Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dubai: Desert Heat and Piercing Glares

As-Salamu Alaykum!

I made it to the Middle East, and I'm sitting comfortably in an airconditioned room (much like any other room in this place) here in Dubai!

When I arrived, the first thing I noticed is that there are SO MANY Filipinos here! Seriously, more Filipinos in another country I have ever seen! It sort of made me take a step back and wonder where I was for a second. Did my plane take a detour to Manila? I asked someone where the toilets were, and to my amazement, the response I got was, "Kabayan! Derecho lang tapos kaliwa." (Fellow countryman, go straight then left)

Amazing! Having that many Filipinos around definitely helped make me feel at home right away.

However... the second thing I noticed is that the men over here stare at you like they've never ever seen a woman before. Granted, most of their women here are covered up in their Abaya's, or their national dresses (long robes covering them up from head to toe)... so I guess when they see so much as a collar bone (which was the case with me), they gawk at you and linger with no shame.

If I didn't have the knowledge from Sex and the City 2 to back me up, I probably would have slapped the first man I encountered to gape at me like that. It's not very comfortable... and it's not complimentary either.

After a few days, I got used to it and just learned to ignore and look away. I suppose it's just part of their culture... It ain't my favorite, but you gotta roll with the punches. :)

My good friend, The Desert Fox Cristina
Anyway, I stayed with a very good friend of mine, Cristina of The Diary of a Desert Fox for the first half of my visit. Her condo is situated in a prime location, with amazing views of the city.

This is the view from my window.

That's the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world

She was very protective of me and refused to let me go out of the condo till after 4 or 5 pm because of the heat. It's a good thing the sun doesn't set till after 730 and it's still bright till after 8:30.

Most of the things we did were indoors... I saw A LOT of malls. The biggest mall in the world... with the largest indoor aquarium in the world... A mall with the only indoor snow facility/ ski resort with penguins that you can hug and kiss, that you cannot do anywhere else in the world... A mall with the only Egyptian theme with pyramids and hieroglyphics...

Largest Indoor Aquarium in the world at the Dubai Mall
Ski Dubai. An indoor Snow facility in one of the biggest malls in the world, The Mall of Emirates
I saw a LOT of hotels and buildings! The ONLY 7 star hotel in the world! The TALLEST building in the world! The Largest Resort in the Emirates!

The lovely Madinat Jumeira
The Leap of Faith -- a 90 feet drop at an 84 degrees incline, featured on one of the
episodes of The Amazing Race
Who ever is in charge of Dubai is fond of superlatives. Everything has to be bigger, better, the ONLY and THE BEST. It's a little overwhelming!

It's a good thing I had the company of good friends to keep me grounded. It was great to be able to catch up with people I haven't seen in over 10 years... Friends who were thoughtful enough to let me have the true taste of Shisha and Shawarma!

My parents and two sisters have been to Dubai last year, and they insisted I include it in my itinerary. I could see the appeal... I really do. It's a spectacular city... It's VERY rich... which I guess is also the problem. I think it's one of those places you can only enjoy if you have money... Or if you have the Filipino connection... which was the case with me. :)

I was a little disappointed though, that because everything was so glamorous and man-made, it was difficult for me to look into the real culture of the Middle East. Apart from the call to prayer I hear everyday from the mosque's, I didn't see or feeling anything authentic...

I felt bad about it, but I had a great time nonetheless. My friends made all the difference...

In the next few weeks, I'll go into detail about the specific places I visited and the things I did. For now, we'll have to settle for a summary :)

Ma'a Salama, Dubai!

See you soon, London! Bloody 'ell!!!