I find myself a place to sit at the beach as I reflect on this experience. There are some adventures we have in life that change us forever and as I sit here, I wonder is this one of these? I am sad today. Not because I have to go back home and go to work again, start training and dealing with every day life. I am sad for what I feel like I am leaving; I feel like I am leaving something behind I don’t want to leave. There is only one other place in the world I have ever felt this way about and I beg my husband every week to move there.
American female traveling alone in the Middle East; my parents didn’t like it and my husband didn’t want for me to travel alone, but I wanted to do it…I had to do it. 8 years since I have traveled overseas by myself to explore new land. All the solo traveling I have done in between has been through the U.S. of A.
The Middle East – an Arab Nation; most Americans immediately think DANGER at the word of it. That is sad. Not even I could say what I was getting myself into, but what I did know was that danger was the last thing on my mind. Come on, Abu Dhabi, Dubai – this is the melting pot of the Middle East. I don’t think there is anywhere in the world where you can sit down for a cup of tea and hear Arabic, English, Hindi, French, Korean, Thai and French all within an earshot of each other. There is no travel guide you could ever read that could prepare you for the experience; it can only happen once you engage with the local community.
Yes, people stare and they do. But humans are curious by nature; they aren’t necessarily being rude or thinking bad on you. A blond at that will stand out about anywhere in the world that isn’t Nordic or California. But you know what, I am just as curious. I am intrigued by how men greet each other by touching noses. Or am curious to what beauty lies beneath the veil. I wonder how many ways you can wear a ghutra, and what the beautiful script that just looks poetic yet could just as easily read dumping station says.
When we read about the American Revolution and how people migrated from all over Europe and Asia for the golden opportunity America had to offer, what I see in the Arab Emirates is the exact same thing. Everyone who is here is for opportunity, a chance of a new life or better life. There is an Arabian Revolution going on.
There are islands being built left and right. I had the opportunity to have dinner with a couple project managers who build this islands and I asked them, “how many and for what?” I was told that the main islands for habitation were almost done and the rest are for oil exploration. It was explained to me that it is more ecologically and economically safe to do it this way. There is still a big question for me: After all the building is done, then what jobs are there for the people who are here for work? The area is being populated in large numbers quickly and while remembering this is a desert country with very little fresh water or food resources. What will happen when there is water shortage? Will these amazing cities of architecture where the buildings should belong in the Modern Museum of Art become a desert itself?
I am not a professional of economics, but that is my thought. Whatever the plan might be for the UAE, I love this country.
- Hospitality is amazing
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I found that if curious and you ask, people love to tell you about their culture and why they do the things they do.
- I found it mystic and soothing to walk through the streets during prayer time and hear the prayers over the speakers throughout the streets. (You could also hear this during the race on your bike)
- Coffee…sucks. It not only tasted bad everywhere I went, but it tasted like it was water strained through mud, then restrained through sand. It tasted like muddy-sand water. I in my adventure to find a great cup of coffee I finally found one on my last day at…The Upper Crust, in the airport. For the first time in my life I truly appreciate chain stores that are set throughout the world. What you want is what you get where ever you are in the world.
- Food – you can get everything and anything you want. The only type of restaurants I didn’t see was South American or Mexican flavor.
- I was disappointed the hotels were hesitant to send you to the true local eateries, but then again I feel hotels around the world are always hesitant on that topic.
- Camel Races – there is no race track, but is a long 5k (distance depends on the race) long chute through the desert. Paths along each side of the chute and you drive along the side of the camels to watch the race. It is amazing to see.
- On my quest to find something special for my husband I found myself at the Souk and wondered into a traditional Arabic men’s clothing store. The man barely spoke a word of English and started to apologize to me for it. I said to him that I am the one who should be apologizing for not speaking a word of Arabic…and we hit it off. After finding my special gift (beautiful cuff-links) I starting asking him details about the clothing men wear, what it is, how to accessorize etc. He was excited to show me everything (and without trying to sell me anything) Before I left, he told me to wait as he walked into the back room and returned with a head scarf. Very carefully he wrapped it over my head and insisted I take it, telling me that the next time I come back to his country to stop by again.
- As I sat down for my final meal at a Belgian Pub, it was ladies drink free draft night. Well, I guess I will try 1. In fact, I am going to go all out and not only try a beer, but also have vegetarian onion soup. I am going crazy tonight, indulge and go against all rules tonight!
A long flight ahead of me, but will be worth it be back in my own bed and into the arms of the love of my life. As this journey comes to an end, I can only look forward to when the next adventure will begin.
Unexpected Restaurant – Ponderosa Steakhouse
Petrol – full service and costs about 75 cents a liter
Tap Water – I drank it. Is is safe? I didn’t get sick from it and no one told me not to drink it.
Bidet – I mastered it.
Beaches – beautiful and clean, but you have to pay to enter. Worth it though. ($1.50)
Shopping – better than anywhere I have ever been in the world! Most stores give you the option to pay in your currency if you are using credit card.
Driving – easy, highways are in great condition, traffic in the cities get congested. There is a lot of construction, so you will find the main roads marked well, but the side streets you better know where you are going because they aren’t marked at all. I never used a map getting from city to city.
Food – expensive at the hotels. Cheap on in the local eateries…very cheap. I at lunch for under $2.00.
Crime – hardly any. I was surprised to hear that people actually leave their cars and houses unlocked in the city!
Ketchup – I have no clue why they serve it with everything, even my pizza.
English – spoken almost everywhere and most people will approach you in English.
Housekeeping – in the hotels, I never saw a single female performing this job.
Dress – Dubai you will see everything expect for bun hugger shorts. Abu Dhabi, you want to keep your arms and legs covered. The further remote you get, the more you want to cover, including your head. Al Ain, I wore long sleeves, long pants and a head cover and wish I had wore more.
News – great world coverage
Smoking – everywhere…yuck.
Dining Service – that of something between American and European service. Mainly seat yourself, unless the place takes reservations.
Visit Again? – definitely! My curiosity has been sparked me to want to see more of this area of the world.