Rested. That is finally the word I have now to say. The word that allows me to sit down, and finally write this blog post.
For a stopover in Dubai that was supposed to be ‘relaxed’ my partner and I certainly punched a lot of things into it. The fact remains that if you spend all that money and effort into travelling, you really don’t want to spend all that time snoozing in an Hotel room.
So we stopped over in Dubai. And I got a word for it HOT. Imagine those hot days we get in Melbourne when we get a heatwave in summer (high 30’s to low 40s) then double the humidity. Add that this is ALL THE TIME with no prospect of a cool change at all, then you have Dubai climate in September.
But we still did the touristy things. The trip across the sand dunes with the four wheel drives was obligatory. Mass tourism is something to behold in itself. But I am a tourist too. I’ve got no prentences to be a ‘traveller’. Really, anyone who probably spent thousands of times more in an air fare than what a local can earn in a day cannot pretend otherwise, this include the backpackers. The other thing was that the tour’s participants were about 90% Australian.
But anyway after the dune bash we were taken to this ‘faux beduin camp’ which was a lot of fun. It had great food, hookahs (which, as a non smoker I didn’t use) and a belly dancer show, which mercifully, unlike the awful tradition in Melbourne middle eastern restaurants, didn’t force (sorry, invite) males to dance. I even decided to have a camel ride, but was very sorry for the poor camel to carry my not insubstantial weight.
The next morning I did something which was much more valuable and interesting. A traditional Emirates breakfast in one of the traditional houses in the old city. Dubai may have the highest buildings in the world, but fortunately the old city has been kept. The houses now have tourist shops mainly, but you can see how the Dubai inhabitants lived before the advent of oil and money. It consituted of houses with a central courtyard in the middle, where a tree would grow at the centre to provide shade. This breakfast is provided by the Open doors, Open minds‘ organisation. This is a program instituted by the United Arab Emirates government specifically for tourists to create a greater understanding of Islamic and Arabic culture. So we sat in the courtyard and as we ate a traditional breakfast which included: chickpea and chilli salad, sweet noodles, fflat breads & sour pancakes – to be filled wtih cream cheese and date syrup, and finishing with morish sesame covered doughnuts and fresh dates, a young Emirati woman talked about the culture, religion, education, relationships, food, and how guests would be welcomed, the importance of coffee etc. Then she talked about Islamic dress and invited any questions, stressing that nothing was off-limits – there were no wrong questions! So the discussion ranged from the education system, to how courtship and marriage occurs in the Emirates culture.
This organisation also do a tour of the Mosque, but alas it wasn’t available for the day we were there.
I would strongly recommend to anyone doing a stopover in Dubai to utilise the activities of this centre. It is a great opportunity to learn first hand about the culture. A better use of time than spending hours in an air conditioned shopping centre.
But while the breakfast taught me about the Emirates culture, and how UAE citizens have things like free education, and free medical care, I also noticed that apart from officers checking the passports Emirati people were totally absents in the hotels, the shops, the people working on the tours etc.
They were mainly people from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These are people cannot become citizens after years of living in Dubai. That are likely not to share the wealth of the glitzy city they have helped to build. People that I saw at dawn when I was going to the Airport grimly boarding buses, clutching their lunches in plastic bags.
So while Dubai is a great place to break that long trip to Europe, I can’t help feeling that somehow my fun is somewhat tainted by the exploitation of many people that made it possible.