“Travelling Faux Pas #1, DUBAI: Asking the taxi driver how long the current President is in term for. Turns out he’s more a King / Ruler sort of thing…”
This particular taxi was pink, complete with a female driver in a pink abaya. Welcome to the religious conservatism underpinning the majestic shrine to capitalism’s power that is Dubai; what else could turn a desert into an epicenter of the world in just a couple of decades? This juxtaposition of traditional Muslim culture with modern Western ideals never quite disappears during our three days here; black hijabs mingle with Brazilian bikinis on the beach and the mall is filled with clothes you’re not actually allowed to wear to the mall. The appropriateness of my clothing was a constant a thread of stress I was glad to leave behind this morning.
Our driver is Sri Lankan, talkative and has (I cringe to say it about the only female taxi driver I’ve ever had) zero sense of direction. She moved to Dubai a few years ago for the better pay and lifestyle than her previous work in Indonesia. I heard later they live in large dorm style rooms and are bussed in and out every day. Taxi drivers are at the bottom of the food chain here, with each nationality typically taking a rung on the ladder; Indonesians and Sri Lankans drive taxis, Philippinos and Latinos work in retail and restaurants, other Arabs and Westerners work in construction and private enterprise with local Emirates rounding out the pyramid at the top with cushy Government jobs at four times the pay rate of everyone else. They can’t be fired and get a “marriage bonus” as well as a home loan as part of the deal (provided they marry another Emirate of course). Local Emirates only make up 10% of the population; meaning that literally 9 out of every 10 people you meet are foreigners. Probably more, as the locals consider themselves something akin to royalty, keeping to themselves in large mansions outside the city. All other nationalities are basically ‘hired help’ to build the sprawling wonder of business and architecture that is tax-free Dubai.
That’s nothing a bikini can’t solve though and I managed to convince one of the Emirate locals to take me for a spin on his jet ski at Basrati bar our first afternoon here. Zipping around in the heat, making jumps off the wake of party boats, a big hazy sun ruling over the tall buildings either side of the water, which stretches out to the horizon… I could definitely get use to Dubai! Especially if I can have as many apple shishas as I want. Can’t think of any way to describe these except (mum and dad close your eyes) a fancy bong. Very relaxing.
We’re staying at Kendyl’s friend’s friend’s sister’s apartment (which is just the best thing about travelling, basic strangers extending their hospitality – amazing!). It has a pool and a gym so I get to work on my tan; only 8 days til Croatia Yacht Week and my skin currently reflects the sun! We do Friday brunch, Dubai mall, a couple of pool parties and see the tallest building in the world. It’s really tall.
Our last night here was spent doing the typical tourist desert Safari. Dune driving, camel riding, a serenading tourist guide, the very worst belly dancer I’ve ever seen and a five minute black-out to gaze at the night sky. Lying under the stars in an Arabian desert, I thought of all the friends and family back home under the same stars. Then I got confused about whether they were the same stars…
On a final note, WHAT is this supposed to be for!?!?! The logistics boggle my mind…