Dubai afternoon–Indian Buffet, Shops, Ice Cream Parlor, and the Dubai Public Library

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…

Source: Dubai afternoon–Indian Buffet, Shops, Ice Cream Parlor, and the Dubai Public Library

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Dubai afternoon–Indian Buffet, Shops, Ice Cream Parlor, and the Dubai Public Library

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Categories: Art, Books, Culture, Education, History, Middle East, Philippines, Restaurants, Sociology, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Walking our neighborhood in Dubai…

“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!

 

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More neighborhood walk next post…

 

Categories: Art, Culture, Middle East, Philippines, Restaurants, Sociology, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dubai Museum, Dhows and Souks.

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.

Categories: Art, Culture, Education, History, Middle East, Sociology, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dubai City Half-day Tour

My husband and I like to wander the streets and backwaters of places new to us on our own; however, this time we had only two days to experience the UAE and it’s largest city Dubai. We’re pleased that we had booked a formal half-day tour with Viator through Tara, our AAA agent in Mt. Vernon, WA. We’d arrived in Dubai at 5:30 am; using an ATM we’d purchased local money, taxied to our hotel, enjoyed breakfast, and settled into our lovely apartment. The tour’s Filipino driver picked us up at our hotel about 1:30. He picked up passengers at other hotels, and said we would begin the tour soon. He drove the main superhighway, past businesses, hotels, and we saw at a distance the sleek straight lines of the iconic Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world. Even the metro stations seemed futuristic.

It took almost an hour to reach the beach at Jumeirah; the name means beautiful and is also the name of the global luxury hotel company which is creating beaches, shopping centers and hotels. We waited, and walked the beach, amazed to see a few folk in wearing skimpy bathing suits. This is one of the few places that much uncovering is allowed. We were at the edge of the Arabian Gulf, and the featured building here was the Burj Al Arab, the world’s tallest and most luxurious hotel. Tourists joined us from three other minivans and we loaded onto a large bus. Our guide was a German woman who had lived in or near Dubai twelve years. We were reminded again that 85% of those living in Dubai are guest workers. She first described the Burj Al Arab: it has a 7-star rating; there are only suites, and the least expensive is $12,500 per night. It’s stunning shape takes your imagination to a sailing ship. Non-guests may not wander through the hotel; but one can book a reservation for dining there.

We drove past luxurious town houses, condos, and homes; and found it fascinating to learn that when a Dubai national marries another Dubai national they are given a luxurious home and a stipend. The home may not be passed on to their children; the children also have to marry a Dubai national to have their own home. These are called “social homes”. A fascinating social experiment. The next stop was the lovely Grand Jumeirah Mosque; renowned because of its “Open Doors. Open Minds” program. It is the only mosque open to the public. No reservation is necessary, but you are to arrive by 9:45 am, and the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding hosts a 75-minute tour Saturday through Thursday. The cost is UED10, and  children under are12 free. In January 2016, the Arab Emirates Dirham was equal to 27 cents US.

The next stop would be Dubai Creek, a saltwater waterway flowing from the Arabian Gulf, past the luxury properties downtown, and ending in a wildlife sanctuary. We would be taking a wooden boat to the Dubai Museum and several traditional markets (souks). Photos and insights about those activities will be in my next posting.

Categories: Art, Beaches, Culture, History, Middle East, Sociology, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Dubai Experience – What to do/not do…

This winter’s Destination Place was Perth; we visited our daughter, Kimberly, and family–Terry, Kyrstin & Alec–in their new home. It was our third trip to see them in Perth. We’ve flown Seattle/LA/Hong Kong/Perth, and Vancouver/Hong Kong/Perth; both excellent choices as we love visiting Hong Kong. We learned Emirates Airines flies daily from Seattle to Perth via Dubai, and decided to choose this new adventure. Our trip took us NE out of Seattle, over Canada, south of Greenland and over Denmark to Dubai and our 7-hour layover there is documented earlier.

We began our return trip 9:30p January 25 and arrived at 5:30 the next morning, a 10-hour flight on the largest passenger jet, the A380. It was an enjoyable flight and the service excellent from our crew of 25, speaking 19 languages.

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Baggage Claim Area - seven bays each side of the aisle. Spotless wth good Customer Service.

Baggage Claim Area – seven bays each side of the aisle. Spotless wth good Customer Service.

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The Dubai airport is fabulous! It is open 24-hours a day and feels like a small city. It is only one of four others; a fifth is being built for the 2020 Summer Olympics. We had learned from several sources what to expect and how to behave:  A. Our friend John, a civilian employee working wth the military for years in the Middle East, shared his experiences and books. B. We looked on the Internet for any advice from the US State Department; their “travel alert” showed a “Worldwide Caution” with specific concerns re: the Middle East, but nothing specific about Dubai or the UAE. We wrote down the phone number of the U.S.Embassy.  C. We learned the basic greeting: Peace be with you, “As-salam alaykum”, and practiced how to say  Thank you, “Shukran”; and we carried wth us a list of usual phrases in Arabic. I read several posts by ExPatWoman about social etiquette and culture in Dubai re: appropriate dress and behavior. It’s important for women to wear loose-fitting clothing which covers shoulders, arms and legs; it’s not appropriate to not point wth your foot or show the soles of your feet, not beckon or point with your finger, but to use the whole hand. The basic message is to show respect and be courteous.

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We were so pleased with our lovely Apartment/Hotel, Tulip Inn  al Qusais/Dubai, arranged for by Tara, our expert AAA travel agent in Mt. Vernon, Washington. It was a three-room apartment, including a full kitchen and 1.5 baths. We know of very nice hotels with moderate prices. The Grand Hotel near us was $185/night; this little gem was $65/night. Delightful! The 7-Star Burj al Arab, the tallest hotel in the world, also has only suites. The cost for the smallest suite is $12,500/night. We would see that hotel and other iconic buildings on our half-day tour, scheduled for 1:30p that same day. The driver would pick us up at the hotel… In preparation, I re-read my list of What Not to Do in Dubai:

  1. Don’t do drugs.
  2. Don’t drink in public.
  3. No song and dance. (Meaning, don’t make a fuss in public/in the streets.)
  4. Watch your photography. (Especially don’t photograph women.)
  5. Don’t pucker up in public. (No PDA; hand-holding is a grey area.)
  6. Watch your language. (No vulgar or profane language.)
  7. No nudity. (Swimming suits may be OK in hotel pools.)
  8. Keep style sensible. (Be modest. ExPatWoman suggests using a pashmina.)
  9. Watch your wallets. (Don’t leave it lying about.)
  10. LGBT on the QT. (Homosexual behavior is a crime.)
  11. Don’t eat in public during Ramadan.
  12. Don’t use your left hand to eat, open doors, or hand food to anyone.

Future Posts:  Tour of Dubai, The Dubai Museum, The Spice and Gold Markets (Souks), Walking our Neighborhood, and Guest Workers in Dubai–85% of the population.

Categories: Australia, Books, Culture, Media, Middle East, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Travel Writing Challenges and Circadian Rhythms

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).

 

Categories: Art, Australia, Beaches, Books, Culture, Education, History, Middle East, Restaurants, Sociology, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Major Bushfire in Western Australia – Update

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.

 

Categories: Australia, Education, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seattle, WA, through Dubai, to Perth, WA

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.

Christmas Kangaroo, Perth Airport

Christmas Kangaroo, Perth Airport

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.

Categories: Asia, Australia, Culture, Middle East, Travel, Washington State | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

FRATERNITY

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.

Categories: Art, Culture, History, Media, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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