I’m in Dubai. It’s a long story which I won’t go into now, but I’ll be here for a few days. After a few hours on the ground, here are my thoughts.
1. It’s hot. It’s currently 100 F (37.8 C) at 3:30 pm. I knew going into this that it would be hot, and I reasoned that since I survived a summer in hot and humid Atlanta, Georgia I may have built up some tolerance. Not so. As soon as I made it out of the airport terminal I felt the heat wrapping around me and relentlessly driving into me at all angles. Despite my mental preparation aside, my body was a little shocked at the 50 degree change from Kazakhstan to Dubai.
After a couple not-so-cheap taxi rides here and there, I decided to take the metro back to my hotel to economize. As I left the metro station and started walking toward my hotel, I was patting myself on the back for saving money . After 30 seconds on foot, I remembered why I was one of the only pedestrians and why there are hundreds of taxis…it’s hot.
2. It’s international. Granted, I’ve pretty much only been to my hotel and a mall so far, but the diversity of visitors and residents is amazing.
I noticed a lot of workers here from India and the Philippines. They seem to make up a kind of working class here. I also expected quite a few westerners, but the mall felt a bit like the British invasion. It seemed like everywhere I turned I heard a British accent. Just to be fair, I saw a good number of Americans, but we were certainly a minority.
I was also surprised how much Russian I heard. I even found a mall map in Russian. It was the only other language available besides Arabic and English, which shows you how popular Dubai is with Russian-speaking visitors. I helped a lady take a picture of herself in front of a plastic mall plant. (It was better looking than most mall plants, I guess.) The language on her camera LCD screen? Russian.
It’s a bit weird seeing such a smorgasboard of people communicating in English. Some do it well; some don’t. For instance, my taxi driver told me he has four “chidrench” — two boys and two girls. I know that English is a lingua franca, but I never really experienced it quite as profoundly as I have here.
It has also felt strange to walk past a western family wearing shorts and tank tops, then past an Arab man dressed in a flowing white robe with his wife dressed in black from head to toe, then past an Indian family. I don’t know if I’d call it a mixture of cultures, but Dubai is at least several cultures in one place at the same time.
3. Today brought back memories of when we first moved to Kazakhstan. It felt like such a personal success for me today to find my hotel, find food and find a mall with a passport photo shop. Those are actually very little things, but in a new place, little things can seem big. I remember Abby and I rejoicing when we first successfully made spaghetti in Kazakhstan. It felt like a feat. Now we do it all the time and it’s nothing to write home about.
But I’m remembering what it’s like to move to a new place and have to relearn all those things you take for granted–the roads, the location of the supermarket, the exchange rate, cultural dos and dont’s, the list goes on.
4. This place knows shopping. Like I said, I’ve only been to one mall, but it’s huge. (If I didn’t despise the word “ginormous” so much, I’d use it here.) Just to give you an idea of its size, it houses an indoor ski run (see below).
As I walked and walked and walked, I noticed a lady sitting along a walkway with her head in her hand, obviously suffering from “acute mall stress.” It’s caused by franticly walking miles and miles around a mall looking for a product in your price range that doesn’t exist.
5. You can eat your way down memory lane here. Beware if you are sorely missing your homeland–there’s plenty of comfort food for you. Besides the expected (but nonetheless welcome) fast food joints, I also found The Cheesecake Factory, Dunkin Doughnuts, Coldstone and even IHOP. (I shouldn’t have been surprised since it’s called IHOP, not just HOP.)
And don’t worry, folks from Central Asia, I drove past an “Authentic Russian and Kyrgyz” restaurant. приятного аппетита.