Spent this weekend in Dubai. An unexpected trip. K. had to pick up a friend B. who was coming from Sweden. She was flying into Dubai Airport. He told me that he would be leaving right after work & asked me if I want to come along for the ride. He said we could show his friend around Dubai & come back late tonight.
Sure I did!I love Dubai. But not just for the ride. Called D. & asked her if she wanted to come. She said great but we can't go all the way to Dubai on a Thurs & come back without experiencing the nightlife. My sentiments exactly. So we spent about an hour on the phone trying to get a hotel room. No easy job at such short notice in Dubai. We managed a room at the Royal Mirage. EXPENSIVE. So we had to find more people to share the bill. Not a problem. Two more girls could make it so there would be 4 of us.
K. thought it was really funny. He said trust me to turn a trip to the airport into a party. I asked him if he wanted to stay in Dubai overnight too. He said he'd have to see if B. had to go to Abu Dhabi tonight.
So K. & I drove out about 2:00pm. My friends were going to meet us there. Funny how me & him always seem to end up in these endless long drives in the middle of the desert. I fell asleep for about half an hour but then he woke me up to say he was really bored & if I don't wake up & entertain him he was going to fall asleep behind the wheel. You could probably drive the Abu Dhabi- Dubai road in your sleep but I didn't want to take any chances. You hear stories about camels straying on to the road & overturning cars.
It was really nice. Was really relaxed. Practically talking in my sleep. Saying the first thing that came into my head. Will probably regret half the things I said later.
We went to the airport, picked up B. She's a dentist too & she's in town for a qualifying exam at the Ministry of Health. She's going to be moving to UAE soon. She used to live in Iran which I found really interesting. What a small world!We drove to the Royal Mirage to meet my friends who were checking in. On the way I found out that B. was a convert or (revert as she prefers to be called). A Sufi. Why is it that everyone I like always turns out to be a Sufi?Well not absolutely everyone but I seem to have a thing for mystics.
B. said she had no problem with staying in Dubai overnight which was perfect. She could be the 5th person to share our hotel room. The more, the merrier. The prob was now trying to find someplace for K. to spend the night. For a while it looked like the poor guy would have to spend the night in the car. Either that or pay half a month salary to spend the night in Meena Salam or Burj AlArab.But then he managed to get hold of a friend of his & invited himself to stay with him.
Well it was amazing. Dubai is like a dream world. Straight out of Arabian Nights. It's all about luxury & service. Like having the world at your fingertips. You can see anything in Dubai. Opera, ballet, theater, folklore from just about anywhere you can imagine. And food from everywhere.You can go jet-skiing or water-skiing or sailing or sky-diving. Desert safaris, Deep-sea fishing, bowling, golf. We even went ice-skating. And then of course there is the shopping.And the spas. You run into famous people everywhere. Artists, writers, politicians.
But all of this of course if you have money. Dubai has another face. On every street you see those poor Asian laborers toiling away in the hot sun & the newspaper boys on every traffic light. And you know that this is a city where people like them have no rights. They work abnormal hours & they are paid pittance if they are paid at all. Some of them get paid once every 6 months & they end up working basically for their food & board. They have no access to medical care & are not allowed to bring their families. Because of D.'s work as a safety engineer we know that many companies don't bother to observe the safety guidelines to create a healthy & safe working environment for these people. And we know that when accidents happen there is very little compensation for them or their families.
And then there is the prostitution. It is really quite offensive to see it so openly & so widespread in a supposedly Muslim country. But it makes sense in a way. More than 70% of the population are expatriate workers more than half of whom are not allowed to bring their wives if they have wives. And the same problem exists in neighboring Gulf states so Dubai attracts men from all of these areas & women from Asia & Eastern Europe & Somalia & Lebanon & Morroco, you name it.
In Abu Dhabi, a single woman or a group of girls out on their own might be considered a little bit free or open if they are not wearing hijab but people will still be respectful & watch their step. In Dubai we are actually offered money. Every woman is seen as a potential prostitute & it doesn't help to wear hijab because you have a bizarre situation where some prostitutes will be carrying shaila's & 3abays to wear incase they have to go with an arab or local client who doesn't want people who know him to see him with a prostitute so he makes her cover up so if seen she would look like his sister or wife or relative.
I wouldn't want to live in Dubai. It's nice to come as a visitor. But to live here day in, day out you'd start to see too much & this is not a city where you want to look too deep beneath the surface.
Anyway not to get too depressing. It was a nice day, with really nice company. I think B. got a good introduction into Dubai. As much as traffic would allow we took her everywhere. And we did go dancing in the end but not for long. Everyone was too tired. We were back in our hotel room at about 1:30 am. They went to sleep. I was on the phone with K. for about an hour. Then he went to sleep too so then there was my laptop.I don't know what time I went to sleep on Thurs. It felt like I'd only been sleeping for 5 min when the girls woke me up.
We went down for breakfast. And K. & his friend joined us. We all went shopping in Souk Madinat jumeirah but I was too exhausted so I decided to sit in a little cafe & K. stayed with me. His friend was this really funny Egyptian guy who was clearly hitting on all my friends & B. too!
Around lunchtime the others joined us again. We'd just finished lunch when the news from London came through on TV in the Cafe. It was panic after that. K. couldn't get through to his sister or his brother-in-law. You just couldn't call the UK. The lines were so bad. So we were just going from news channel to news channel & we had the laptop on also looking for news & trying to contact people. It was 4:00pm before we'd confirmed that everyone we knew in London was safe. We left for Abu Dhabi immediately after. No one was in the mood for anything.
I was home about 6:30pm & I went to sleep right away. Got up about 10:00pm. And here is the result. It's 4:30 in the morning & am still up blogging. Am going to be a zombie at work. Sent K. sms about 2:00am to tell him that ever since I met him I haven't been getting enough sleep. He messaged back that he always has that effect on women. Hahahaha.Very funny. I called to ask if he was going to sleep. He said yeah unlike me he hadn't had any sleep all day. But we still ended up talking a good 25 min before I took pity on him & let him go.