Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
I have escaped from Saudi Arabia to Dubai for the weekend to revel in relative freedom. I spent over half an hour sorting through a bewildering array of hotels on booking.com trying to choose something affordable, nice and well located. I’ve been here 4 times before but never for a weekend. Eventually I chose Auris Plaza Hotel. It’s rated highly and was discounted. It’s very comfortable, near the Mall of Emirates metro station, breakfast is included, has a pool on the roof with shisha lounge and a gym; those were my additional criteria. I was dismayed however to discover that it’s a dry hotel (doesn’t serve alcohol). Also, the tv in my room spontaneously came on at 4:15am both nights. It terrified me and I called reception telling them about it. They apologised but didn’t do anything to stop it happening the 2nd night.
After a slow start on Friday (first day of the weekend here) and an excellent breakfast, I set off to do a self guided walking tour of Old Dubai. As I was leaving the concierge informed me that the Metro doesn’t start until 2pm on Fridays and nothing would be open at Dubai Creek anyway. Dejected I wandered over to Mall of Emirates and watched people having fun at the ski facility. I was amused to see a man striding into Ski Dubai carrying a pair of skis and boots and a determined expression. I did a bit of shopping (something I rarely do) and wandered back to the hotel. I was delighted to find my family on Skype and for the first time this trip I had strong enough wifi to use video. It was wonderful to see them. My children have an endearing habit of asking me to tell them something and they actually make conversation with me. It was our 10th wedding anniversary and I choked back tears as I spoke with my beloved husband. He is taking our daughter to see the ballet that I bought tickets for 11 months ago to celebrate our anniversary. What an exquisite experience for her!
Next I walked over to find the Metro station. I asked a man for directions and he happened to be going there too so we walked together. He is a Russian from Ukraine and I said that I was sorry about the situation there. He said that he came to Dubai 4 months ago to work as an architect and escape the war. I said that it’s a good idea for him to be here and he heartily agreed and said that in the Ukraine he is now considered a separatist which bewilders him. He said that he chooses to work 7 days a week and loves his work. He wanted his brother and friend to come here too but instead they were intent on fighting and now both are dead. As my throat constricted with empathy for him I fought the urge to pat his arm in commiseration because I am conscious that physical contact is forbidden here.
I enjoyed looking out the windows of the Metro as Dubai went past. The Metro is fast, clean, cheap and convenient. Burj Khalifa is very tall and elegant! The buildings around it look tall until considered in the context of the world’s tallest building. There’s still construction going on, especially in the financial district. I noticed that all of the buildings that have sub vertical windows are covered in dust whereas the vertical windows are clean.
I changed Metros at Burjaman for Al Fahidi and became disoriented, walking several hot and sweaty hundreds of metres in the wrong direction until I recognised the shape of Burj Khalifa and turned around to go in the correct direction. I walked down Al Mankhool St passing dozens of Indians/Pakistanis/Bangladeshis/Sri Lankans, in fact all day I was surrounded by people from that region who were enjoying their day off from work. Many congregated on patches of grass by the roadside, anywhere that there was some shade and somewhere to sit. I passed two businesses that offering typing services and an internet cafe and I wondered how long those businesses will survive. At the roundabout at the end of Al Mankhool I was delighted to find Bastakia Quarter. This area was built-in the early 20th century as houses for the wealthy Iranian pearl and textile merchants.
I slowly wandered through the alleyways admiring the traditional architecture of courtyard homes with wind towers that draw cool air in as a natural cooling system.
As the allure of the alleyways pulled me into them I was reminded of this blog post.
I chatted in Spanish with an Argentine man who, by coincidence, works in my field and was amazed that I guessed the name of his company when he told me where he is based. He asked me about my travels in Argentina and gave me travel recommendations for my next trip there.
I wandered through an artist’s studio and past the closed doors of museums of coins, stamps and other antiquities, past a mosque, and was lured into a shop by the promise of getting my children’s name written in beautiful Arabic calligraphy on traditional papyrus paper. I chatted with the proprietor who asked me to guess where he is from, to which I responded that I can’t do that without causing offence but he insisted so judging from his pale skin and features I guessed Iraq. He’s actually from the border of Iraq in southern Iran, which makes him Persian rather than Arab. I wrote my children’s names for him in English and Arabic and he was amazed that I know how to read and write Arabic. He then showed me how to beautify Arabic using calligraphy, producing lovely shapes that are far nicer than my neat, schoolgirl script. He shared with me his love of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khaiyam. I haven’t yet read it but I was tempted by the copy he had with miniatures by Persian artists and Farsi and English translations in it. I cried when he asked me about my children and he comforted me saying that there are times in our lives that are difficult.
As I waited patiently to take a photo of the sun playing on the mud-walls, two young fellows from Burkina Faso chatted with me in French. They wanted to know if I wanted them to photograph me. I have to admit that I didn’t trust them with my phone because they looked a bit shifty so I declined and still don’t have any photos of myself, which is actually fine by me. They wanted to know what Australia is like, which is of course an impossible question to answer because it’s an entire continent, but a reasonable question to ask.
This is already a long post so I will pause there and continue in my next post.
My other posts so far on this trip: