DUBAI!!!

Trip Start Jan 18, 2008
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Monday, March 24

It's 5 AM in Dubai and I am listening to the call to prayer while a website is being blocked "due to its content being inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates." (it was a harmless Skype website)  This is very ironic because my experience in Dubai has been anything but religious or constrained!  .....and I have thoroughly enjoyed it : )
 
I love Dubai because it reminds me of America.  Actually the city has more of a London-influence, but either way it's a wonderful place.  Many of my dreams have come true on this short trip away from Amman: I have had tofu TWICE, I had Indian food, Persian food, Moroccan food, Chinese food, amazing ice cream, great red wine, the best cheese with fruit; I went to the beach and soaked in the warm sun, I wore tank tops and dresses and tight black dresses, I went clubbing and danced my ass off, I was able to breathe for a change without inhaling pure cigarette smoke, I was able to be who I really am without being judged, I wasn't stared at constantly, etc.  I guess I liked Dubai because it has Middle East flair and culture which I love, but it doesn't have all the restrictions.
 
I came to Dubai on Wednesday night (around midnight) and had to wait in line for about an hour to get my passport stamped (there were around 20 lines maybe 100 people deep......yes that packed) and then met my friend Fahad at the airport who is from Kuwait but went to GWU with me but is now back living in Kuwait.  We also met one of his friends there (Abdullah) who had just flown in from Kuwait and then we all went to Fahad's dad's house (he's a diplomat in Dubai).  The next night another of Fahad's friends (Fahad #2) came to stay at the house as well.  My trip was absolutely amazing as I said and Fahad treated me extremely well and his friends were so nice to me too and a lot of fun.  We spent a lot of time at the beach and at good restaurants and lounges and clubs and at the mall and downtown and at the house and I am now worn out!
 
There's so much I have learned about Dubai from being here and I hope to share a bit with you but I know I will undoubtedly leave things out or get certain details wrong so just bare with me! 
 
The UAE used to be pure desert-sand dunes and the Bedouins.  Now, it's a booming country (formed only in 1971) with Dubai leading the way.  The UAE is split into 7 states with Abu Dhabi being the biggest and having all of the oil (maybe not all but pretty darn close) and Dubai having all the real estate.  Back in 1979 the Jebel Ali Free Zone was created in Dubai and that was the spark that created the fire which doesn't look like it's going to be put out anytime soon.  What it is is a zone that provides foreign companies unrestricted import of labor and export capital.  The idea really took off during the Persian Gulf War because it was used as a main port; Dubai also attracted many companies in war-torn countries like Kuwait, Lebanon, and even Bahrain. 
 
Because of the great success, Dubai decided to concentrate on free trade and tourism and created more "free zones" such as Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and Dubai Maritime City.  In so many Middle Eastern countries there are large taxes (cough...Amman) or the country is not friendly to foreign ownership (cough...Saudi Arabia) and even around the world there are few cities like Dubai where it is so easy to carry out your dreams (minus the ridiculous real estate prices).  My friend Ferris told me a story that has America written all over it:  a guy who worked for his family company a couple years back was making 3-400 dollars a month...now he owns two internet cafes...not bad! 
 
The lowest class in Dubai makes around 3-400 a month, BUT the company they work for has to pay for their housing and transportation; so all the people have to pay for is food and other necessities which makes the pay really not that bad.  Compare that to Amman where people are making 200 a month and still have to pay for housing and transportation...and where gas prices are skyrocketing which makes everything else skyrocket right along with them.  So the people aren't treated too bad here.  And there is actually a middle class in Dubai too! ...compared to Amman which doesn't have one and all you see are rich people and poor people separated and never mixed together in the same place like you see on a regular basis in America. 
 
To get to Dubai I had to fly through Bahrain airport.  Coolest thing ever....I finally was a minority.  I fit in well in Jordan because I look like I could be Arab.  But in Bahrain airport I was surrounded by Indians and Asians and there's no way I could be either.  It's been weird seeing so many Indians though because there are almost none in Amman.  Why?  I'm pretty sure it's because of income tax.  There is no income tax in Dubai.  There definitely is in Amman!!!  You can make a whole lot more money in Dubai for that fact.  And the thing is, the prices in Amman are more expensive! So you have less money coming into your wallet and more money going out of your wallet than in the UAE.  And I don't know how Amman's economic situation is going to get any better when the government has no other way to make money than to tax tax tax everything, yet cannot even attract companies or entrepreneurs or industries to come in and help because Jordan cannot come close to competing with Dubai's enormous benefits. 
 
Some up-and-coming things in Dubai:  world's tallest building, an underwater hotel, world's largest theme park (Dubai Land I believe it's called), a metro system, The World Islands-a configuration of islands that forms the countries of the world, The Palm Islands, and so much more......
 
Dubai also reminds me of America because of all of the laws.  The drinking age here is 21, they have cameras with radars to fine people who speed (and the number of them has been increasing rapidly because of all the traffic accidents from people driving way to fast.....The cars here are amazing....there are barely any cars on the street that would be considered old or ugly or even dirty), it is extremely safe (more than America-the cops don't even carry guns), the fines for drinking and driving and smoking pot are very hefty, and the city is beautiful and clean (unlike many big cities that are very dirty like New York).
 
One thing that is too bad is that the culture that was here before the big boom is being lost.  I believe that locals make up only 20% of the population here.  They are taken care of very well by the government but many are upset that their culture is disappearing.  Every place I went there would be men and women in traditional dress (men wearing white robes with a white headdress and women in black dresses with a black hijab).  I love that they do that because it keeps some of the culture alive.  Ferris told me that one of his mother's friends was grocery shopping one day during Ramadan (the holiest month of the year for Muslims when they fast from sunrise to sunset) and saw a foreigner dressed sluttily with her entire back showing....needless to say the woman chewed her out and I guess I would have to say rightly so-the girl didn't even know it was Ramadan!! Now THAT is ignorance at its best....you're living in the country at least know a bit about the culture.
 
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