Monday, October 15, 2007

Hello Dubai? It's Blair From America.

I’m leaving now. My last day in Dubai was one where I questioned exactly what I was doing there. After going to lunch the day before in the world’s most luxurious hotel, I felt I hadn’t yet seen the real Muslim culture I wanted so desperately to sit with for a while.
I thought about Dubai, a man-made city, an economy that is booming, and I felt out of place. I was staying downtown and although I was happy with my hotel it wasn’t as if I was on vacation. I started to realize I was stuck in between the tourist culture and the actual culture of the people of Dubai. But who are they and how long have they live in this pre-fabricated society?
I met a lot of foreigners while there. People from India, Nigeria, the Philippines, and I noticed a lot of people had lived there, on the average of eight-ten years. They all chose to move to Dubai to work, at least the people I met. My practical insights below stretch beyond accessibility. I believe you can only speak about an issue if you have had some part in it, whether physical, emotional, intellectual, I don’t think you can speak factually about an issue if it is just from general knowledge or stereotype. Preface, preface. With that said and my limited amount of time in Dubai I was left culturally disoriented.
What left me confused and without an answer was: what is the real culture here? Yes it is a Muslim Country and it is run by a Sheik, but what does Dubai exist for? Maybe it is just for the wealthy and those who can afford to move there to work.
Then I ask myself about these “tours” of Dubai I saw in all the brochures: tours for Safari’s and Desert Banquets. For a very small price you can catch a ride into the desert and experience dinner, camel rides, four wheeling in the dunes. I guess it is a vacation city, one whose inhabitants are very happy.
I wrote in my last post that I would return, no I wrote that I “vowed” to return, how dramatic. After eating at The Burj Al Arab it was easy to get addicted to the view of the Arabian Sea, the Finger Islands, but I was alone there. I am thankful I got to see these things but as I look back after a few days of reflection I don’t know if I would return by myself for vacation.
Dubai is a crystal ball. It doesn’t have any sharp edges. It flows. But I noticed its truth was hard to see. What is it exactly? Don’t ask me why I am having such a difficult time understanding a five day trip, but I noticed this odd separation between cultures.
You could get a room at a very nice hotel and lie out on the beach and not notice for a second the culture surrounding you. I guess I don’t want to be in the middle. I would rather sit, invited, veiled, at a family’s Iftar than spend all my money at a high-priced hotel. One option is an empty one with instant gratifications and great digital pictures; the other is real life and an honest first hand way to get to the truth about what people think about our world and how we fill fair as nations in the future.
There are political and religious issues that are not portrayed correctly on American TV. Like the saying, don’t believe all that you read, well don’t believe all the propaganda on western television. Yes there are problems, wars, bombings, hatred, but there are still people who love and do not want to destroy. I can’t understand how a country can get to the boiling point and kill and imprison Buddhist Monks in Myranmar. In Dubai that wouldn’t happen, but could people protest? Or do they have anything to protest? Is Dubai the new model for the perfect society?
As I was leaving Dubai to catch my 3am flight I realized Dubai was just an introduction, a welcoming mat into the world of Islam, the fasting and prayer of Ramadan, and my geographical goal for the last two years: Pakistan.

Holiday Inn Downtown Dubai
PO Box 29499
TEL: (971) (4) 2288889
Rate: 480 AED/Night Inclusive + Sales Tax
Location: Good
Wheelchair Accessible. Ramp into hotel too steep to roll up on my own, not ADA Reg. but they tried. No hand held shower. No Shower Chair. Elevator.
Transport: Must use private car service. Actual Taxis did not stop for me in my chair. Private car service approximately 60 AED for thirty minute ride.
Currency Conversion: 400 AED=100 USD
Wheelchair spotting! One man in a Everest & Jennings chair by The Gold Center 5:30pm.


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