|OK so I didn’t always play by the rules..|
So. I’m back. A little tanned-er, much more awake (jet lag – I’m 4 hours ahead right now) and mainly just wanting to march my ass straight back to Heathrow and get on the next flight back out there.
For those of you who haven’t been, Dubai really is a must-visit – if only to experience the breathtakingly different culture.
I’d been subject to all the usual urban legends about kissing on the beach and *ahem* extra curriculum in the backs of taxis (totally taken out of context, FYI – you won’t get immediately binned in jail for a little tom-foolery); and of course was fully au fait with re-aligning myself with school uniform-style dress codes (no shoulders, skirts below the knee). But it was still just so phenomenally different even from what I expected.
How so? Well. Small things. Like when we took a trip out to the desert to do all the usual touristy stuff (camel rides, dune bashing, henna etc) and were astonished to hear the lack of English spoken by our camel-walker. (He was clearly the equivalent of an old-school English shepherd. He lived out in the desert with his camels and that was his life. Why should he speak English? More to the point: why couldn’t any of we muddle through on some pidgin Arabic?) And like the almost excessive use of ‘sir’ and ‘madame’ every time a member of staff spoke.
Don’t be fooled though – beyond all its traditions and plain dress, Dubai is a city of extreme wealth and excess (if you look closely, the women quite regularly sport stunning designer shoes and handbags with their burkhas. Not subtle either – it’s a bit label label label). I’m talking ornate jacuzzis the size of swimming pools, a three-nightly (free) water show that shoots jets from the lake up 50 stories, and new islands under development that replicate a map of the world (England apparently sold for in excess of £25,000,000). And Dubai is one of those places where they seem to have everything, best: world’s tallest tower, world’s best golf course, an eff-ing huge, shark-filled aquarium in the middle of the world’s largest shopping mall…
And they’re pretty good at shopping, too. On our penultimate day, we *ahem* invested in a new pair of shoes for me (sore point, don’t ask) and I practically had to shout to draw the attention of the usually insanely attentive staff, who were almost entirely pre-occupied by an obviously wealthy lady, who was quite literally surrounded by boxes and boxes of shoes. And at least five simpering staff. Now that is how it’s done.
Once I’d got over the mean rumour-mongers in England and realised that actually I wasn’t about to get thrown in jail for a cheeky snog (sorry, hateful word. But what else can you call it?), life was a bit more chilled. But there seems a massively grey area regarding marriage. technically you’re not supposed to live together until you’re married. And that includes hotel rooms. Checking-in to our suite with ‘mr & mrs’ on all the paperwork was a little surreal.
Fundamentally, Dubai is a pretty patriarchal society. As a Westerner, you don’t really notice it at first, but it became increasingly apparent that whichever male was nearest me would always be addressed in my place. RB was routinely offered the iced water, fruit skewers and sunglass cleaning service before me at the pool; and when I ordered a drink, the bill would always circumnavigate my waiting hand, to be presented with much flourish to ‘sir’.
As much as I say, though, Dubai really has to be experienced to believe. I mean, wWhere else can you have cocktails 122 stories up?? Exactly. Nowhere.
Millions more Dubai-themed posts to come – please bear with me!
Love, Laugh, Liverty x