From Yemen I had an evening flight over to Dubai where good guy Johnny was able to meet me at the airport. As unfortunate as my Yemen experience was, and it was indeed an experience, it felt great to be back in Dubai where I knew people and had a place to stay. We dropped by an Irish bar called McGettigan’s to delve into the misery of the situation, and catch up on the week since Oman. Sometime pretty late we made our way home, but unfortunately his aunt from Bangalore was crashing on the couch for a month, which meant I had the floor in he and his brother’s room. I had no problem with this, and it was much better than booking a hotel room. When we arrived home I hopped right on the internet to take a look at flights and see what I could do with this 4 day window that opened up. In the end, I didn’t feel that the costs of going anywhere else could be justified, so I decided to relax in Dubai.
After a great session of much deserved sleep, I woke up around noon for breakfast. This family’s eating schedule was about four hours after what I considered normal, but actually it worked really well with my life. We had a special lunch in honor of the aunt being there.
The first half of the day was spent relaxing and learning about the world of social media from younger sister Hiba. Then, based on a conversation the night before about my ‘assbag’ cargo shorts that he banned from being worn in Dubai, we set off to the Mall of the Emirates to update my wardrobe. This massive place had every shop one could imagine and even an indoor ski run. We stopped by a couple shops but I pretty much gave the approval to anything that Johnny picked out for me. My sense of style is limited and my complacency with my current wardrobe has caused junk to accumulate. Besides, this purchase could easily be written off as living expenses, rather than travel.
A rather large mall…
Once out of the mall we went to a Lebanese restaurant that had more of the shawarma, bread and hummus. It was fantastic and definitely convinced me that such a place would really do well in Grand Rapids. It is a rare sort of food that is extremely healthy, has great taste, and is different than most American restaurant experiences. Back at home we watched some documentary before bed about the dirty history of New York City en route to the place it is today.
The next morning was Friday, the start of the weekend in Dubai, and we had plans to go to church at 11am. It was held at an international school auditorium and had a pretty diverse congregation. One of the thoughts I did have during the worship portion of the morning was that for the uninitiated, these people laying prone or raising their arms in the air would come off no less foreign as do the practices of say Buddhism to me. It was a familiar atmosphere nonetheless and after a few songs there were testimonies of faith healing from the church. Every church has flavors of spiritual emphasis is seems, be them these healings, speaking in tongues, or something else. The message itself was delivered by the head pastor, whom Johnny had gone to boarding school with in India. Plucked from the brink of death by a drug dominated lifestyle, he rededicated himself to a life of ministry. Johnny mentioned that in his mind, the words of someone who hasn’t experienced those things wouldn’t carry nearly the same impact to him. Afterwards, I shook a lot of hands and then returned home for another delicious Indian dish.
Later that day the two of us drove over to walk around the Dubai Marina to admire the boats and skyline. Apart from my first root beer float in ages, we stopped at a shisha cafe to enjoy a mint and winter melon mix. Anything mixed with mint is really light and refreshing, and it paired really nicely with our Turkish coffee. Turkish style coffee is a thick sludge mixed with a lot of spices. It was pretty tasty, and just the caffeine bomb that I was going to need to perk up before the party later that night.
When we arrived around 11, I decked out in my new wardrobe for a Fresh Prince themed party things were already in full swing. It was a house party, held at a really nice place, by girl whose parents were out of town. I had a great time getting to hang out in this ‘real’ Dubai setting, with people who had spent their entire lives here. In the nature of Dubai, these people came from very diverse backgrounds which made the conversations a lot of fun. What they did have in common was that they seemed to come from well off families, and carried a slightly different air about them.
