Monday, March 1, 2010
We arrived in Dubai late Saturday evening after a very long flight, so quickly gathered our things and grabbed a taxi. It had just been raining, and the rain had brought out the smells that the hot desert sun had baked into the land all day- it felt great to arrive to such a tropical feeling. The roads were deep in water- some so much so that I thought it might start seeping through our doors! The taxi driver informed us that despite our impression of such a wealthy impressive city, there were some things that had not been planned well- in this case plumbing! We soon arrived at the villa, where River excitedly began exploring, finding lizards climbing the outside of the walls, all of the different rooms in the house ‘wow, cool!’, and finally the amazing backyard oasis. Before long we were swimming under the stars and full moon. Aaah, how lucky we are to have a friend with such a place across the world from home! The next morning we awoke to the sun shining and the smells and colors of the flowers draped everywhere around the villa. We quickly threw our stuff on and were off to enjoy our one day in Dubai. We began in the old Bastakia quarter, wandering the maze of winding alley ways, passing someone’s camel that was tied to a tree, and soon found a little outdoor art café to stop for breakfast. The food, music, paintings and elaborately decorated waitress in full berka were pleasant reminders of being in such an exotic place. We then found ourselves wandering the river front walkways with their decorated wood carved ships, watching the mass of people unloading their goods from around the globe across the river, and the families relaxing in the park. After a short cab ride we were soon standing outside one of the famous Mosque’s, with it’s intricately patterned and shaped architecture. We wandered around the front where we stood watching the men remove their shoes and begin praying on their knees before entering the building. I almost wanted to follow and see what else they were going to do in this religion that is so foreign to me, but alas, was shooed away by a man dressed in white from head to toe. Songs and Prayers ring out from the towers of these Mosque’s 5 times per day, calling people to stop, reflect and pray- the dedication of it is astounding to me when at times at the end of a busy day I wonder where my time has gone. Alas, after crossing the street and reading the beach dress codes and rules, we were taking our first dip into the Sea- which to some is called the ‘Arabian’, others the ‘Persian’. I thought I would play it safe and call it the ‘Gulf’, after reading that the word ‘Israel’ has been banned from all books and one can get into trouble by a mere utter of the word. It was nice to see the many families playing and swimming in the sea- this is by far the most diverse city I have ever been in- there are literally people from all corners of the earth here with different looks, dress and language- amazing. More amazing is that in this country it is not often you actually see Emirati people- they are definately not part of the crowds of working class people. That night we made our way down to the ‘Souq’s’ or shops, where you can finding almost anything while wandering the enormous labrynth of winding streets and alleys that go on for many blocks. After a short time of wandering through the ‘Gold Souq’s’, I caught a whiff of the ‘Spice Souq’s’, and quickly followed my nose. For the next few hours we all had a great time smelling things we had never seen and trying to keep from buying needless things we would not have any idea how to use. : ) Needless to say, it was the highlight of our short layover in Dubai. When we were thoroughly famished from so much walking we caught a ride to a great Lebanese place where the food was awesome, the ceilings were draped in Bedouin-style silk tents, and the violinist played pieces that made your heart ache. Almost deliriously, we finally arrived back at the villa late and still strummed up enough energy to go for a swim and hang out with our Jordanian friend who was also staying with us. The next morning we woke with the sun and the ringing out of prayer. Next up, Ethiopia.