From previous posts you’ve learned that guest workers make up 75% of the population of Dubai. Our hotel was in a multi-ethnic neighborhood, and at the Grand Hotel two blocks away the employee…
From previous posts you’ve learned that guest workers make up 75% of the population of Dubai. Our hotel was in a multi-ethnic neighborhood, and at the Grand Hotel two blocks away the employees at the main desk, gift shop, and restaurants reflected this fascinating diversity. We checked out a lovely Indian restaurant on the main floor, then chose an Indian buffet on the mezzanine. Our personal attendant once we were seated was a Filipino. “Magandang hapoon” (good afternoon in Tagalog). “We lived in your country for three years, in Barrio Baesa, Caloocan City, and in Silang, Cavite…” He told us he was from Cebu City–and we shared that Dale had travelled there by ship with students from our university. We had a wonderful conversation and very good service!
Next we explored some of the shops nearby specializing in shoe repair, auto repair, and shops creating specialized steering wheels, beaded comfort pads and slip covers for car seats. There was a dress store, a shoe store, and the only business which was operated by folk who seemed native to Dubai was the tailor.
At each intersection we decided which direction looked most interesting and headed to a new adventure. At one corner there was a familiar sign: two circles, pink and brown, with the letters “B” and “R”. We looked at each other: “No, it can’t be!!!” But it was: A Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream Parlor! We’d just eaten, but, no matter–we needed an ice cream cone. Inside we met the most delightful young woman–a Filipina! Well, of course. Now we have learnedthat 21% of the population of Dubai are OFWs–Overseas Filipino Workers. Again, we shared our story of living in the RP; she told us that she had recently arrived in Dubai to begin a two-year contract. There are 50 Baskin-Robbins outlets in Dubai. Ah, yes, I saw that Merle Norman cosmetic stores are there, too. Likely there are many brands we know in the Dubai Mall’s 1000 shops.
After that delightful interlude, we continued our neighborhood walk, and my husband shared an idea that had been percolating in his mind: he wanted to explore a public library. We looked for someone who could tell us where one might be and went into the Abeer Al Noor Polyclinic. Interesting: many ethicities in the medical staff, too–physicians with the name of Moidu, Geetha, Kumar, Pallavi, Aravind, Bhaskar, Ayesha, Bindu, John, Thasnim and Fasna. The kind receptionist Googled the library and printed a map for us–it was just a few blocks away. And we said, “Shukran.”
The signage outside the Dubai Public Library included a photograph of the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. We were welcomed by the receptionist and went in to explore the stacks, looking especially for books on the history of the region and on religion. As we left we saw that there were books available for the taking, we did took three–one on art and architecture in the UAE, one on Sheikh Maktoum, and a graphic health booklet for children. Delightful!
My next blog post on Dubai will include reflections on it’s history, the current focus on tourism, and our experiences.
“Magandang umaga” was my greeting to the desk clerk at the Tulip Inn al Qusias Dubai Suites. That phrase is “Good Morning” in Tagalog–she was a Filipina. We’d lived in The Philippines for three years and remembered basic pleasantries. The young man beside her at the desk was from Nepal; most of the other staff was from India.
We’d had breakfast there at our apartment/hotel and wanted her to tell us about ideas for lunch. She said: “You’ll be going to the Dubai Mall, right? There will be many places there.” It’s reported there are 1200 shops and 160 restaurants. We told her we had just this one more day in Dubai and we’d decided to walk the neighborhood, learn about local life, and have lunch nearby. That was quite a surprise to her; she smiled and said there were many shops and restaurants just two blocks away. We wanted to experience a typical neighborhood and were expecting a mix of business and ethnicities. We’d learned that 85% of those living in Dubai are Guest Workers: 50% from India, about 25% from Pakistan, many from The Philippines, and from various African countries, especially Kenya. We started walking; it was a fascinating day.
At a branch of the National Bank of Dubai we obtained more dirham at US.27/1 AED (dirham) from their ATM. Then we took an overpass and visited a super market. Delightful to find Snickers with the description in Arabic and English. The clerks and shoppers were a fascinating ethnic mix.
Next we explored the Dubai Grand Hotel lobby, gift shop and restaurants. We purchased a leather bracelet and a camel. Of course!
More neighborhood walk next post…
The oldest existing building in Dubai City, the Al Fahidi Fort, houses the Dubai Museum, opened in 1971. We were able to examine the oldest wall known in Dubai before entering the museum. Exhibits in the courtyard took us back to the 1780s.
Our guide led us to a doorway in the courtyard, and we walked down stairs and through hallways filled with exhibits, and then realized we were under the courtyard. Suddenly it felt as if we were walking in the streets and alleys of the ancient city, enjoying the colorful dioramas and literally walking through many of the exhibits of life-size mannequins engaged in marketing, working, creating, repairing dhows, talking and governing. Some items on display are from archaeological digs and date back to the third millennium BC.
