Dubai, United Arab Emirates
And we thought Sydney was multicultural! Wandered around a lot today and didn’t meet all that many Emiratis. Pakastanis, Indians and Filipinos galore, but no, not all that many Emiratis. Apparently the former make up 60%, while the latter, only about 19%. Went out fairly early with the intention of maybe seeing the Burj, but while waiting at the bus stop, saw a bus that said “Gold Souk”, so went for it. As I climbed on the bus, I couldn’t help but notice I was the only (a)white person and (b) female on the whole bus, which made me feel a little conspicuous. Jumped out at the Gold Souk and went for a little wander through. Again, feeling conspicuous as I was still certainly in the minority and every second step I took, someone would be jumping out to me, “Fake handbags, fake watches, Gucci, Prada, Tag, very nice, very nice.” I’d just politely decline and be on my merry way till the next person. A guy did jump out saying “Silver jewellery, beautiful jewellery” which I took him up on and bought myself a rather nice silver chain for the equivalent of AU$16. The guide book recommended haggling for 50% of the price, but I’m not yet a haggler, so I beat him down a huge AU$2 and was happy with that. Got talking to an African guy, Michael who was waiting for church to start – Church of Christ no less. His favourite part of the bible is John chapter 3. Friday is the holy day and for many workers, the only day off in the week, so Christian churches have had to adapt, making their services on Fridays instead of Sundays. Michael was a chef in a fancy restaurant and had been living in Dubai for about three years. He told me about a rule for Dubai expats; each person needs to have a medical every six months. If anything comes up, particularly STDs and the like, they are sent home. He had an hour to kill so he showed me a little bit of the other side of the river. We caught an Abra there, which is similar to a ferry; it’s a small wooden diesel powered water taxi which commuters clamber aboard. Quite terrific really. Michael showed me this little creek side walk – you walked along the water and you can see the Dubai skyline – it was interesting to see old mosques and traditional buildings interspersed with huge sky scrapers on the other side with familiar international names on them. I saw several blokes holding hands – asked Michael about this. They weren’t in fact gay, just friends. Why not. By the time we caught the Abra back to the other side, it was time for prayers and there were loudspeakers blaring out Moslem prayers, which was kind of strange. Men were sitting on carpets bowing and praying just in the middle of the street. This afternoon, I went on a trip to the desert. A guy in a 4WD picked Joseph (a Kiwi staying at same place) and I up around three and picked a Fillipeno couple up too and drove us out into the desert. He did a bit of driving through the sandhills – bit crazy, up and down and we slipped and slid a little – I started to regret my late lunch at one point. After about twenty minutes of driving though the sand we drove past a camel farm and stopped in some dunes for some photo opportunities. Another ten minutes of ‘dune bashing’ and we reached the camp. It was quite fun, I had a ride on a camel, had a go at some sand boarding (saw myself on a video later on and appeared to know what I was doing, even if I do say so myself! Looks can be deceiving though!) They served us some tea (very well catered for the vegetarian contingent – possibly because of all the Hindus that pass through!) and we saw some Belly Dancing and then it was time to go back. Quite a fun little trip.