Thursday, April 18, 2013

First impressions of Dubai, a city in the desert

When Greg was asked by his employer to go to Dubai for a couple months to work alongside the team there, he was of course agreeable. And since I'm doing work which isn't time/place dependent, I was agreeable too. So here we are in the United Arab Emirates, staying at the Hilton on Jumeirah Beach. We've been here for almost a week now, and I'd like to share some (admittedly outsider) first impressions.... 


- They are overstaffed nearly everywhere. Example: buying ibuprofen at Boots apparently requires  three employees, two hand-offs and one consultation.

- As expected, there is a fair bit of male-female separation (not just in mosques). For example, I took a pink-topped taxi the other day which was driven by a woman, who are allowed to take fares from women.

- There are very few 'natives' since this is a very young country technically speaking - only 17% of the population is Emirati. Of course, there were tribes roaming these lands around 5500 BC...

- Americans don't come here much, but this place is overrun with rather sunburned Brits, and our East Slavic brethren who make Dubai's Jumeirah Beach area feel like Russia-on-the-Sea. 

- There's a prevailing attitude that if you don't have history, you just pay to build it. 


- Also as expected, the culture has certain parameters one should respect. For example, there is a zero tolerance policy on drinking and driving (like ANY drinking). One drink with dinner at a restaurant, and you aren't driving home. Better have a car service or taxi waiting. Not that it's a concern for me, as I'm a woman so I can't rent a car anyway.

- There is a bit of a 'haves and have nots' caste system going on. It determines your role and your job. 

- Excess is kind of expected. Indoor skiing, anyone?


- The prevailing newspaper here is very politically correct (though the op-ed section is progressive), and publishes page after page of pics of governmental leaders at meetings, conferences and ribbon cuttings. It's almost as if they have 10 stock photos they rotate daily. 


And so, those are the first impressions. I have lots more exploring to do, a lot of treasures to cover and a lot of hummus to eat!


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