Sunday, July 29, 2007

land of sand and glass

so i've been in the uae for almost two weeks. i was originally planning on being in syria at this time but i opted to stay and fly to syria the same time as ayham. this allows me more time to try and arrange interviews as well as a chance to do some more fun things in the area. first off, let me explain a bit about what i have learned from my time here.

the uae is not just dubai, though that city is definitely the busiest and craziest. i've been staying mostly in abu dhabi, which is the capital city and the emirate with all the oil. both are growing quickly, however, the atmosphere in dubai is a little maniacal in that there is an obsession to build and build so that the culture of that place is rooted in the fact that it is desperately looking for a culture. there are gleaming shopping centres, giant hotels, skyscrapers everywhere but the sense is that it is a city in progress. there are more buildings with cranes on them than ones completed, the road systems are a spaghetti plate of roundabouts and overpasses that are seriously obstructed by construction to the point where even the best vehicle gps systems are useless. the night life in dubai is great but expensive, as it is noticeably more liberal in terms of dress and attitude. in abu dhabi, however, there is plenty of construction and growth, however, it seems more planned, more controlled. i suppose it is because there is always the reassurance of oil money here, whereas, like a younger child growing in his older sibling's shadow, dubai seems in a rush to make a name for itself, often stumbling but ultimately growing into an eccentric billionaire. there are other emirates as well. on the other side of dubai is sharjah, where men can't wear shorts and sheesha is forbidden. each has their own laws, speed limits and i find it a bit confusing.

anyway, i've been eating really well here. plenty of middle eastern places as well as western fair. there are also many great places to sit and chat, smoke sheesha and drink tea.
last night ayham arranged for us to go on a desert safari. it was great. we drove across giant sand dunes through the desert to a more touristy spot where we ate, watched a belly dancer and basically let our stomachs settle from the turbulent ride. the best part was by far the dunes. there is so much sand. an ocean of it really. i don't know how it got there but it is very impressive. four wheel drive jeeps were zipping tourists all over the place, kicking up sand and sliding down steep slopes. i'm surprised that no one gets into accidents. i got some good pics though so check them out.

hope everyone is doing well wherever they are.

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