The merriment took a turn for the worse and suddenly I noticed that almost no one was there anymore. While I was rocking the grand piano with my profound repertoire and chatting with some others, outside in the front garden was nothing less than a brawl. I’ve no idea what ignited the powder keg, but for about 30 minutes people were lashing out with fisticuffs and whatever else. When I first heard about what had happened, I was I bit disheartened for having missed such an opportunity – I’ve always wanted to see how I would fare in a fight – but when I heard that such things as garden shears had been drawn in as well I figured that perhaps this wasn’t yet my time. Everything about how the party turned out was both nostalgic and cliche: decimation of property and hiding from police. In the end, everything turned out alright for myself, but the host was left with first of all a mess, but also damaged Persian rugs, a knocked in front door, and ruined front garden. We saw pieces of pots and plants everywhere as we slipped past the wounded to catch a cab home. Everything about that party followed the script of a generic teen movie, and it was awesome. On the way home I got a McArabia and a burger before felling fast asleep.
The next morning we relived the highlights of the night and then in the afternoon we met a few church friends at the Dubai Mall, the largest in the world, to see the Expendables 2. We didn’t expect a lot from the film but were happy to be social. Afterwards, the six of us all drove over to International City to a really good British Indian curry restaurant where we shared a number of dishes and lots of naan. British Indian and Indian Indian are two different sets of cuisine.
After the restaurant we said our goodbyes and then met up with the pastor from the other day and a few of his friends in from Qatar at the Belgian Beer Cafe. Along with Johnny, they were all Indian and enrolled in the boarding school at about the same time. All were cool guys, fun to talk to, and provided my third anthropological study of Dubai. Most of this understanding came from Johnny later, but basically the Indian population runs in cliques and don’t do a lot of intermingling with the other expats. I was even told that they lack to confidence to throw themselves out into these other groups of people. After a while we made a final stop back at McGettigang’s; I enjoyed the company but was tired and my mind was fixated on bed.
Quality beer at last!
Eid Mubarak!!! This holiday called Eid-ul-Fitr comes at the end of Ramadan which means that people could eat, drink, chew gum, and smoke whenever and wherever they pleased. For these few days society shuts down and everyone visits their family, much like Christmas. After a delicious breakfast of dosa and a meat curry, Johnny brought me to the airport for my flight…which turned out to be the next day. In my mind I told myself that my flight was on the first day of Eid, but whereas astrology could provide the the exact dates of Eid for the next million years, some governing body of Muslims need to officially announce it, and that date was different than I was expecting. I felt bad and a little bit stupid but at least the airport was close and I wasn’t a day off in the other direction.
I really liked how a lot of the architecture incorporated Arabian elements. It was a really nice mix of classical and modern.
Although his own boss, Johnny did have some work to tend to so I went back to the Dubai mall with Sam. There I got a swimsuit for the upcoming party, and mostly just walked around. One of the amazing things about the malls in Dubai is that on any given night they are open until 1 or 2 am! On account of Eid, the place was packed and finding a spot outside for the musical fountain was a little tricky. This fountain is the largest of its kind and absolutely blows Grand Haven’s away. Normal performances only blast water to heights of 240 feet, but they have the capacity to hit 420 feet. It was always obvious whenever these higher jets were used, as a thunderous sound of the pressure being released echoed about the area.
I just stole this from YouTube, its much nicer than my video. If you skip ahead, at least see the end.
I was really impressed at the development of the entire area. Aside from the massive shopping mall, there was also a souk styled with traditional Arabian architectural elements, the 38 acre lake with fountain, and of course the Burj Kalifa. The Burj Kalifa is by far the tallest structure on earth and at 2,717 feet eclipsed the Taipei 101, the previous skyscraper to hold the record, by a staggering 1,048 feet. Even photographing the thing was a chore, since fitting it all within a frame took a bit of finagling. After the fountain finished, Sam, Hiba and myself talked a bit at another shisha lounge over a mint and mixed berry blend about life in Dubai.
Back at home we had some bowtie alfredo pasta and watched the Daily Show as a family. After dinner the whole crew made reservations to go see The Dark Night Rises at midnight. We had all been wanting to see this and it didn’t disappoint. The best line of the film was undoubtedly ”there cannot be true despair without hope”, since it actually provoked a bit of contemplation and though. Sleep when I got back marked the end of Dubai, round 1.