Our next stop on the tour felt like part of the exhibits–we boarded a dhow, a simple wooden boat, fashioned after the ancient transports, but motorized, and were taken across The Creek, which begins in the Arabian Gulf and divides the city. Our guide told us that merchants live on the battered ships we saw along the warfage and market products to and from Africa, Asia and many points in the Middle East.
We walked down stairs and through a beautifully-tiled tunnel to enter the markets–the Spice Souk, the Fabric Souk, the Gold Souk–and were mesmerized by the cacophony of sounds and the stunning mix of colors and products and people.
We have just returned from eight weeks on holiday visiting family in Perth, Australia, and getting acquainted with Dubai, The United Arab Emirates. Our Emirates Airlines return trip took us over Iran, Russia, the North Pole, and Canada on our way to Seattle and our home on Whidbey Island. The plane’s cameras and route information made the trip more interesting.
My plan on holiday was to write each week about the people we met, the places we visited and and the fascinating things we learned. However, our circadian rhythms slowed us down on both ends of the trip, our sleep/wake cycle shifted days and nights for us. We read a lot of books before our Australian family was up in the morning, and sometimes after they were sleeping. My biologist husband walked in the cool of many mornings and added to his bird list. The time changes also means we are slow getting back into the swing of life now we are home.
Most of our time was spent with our daughter and her family in Perth, including several meaningful celebrations: three family birthdays, our grandson’s primary school graduation and his role in the school play, and and the baptisms of both grandchildren officiated by their father. We loved the art drawn and colored and the LEGO creations by our grandchildren, reading to the kids, playing games, cooking, and helping the family settle in, and helping them paint portions of their new home. They took us to beaches and restaurants new to us.
Here’s the skinny about writing abroad–not complaining, just describing: It’s harder to stay on topic and on time than you might think. So, take good notes, do extensive research, and don’t expect to get it posted or printed in a short time. Energy is limited–my own and the Internet’s; iPads have their limitations; computer crash; international rates for iPhones are costly but worth it.. Also, I was reminded that posting photos including anyone other than family at school events is forbidden. Writing from abroad is challenging–but very worth it. I have already posted about our trip from the States to Australia, and about the very frightening bushfires we experienced.
Upcoming posts about Australia will include: The Welcome Wall and the Maritime Museum in the port of Fremantle, Perth history, downtown restaurants and music, shopping for food and eating out, and more about bushfires.
Our time in Dubai was fascinating, and I’ll write about our enjoyment of the Dubai Museum, Hotel Burj Al Arab on the Persian Gulf, the Jumeira Mosque, the spice market (souk) and the gold market, food, tours, the Dubai Public Library, and the ethnic make-up of Dubai (85% are contract workers from other countries).
A major bushfire, begun yesterday by a lightening strike, is burning on both sides of South Western Highway, Western Australia–110 km from Perth. Evacuation centers are open at Leschenault Leisure Centre, Leisure Dr., Australind and at Murray Leisure Centre, Pinjarra, and information is available from the Department of Fire & Emergency Services, http://www.dfes.wa.gov.au and on Twitter @dfes_wa
The temperature today reached 42.5C/108/5. The situation is so sad and frightening for all involved. Our family is personally affected as their summer youth camp site is threatened. It’s hopeful winds will change, no one will be harmed, and camp can begin as scheduled next Tuesday.
UPDATE: Sunday in Australia. Youth Camp – Camp Logue Brook in Cookernup, WA, has been cancelled. The building housing the kitchen, dining room, and offices was completely destroyed along with all but one cabin. The assistant camp director, his home and family are safe, as is the amphitheater seating area and the stage down the hillside. Many trees are still standing, but as charred remains. Over 140 structures–homes, businesses and historic buildings in Yarloop were destroyed and two deaths have been reported. The fires have continued to the coast along the Indian Ocean, and south, even threatening, again, the area around Esperance–the fabulous town just at the edge of The Great Australia Bite on coast of the South Ocean. I’ve previously written about the fabulous beaches and waters there.
Snow was falling at our home on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, as we began our trip to a summer holiday on the other side of the earth in Australia. We love to travel and especially enjoy Australia, and we have experienced Christmas in 40C/104F heat before. We choose to be with our daughter and her family who live there, and to enjoy Christmas, New Years, and three birthdays with them.
As flight time neared we were intrigued especially by these two things: the striking beauty of the Emirates Airlines flight crew, and the colorful ethnic clothing of the passengers. Some wore Middle Eastern and South Asian beautiful and exotic saris, shalwar kameez and similar styles in silk, chiffon and cotton, or the hajib, abaya or burqa. Most of the small children with the families wore Western clothing.
