It is quite romantic sounding. “I am going to the Emirates”. I imagine Aladdin saying that. Or it could be a line in a story from the thousand and one nights. Reality is very different. The Emirates are the epitome of modern, to the almost total obliteration of the old and traditional. Tall shiny buildings remind you of Shanghai and New York much more than anything you have read about the Arabian nights. Electronic toll booths, scans at airport for frequent travelers, ultra modern fittings in buildings, airports, metro stations, malls, many many malls, all well-designed, well staffed and well stocked. A shopper’s paradise. Today I was supposed to go see the movie about Dubai playing now called “The City of Life”. I didn’t have time, as we had a weekend day of rest and relaxation, pampering, Lebanese food and a Barbecue on a wonderful terrace overlooking the Marina, with its waterway, boats and tall buildings standing like sentries to guard the waters. I have still to get used to the weekend starting on Thursday night and the start of the work week on Sunday morning.
Life in the Emirates is that of pampering, services and lots of retail opportunities. It is a shopping Mecca in every sense of the word. They even built a new ‘old town’ in Dubai to create an authentic traditional atmosphere. ‘New’ ‘Old’ town. An oxymoron. But it is fun.
Work is at a different slower pace, people take their time to do things, and the rush of the Geneva life is a thing of the past. People in general seem to savor life and work in this part of the globe. Maybe savor is a wrong word. People take things lightly is what I was intending to convey. Stress is not immediately apparent in the limited dealings I have had so far. Professionals we dealt with seemed unhurried, neither in speech nor in action, and a lot of our encounters have centered on niceties, welcoming words, more niceties. Which is nice, if you are not in a hurry.
I can’t see many differences yet between the citizens of the different parts of the UAE. This Union of the Seven Arab Emirates only took shape in the seventies and now is a thriving Arab country. The wealthiest Emirate is Abu Dhabi, the political capital and the largest and glitziest is Dubai, the economic center (a la Washington D.C. vs New York). I decided to live in Dubai despite working in Abu Dhabi, which means that I have to commute between the two cities daily (an hour each way).
It is now almost 5 am. A cacophony of mosque muezzins in the area is calling the faithful to early morning prayer. I think I should try and go to sleep. Good night/morning everyone.
I promise a more perceptive post next time, maybe after my Qatar trip starting tomorrow, inshallah (a word that is repeated here after almost every sentence)