Spence Green

التكرار يعلم الحمار

I work at Lilt. In addition to computers and languages, my interests include travel, running, and scuba diving. more...

Weekly Post…Dubai, Misc.

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I’ve been away from the computer for a week, so I apologize for the late post. Last Friday I drove to Dubai with some friends. Much like visiting New York, one must have a plan before going to Dubai. It’s big, fast, and crowded. We tempered our ambition and saw only a few sites. In the morning, we attended church at DECC. The congregation celebrated the second anniversary of their building that day, so the service lasted for over two hours. Every continent (save for Antartica) was represented; the North American contingent was the smallest of all! The procession consisted of a stream of flag bearers, each raising his nation’s banner. It reminded me of the Olympics. Old Glory brought up the rear and I nearly wept as it went by. Later, Caroline noted a similar emotion: “Wasn’t it cool when the flags came by. I choked up.”
Your flag elicited that response or all of them?”, I asked.
“I guess the whole scene. Why do you ask?”, she said.
“Because he’s American,” Andy interjected dismissively.

After church, we drove to the Burj Al Arab. I’ve never seen a more remarkable modern structure. It stands on a small peninsula by Jumeirah Beach just south of the city, but because of the flat terrain, it is visible for miles in every direction. The sand haze makes it look like a mirage, for it is so stunning that on initial observation, it seems misplaced in this desert country. Driving closer, it becomes more clear, the brilliant sunlight reflecting from the white beams and translucent blue glass. The architect (a South African, I think) fashioned it in the shape of a sail. Look at the pictures.

In the afternoon, we drove north to Sharjah, the soi-disant cultural center of the Emirates. This town has a large market known as the “Blue Souq” or “Old Souq.” I could spend days there; it’s like a Wal-Mart for random cool stuff. Iranian carpets, African ebony carvings, Ottomon swords and smoothbores, Chinese silk, porcelain, and so on. In November, I’ll go back for some Christmas shopping!

Guru sent sent some helpful questions, so I’ll answer them for everyone. The precision of a person’s questions generally indicate their intellect. No one needs a reminder, though, that Chuck T is a smart dude.

How’d you meet up with Andy and the American crew? What are their stories?
I initially met people through several groups/activites: church, work, running, and the British Club. Now I’ve met their friends, etc., which has been an blessing. I was afraid of loneliness here, but to date I have had little time for such emotions. Andy comes from the UK and has lived here for about a year. After college, he spent two years as a missionary in Lithuania. His parents work in the European evangelical community. Besides being a cool guy and a good friend, he has taught me many Britishisms, like “boot”, “faffer”, and “You’re the boy.” One day I’m going to compile a dictionary for Americans travelling to the UK. One day.

Caroline was born in Canada and teaches geography at the Shaikh Zayed girls school here. She just came to Abu Dhabi in August, having taught the previous year in Kuwait. She does weird stuff like hitchhike through western Canada by herself. We’re trying to make her more sensible. She’s an awesome cook.

I haven’t met any Americans outside of the military community. Most of the western expatriates are British or Canadian.

Al Ain very much reminded me of the badlands- is erosion the story there too?
Al Ain means “the source” in Arabic. The oasis is quite lush, but the surrounding area is rugged. A palace crowns Jebel Hefeet and the shaikhs have planted grass along the road, ostensibly for their own amusement. Their water bill must be outrageous.

When you were in Doha, did you get to see where they hosted the last round of WTO talks?
No, but I saw many advertisements for the 2006 Asian Games. The Qataris have built a tremendous building in the center of town that bears the Olympic rings. They are rapidly expanding the Doha area to show off their country next year.

Looking at the pictures, it looks like greenery (present company included) is quite a luxurious rarity. Any golf courses over there? Desalinization facilities? Natural grass?
Yes, Abu Dhabi has two courses and Dubai has several more. The greens fees are quite high, though. You must realize that money is a secondary concern here. If the Emiratis want a golf course, they built it. If they want a ski slope, they build it (just completed in Dubai, opening this month). If they want a $1 billion hotel (had dinner there last week: awesome) with unused $15,000 a night suites, who can convince them otherwise? All sorts of possibilities arise when capital flows in like its pumped from a hose.

Dubai desalinizes water to sustain its development. Spring water, though, comes from the mountains along the Omani border.

Great to hear the perspective from a man on the ground over there
regarding differentials in wealth distribution. I’ve heard that the
UAE, Baharain and Qatar are pretty capitalistically oriented- what are
the social supports they provide to folks who need it?

Price supports exist for commodities such as oil and food. I’m not aware of any developed welfare machinery. Common laborers have almost no recourse when their employers refuse to pay their wages. The Gulf News reports almost weekly of men filing complaints with the Labor Ministry that have not been paid in months. The rich live like sultans and the poor like, well, the poor. I want to expand on this topic when I have more information.

How often, if ever, do you run into local women over there?
Local women wear black abayas, so they’re hard to miss. They remain relatively absent from most settings, except for the malls. For example, I have never seen an Emirati woman in line at the KFC. In general, their dress reflects their own desires rather than that of men. Just as Gulf men wear the kandoora to say, “I am a Gulf man,” the women wear abayas to indicate their status.

Do you want us to go to Johnny Rockets and fed ex you a burger?
Yes please. Can you please enclose something with which I can fumigate it when it arrives?

What’s the weather like? How cold does it get a night?
Hot, hot. When I arrived, the temperature never dropped below 95. Today, though, its 85 with a slight breeze blowing in from the Gulf. It should stay around 70 during the “winter,” with some more dramatic temperature changes during the evening.

How are arabic classes coming? Is your goal fluency?
Well and yes. I’m no philologist, though, so I must apply myself to achieve those goals. Most people speak at least functional English here, so it’s difficult to practice.

Where do you go to church?

Written by Spence

November 3rd, 2005 at 6:00 am

Posted in UAE

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