The announcements began: First Class, Business Class–and “those needing special assistance”. The next category called was: “Families traveling with small children” and half of the passengers milling about in the waiting area moved to the front of the line. We boarded the 737 at 6pm. It was a noisy flight with lots of moving about.
Hong Kong has been our stopover point in our two previous trips flying West to Australia. This flight pattern was very different: we flew NE across Canada, over Hudson Bay then Baffin Bay, continuing over Greenland, north of Iceland & the British Isles. I was fascinated to see Denmark below, then across portions of Russia and I’m not sure of the route from there to our landing at the dramatic and beautiful and huge Dubai Airport.
We arrived at 8:45p Dubai time. We explored the huge, dramatic, exotic-feeling, beautiful airport; part of the time we slept, feet stretched out, loving that feeling after flying coach. Emirates Airlines gave us a voucher for a meal; we enjoyed a small sandwich, really good coffee & a tasty scone in a tiny French restaurant. The waiting area for our flight was huge–preparing us for our double-deck, 500 passenger, Airbus a380, w/it’s 80m wingspan and length of 73m. The crew of 25 was from 16 different countries and spoke 13 languages. Another ten hours and we landed in Perth and were met by our family and, outside the airport, a 9′ kangaroo–metal and bedecked with Christmas lights.
We had begun the trip at 10am, arriving at the SeaTac at 12:30pm, waited for our 6p flight, then flew 14 hours to Dubai, where we had a seven-hour layover, then a 10-hr flight to Perth. We had a total travel time of 39 hours. Exhausting! Worth it! We will have eight weeks in Australia, enjoying our grandson’s birthday, Christmas, New Year’s celebrations, my birthday and my daughter’s birthday. Flying out on January 25. We have the security of a housesitter at home.
My memories of Paris comforted me on Friday the 13th, 2015. When I heard that some of the recent attacks and frightening terrorist activity took place in the area of the Place de la Republique, I went to my photos taken early August 2011 during a three-week visit there to celebrate our anniversary.
Place de la Republique is an iconic landmark in Paris. The rallying cry of the French Republic “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” is represented by carved stone figures seated around its massive base; and, towering above is a huge 9.5 meter bronze sculpture, the form of a woman representing The French Republic. Seven major streets converge at the monument on the border of the 3rd, 10th & 11 arrondissements. The three figures seated around the massive pedestal represent symbols of The French Republic: Liberty, is carrying a torch, Equality holds the flag of 1789, and Brotherhood or Fraternity, is seated on a plow. It was unveiled on Bastille Day, July 14, 1885. Red masks covered some of the faces; and, I’ve not been able to learn more about the exact protest they represent.
Solidarity with the French people is evidenced in the media as we see individuals, organizations and governments around the world use photos, lights on buildings, selfies superimposed with the colors of France, and even create new art to express friendship and mutual support with the people of Paris. By extension, it seems these expressions seem intent on increasing a sense of community between peoples in distress, feeling fear. Out of terrible events can come feelings and actions of support and togetherness.
“In Paris, rituals of political discontent are traditionally celebrated on Place de la Republique.” An article titled “Place for Protest” (Metropolis Magazine, Sept 2014) describes the traffic gridlock which previously occurred during protests. Two young architects, Pierre Alain Trevelo and Antoine Viger-Kohler, have redesigned the esplanade. “The angry strikers can still meet there—and they do—but they can no longer prevent others from going about their business. The venue proposes a new model for participative democracy in all-inclusive rather than obstructive approach.” You will see the monument in current news reporting.
Protests and demonstrations express solidarity and hope for change as well as discontent. It’s informative to view the 47 fabulous photos taken by France Info journalist Nathanael Charbonnier in his presentation “Five years of street protests by the French.” He also illustrated Tapage nocturnes, a “novel published in episodes about angry protestors (les Indignes) on Mediapart”. There were protests about intellectual freedom (ACTA), midwives, budget cutbacks affecting homeless and other people in distress, pension reform, education job losses, youth job laws, the suppression of unions, housing, prayers in the street, jobs for the unemployed, the justice system, shale gas, and by les indignes (“the angry”), and for the regularization of illegal immigrants.
You may remember that on 11 January, 2015, an estimated 1.5 million people, including world leaders, dignitaries and families of protesting the 17 people killed by terrorists during the 72 hours of the terror surrounding the Charlie Hebdo attack. Deja vu all over again. Fear is there—so is blessed Fraternity.
During our warm days in Paris we enjoyed such beauty, fascinating history, glorious art, and increased our understanding of beliefs and behaviors. Travel helps us better understand our world and its peoples. We spent a delightful day in the area of the Place de la Republique, enjoyed treats at a boulangerie nearby, and attended evening prayers at the nearby Orthodox Synagogue Nazareth. More about that in a future posting.