I love this kind of professionalism.

The team told me to ensure that furniture isn’t pushed against walls, but pulled out an inch or 2. Walls should be checked regularly for the tell-tale trails. That way you can nip problems in the bud before they become a real nuisance.

Their website is here.

English speakers aren’t always easy to find

You will find that most of the taxi drivers, local shop owners, cleaners, ironing shop workers, tailors, etc speak very little English. So it helps if you are good at playing charades! If you have an iPhone, you will find a range of free or low-cost translators which you can download and use which will not only show you what you can say using phonetic language, but often the application will speak in the requested language as well.

Electricity spikes

surge protector

There are occasional electricity spikes. About 3 weeks after we arrived here, I found that one of the mains adapters on one of my Apple MacBook pros had blown completely, the fuse had blown in the mains adapter for our second MacBook Pro, and the mains adapter for one of our iPods also blew completely.

I had to drive 90 minutes to Dubai to buy a new mains adapter from iStyle, an Apple dealer in the Dubai Mall, at a cost of about £85. It also took me about 2 hours to find a 3-amp fuse in the centre of Al Ain, as most fuses are 13 amps here. The thing is, I had bought a surge protector for one of my laptops from the local Lulu hypermarket, but it was unusable.

Here’s why: if the voltage coming into the protector is more than 250 V or less than 230 V (or thereabouts) the surge protector doesn’t allow any electricity to flow through the laptop adapter. But what I found was the surge protector was cutting in for several hours a day which meant that the laptop was running off the battery for most of the time. So the surge protector was unusable. Thankfully we have had no main surges sufficient to blow any fuses or adapters since that time in September 2009.

As of writing, the electricity supply seems a lot better: my wife does the occasional 30 minutes of ironing every few days. Our iron, bought locally, comes with a 2-pin plug. All the sockets are 3-pin ones! We have a number of 2-to-3-pin adapters, but the iron’s plug falls out of these (!). However the surge protector has a tighter grip, so she is using this device regularly and says at the moment she’s always getting current coming through it. It looks like it’s time for me to start using it again on my everyday Apple MacBook Pro!

Update: my friend Jake has told me that his internet radio and the mains charger on his Mac laptop blew recently, and it cost him 500AED plus a trip to Dubai to get a replacement.

Driving on the roads in Al Ain

Let me say that this is an adventure!

On a 3-lane road, if you are in the middle lane, you can expect to be overtaken on both sides at the same time which can be a little unsettling occasionally! If you are in the outside lane you can expect to be tailgated on a regular basis by a driver in a hurry who flashes his lights and will sit on your tail closer than you would ever think possible, until you move to the middle lane. As he races past you, often in a large white Toyota land cruiser, you may wish to take a sideways look to see what kind of a person would drive so dangerously – but in most cases you’ll find that the side window was blacked out!

Soon after we arrived in Al Ain, I heard about the quiz night for mainly British expats at the rugby club, so I went along with a new friend I had made here. We got chatting with a delightful couple from the UK who had been here for a couple of years. The husband, called Phil, informed me that it wasn’t a matter of if I had a car smash in the coming months, but when! Sure enough, a few weeks later, I pulled up gently at some traffic lights, and about 30 seconds later, I watched a saloon car raced down the road towards me, slam on his brakes, heard the screech of his tyres on the road and watching smashes the back of me, with my two sons in the back seat.

I got out of the car, as did the driver of the car behind me, and found out that he spoke very little English. In this country you’re not allowed to move any cars involved in an accident. (Even if you have been shopping, and you come back to your car, only to find that there is a dent in your car, you are not allowed to move it until you have rung the police, waited for an official car to turn up and give you an accident report which will enable you to get your car fixed. You will not be able to get your car repaired by any repair shop without this receipt.) So the other driver rang the police and an official car arrived about 30 minutes later, and they stayed with us logging in the details for the next 15 minutes. Over the course of these 45 minutes the driver of the car that crashed into me was constantly on the phone, which led me to guess that he was on the phone when he hit me. I have seen a number of drivers reverse out of tight car parking spaces into moving traffic while holding their mobile phone against an ear, so I’m not surprised that there are so many traffic accidents in this town.

I once saw the results of 3 car crashes in the space of 2 hours. My eldest son says he has seen 8 car smashes on one stretch of road over a two-month period.

My original plan was to buy a saloon car soon after we arrived here but my wife felt that we would be safer in a 4×4 because there are so many car smashes here. So I bought a Toyota Prado, and I’m very glad I did.