Dubai - March 1, 2008

So have I mentioned this place is paradise yet! If so, let me say it again. This place is paradise! It has been a steady 75 degrees, no clouds in the sky and everything is dripping with luxury.  I had never seen a Maserati in real life before until coming here and now I see them every day.  I thought I was a fan of the UK climate, cloudy and 60, but I've definitely changed my tune!  Sadly, though, paradise has a downside.  There is definitely truth to the whole legalized slavery thing.  People keep flooding in here to work, but often get paid very little or nothing and many can't leave.  A man in my office knows a woman from Ethiopia who was brought here and sponsored by a Bedouin family.  She worked for them for two years, but they took her passport and they never paid her.  She managed to run away and was able to get home.  Last year I heard they had this big amnesty where illegal immigrants and those who'd run away from their sponsors could turn themselves in, get their passports back with the help of the police and get a free flight home.  I heard there was a mass exodus.
In the UK, I wasn't a big fan of roundabouts...could have been because the roads are tiny and you're not only on the wrong side of the car, but you're on the wrong side of the road.  Here, the streets are wide and roundabouts are so great!  I don't know why we don't have more of them in the States.  I will admit that I did miss a turn and had to go all the way around again...okay, maybe twice...but at least I got a good giggle out of it...'look kids, Big Ben, Parliament'  Speaking of amazes me that with all this crazy construction, they still don't really have street addresses here...or even street names for that matter.  There is no mail delivery here...again, no you have to rent a post office box and pick up your own mail.  It has been interesting getting directions from people in my office...'Go through the roundabouts in Media City, turn left at the Sun Microsystems building, turn left again at the next roundabout, turn right at the gas station' get the point.  Also, none of the highway signs show distances, so you have no idea if your destination is right off the exit or miles and miles away (very likely).  And you have to constantly dodge the workers and random people walking on the shoulder of the highway or running across the road in front of you.
Maybe this is the style everywhere and I'm just out of touch (very possible), but I have spent more than a week and miles of traipsing through malls to find a pair of sunglasses that didn't make me look like Elton John on acid.  Sunglasses are an essential here and I finally found something that was only slightly embarrassing to wear.  Also, some of the Abayas and head scarves that women wear here are very beautiful and elaborately decorated.  But I still can't help staring when a gaggle of women covered from head to toe in all black with only their eyes showing pass in front of me.  I'm so curious to know what they look like and it is just so fascinating to me.

So I haven't tried it yet, but I do plan to try smoking a little hubbly bubbly...otherwise known as shisha...otherwise known as some strange mixture of tobacco and fruit.  Basically every restaurant with a patio has a shisha menu and tons of Arab guys sitting around puffing away.  It smells great when passing by and is definitely the scent I will associate with this place...well, that and dust.  We've had a lot of wind lately so the sand storms, coupled with the insane construction, make this a dusty place to walk around in.

Well...I guess that's all for now!
ma'a as-salaama