Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saturday AM


Yesterday (Friday), Tatiana and I took a 1.5 hour bus ride to Dubai (again, putting our lives in the hands of crazy drivers…look out!). Approaching Dubai is like entering a construction zone, hard hats should be mandatory. I started counting cranes, got up to about 50 and stopped. Everywhere you look, building is happening. The city skyline is immense, an architect’s dream.

We exited the bus in Burj Dubai, a historic district of Dubai, located on the western side of the Dubai Creek and went for a walk along the harbor, a collision of old world and the new. Abras (water taxis) ride up and down the creek, bringing people back and forth, in high contrast to the high-rise office buildings and banks on the opposite shore. The boats do not look seaworthy (or even creek-worthy) and the buildings tower over all.

And since it was a Friday (the holy day), most of the only other people on the docks were male workers from India who have the day off and nothing more to do than hang out by the water for the cool breezes it brings. And I’m talking about 1000’s of Indian men everywhere! We could easily have been in Delhi.

I asked Tatiana, where among the crush were the women and she says that most of the men are here alone, working to send money back to their families. They are able to stay as long as they are working and might not see their families for many months at a time.

We went to a fabric shouk (market) and I stood back as Tatiana bargained with a vengeance (Terri, you would have loved all the lovely materials for sale). I purchased a beautiful handmade wall hanging for 60 dirhas (about $17 US). He started at the price of 150 dirhas and Tatiana just kept walking away. I think he finally gave in so we would keep walking.

And I also bought a few pashminas (wide beautiful scarves to wear over your shoulders for a bit of warmth in the rabid air conditioning here or to use to cover your head). Again, that girl knows how to bargain, but she says the shop owners expect it.

The market area itself was a misshapen alley of stone and brick and I’m guessing, duct tape. Each shouk has its own product and this one was piled high (everywhere) with fabric and silk and color. What’s interesting is when they close at night, they merely throw a piece of tarp over the outside merchandise. No one steals. The crime rate is very low, but then the penalties are very high. If you take out a loan and you do not pay it all back, you go to jail. No arguments.

From the market we went to ‘old Dubai’, a small protected/renovated area in the middle of this new construction madness and walked through buildings that have been standing for (I think) about 60 years. And then to a museum full of centuries-old artifacts. Very interesting.

I felt very safe walking the streets, even though we were not in the upscale area yet. One thing I notice is when (as a woman) you pass by a man, generally there is no eye contact. Men often greet other men by touching noses. Many men also hold hands while walking together, as a sign of friendship.

We took a cab to the tonier part of town and ate from a delicious local’s menu - falafel, tahini and pita, lentils and rice, hummus (again Terri, you would have loved it) and then sat outside watching the ‘show’. Lot’s of sheesha’s being smoked. I guess it is kind of like cigarette smoking here. You order them right off the menu, along with your pita.

We met up with Nujoom and her husband, Halid and went to the Emirates Mall. It’s like any mall you would see in the US, but the various humanity strolling around was nothing you would ever see in the US. And the mall has a prayer room, so you can shop and pray and then shop some more.

The mall is also the site of the indoor ski slopes. What a gift to young people (and not so young) here in the hot Gulf area. I did not go inside, but am including a photo. It was packed in there!! And you can go for the day for about $35, including the snow clothes.

Thanks to Halid, we were dropped off right at the bus station. A long ride back to the hotel and up this morning at 7am to be driven to Sharjah University and their 6th Annual Conference / ESP-The Language of Work, where I am speaking this afternoon to teachers and soon-to-be teachers of English.

Saturday, 10:21pm-

The conference went very well. I have now made several friends among the ‘girls’ and they all came to my session to support me (and take some photos with the American).

Nighty night!

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