Friday, August 27, 2010

Dubai Really is Progressive.

Today at the Mall I saw something that really showed how progressive Dubai really is. A sight that would never be seen in any other Arab country.

What you would expect to see:

What you see in Dubai:

I wonder how utilized this room really is though!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Which fork do I use?

Last night I had a really great and unique opportunity, I went to an Iftar hosted by the Consulate General of The U.S. to Dubai. Among the attendees were the Consulate General himself, Justin Siberell, with whom I sat at dinner, random members of Congress visiting the region, various media, and a selection of relatively important people (naturally I am included in this group) who work in Dubai government or institutions. The Iftar was held at the Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai. The entrance to the ballroom had the prerequisite traditional Araby "magliss/ga3meeza" or sitting area that had coffee and dates in the middle. The ballroom itself was decorated in golds with tables having center pieces of red rose bouquets and Moroccan lamps and in front of each guest was a small gift from the Consulate; it was a post-it  note holder(you gotta love American pragmatism). Soft Arabic instrumental music played in the background as guests mingled and filled their plates of food from one of three buffets.

 I started dinner with a lentil soup, it was literally the best lentil soup I've ever had (Please don't tell my mom I said that)!! The first buffet had cold salads and dips. There were things there I've never seen. Of course there was the standard leafy green salad, hummus, and baba but there were sauteed onion dips, an anchovy dip, and garlic sauce. The second buffet was the hot buffet with two types of rice, grilled fish, buttered chicken (a DELICIOUS curried chicken in a creme sauce), egg rolls, kibba, samosa, filafil, and Kufta tajeen (ground beef patties grilled with potatoes and eggplant). It was all delicious. It is really such a shame to have so much food during Ramadan, you can't possibly try everything. The third buffet had 10 different desserts. I wish I could elaborate more for you but I didn't pay attention to it because I don't like Arabic sweets and I was stuffed.

After I plated my carefully selected items, I sat at our table with Mr. Siberell, other affluent Emiraties, and a guy who was described as being number #2 in charge of  Al Arabiya, a well known Arabic news channel that rivals Al-Jazeera. Being that he was in media and Mr. Siberell was an American government official, the conversation obviously went to discuss Park 51 in New York. I was pleasantly surprised to find Mr.Siberells rhetoric to be very logical and similar to my own. The massive disappointment came from the Al-Arabiya guy (I never figured out his name) who claimed that there was already 300 Mosques in New York and it be okay if "we let this one go." I'm not here to discuss the broader points of Park 51, but its obvious that he needs a lesson in freedom and rights; they aren't quantifiable.

Overall, the night was very enjoyable; Alhamdulilah. I'm glad I was able to attend something like this, an opportunity I would not have had stateside. I met and saw "important" people and maybe even made a few connections that may come in handy later. You know what they say, its all about who you know. In the next few days, I will be attending other Iftars that will also be interesting and beneficial. In the mean time, I need to learn how to use all that silverware properly.  Is the three prong fork for the lobster or the hors'doueuuuuvvvre?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm never going back.

I found an American grocery store today that had every American product conceivable. I now have zero reason to come back to America. They even had Morning Star my favorite vegertarian products! With Reeses puff cereal and Sarah Lee Pumpkin pie avaliable 8000 miles away, I'm never going back.

This is what I walked away with today, more damage to come.


I was driving behind this expensive car last night and they had a sticker in their back windshield that said "AlHamdulilah" in Arabic, underneath it had the English translation of "Thank's God." Apparently even in the land of 7 star hotels, a correct translation is hard to come by.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sahour Tent

Tonight I went to the Jumeirah Sahour Tent. These tents are set up during Ramadan for super iftar buffets and then "sahour" which usually is 9pm-3am where you can order A la carte. Its really ironic because they advertise these tents as being  luxurious, enchanting, and boasting lavish foods, AKA the complete opposite of what Ramadan is all about. While in theory and morally I am opposed to Ramadan tents, I had to see what they were all about.

When I walked into the massive AC climate controlled tent, seating about 600, I was amazed. Inside was transformed into an Arabian palace. Moroccan lamps were EVERYWHERE. The room was glowing with purple and blue lights as well as candles. Three men, one on darbooka, one on violin, and one singing, were serenading patrons as they enjoyed their Argeela and/or their overpriced juice cocktails and Arabic fare.

While the "Jow" or atmosphere was really nice and chill, I couldn't help to think that for people to flock to these places to spend $200-$500 dollars a night instead of going to Taraweeh or using Ramadan for spiritual cleansing and growth is really disenchanting. I went there to see what was going down, but I WOULDN'T trade a Ramadan Iftar at Masjid Bilal for the best sahour tent Dubai has to offer.

If your interested to see the particular one I went to here is the link:

You should have seen how big the cup was!
The food was "ok". We had to sneak this picture, they dont let you photograph inside!
In front of the Tent, it was lined with lamps.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The little things

You know what my favorite part about Dubai is? Forget the world's tallest building or only 7 star hotel. Forget that I can go skiing in the desert. Never mind going to a women only water park. I love LOVE that in Dubai milk tastes the same as in does in America. If you've ever spent time in Libya you know exactly why I value this. I had geared up for the same nasty boxed milk like in Libya that is ultra pasteurized. Instead they have fresh milk in vitamin D, low fat, and skimmed. As my nephew Zackariyah says "its delisheesh!" The only thing with milk here is that it spoils really fast. If you don't finish the bottle within 3-4 days, it become Laban, buttermilk. I inquired as to why, apparently they don't put as much preservative as the do in the States. I'm fine with that. As long as I can have a cold glass with their gross local dates (I'll fill you in on that later), I'm happy. In life, it isn't about the glitz and glamour. Its about the little things that count

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Dubai Mall: Part 3

I found something really cool in The Dubai Mall. Not only have they met your retail needs but they have met your spiritual needs as well. Within the mall there are 25 prayer areas. Some might think "well duh, its a Muslim country of course they have areas to pray within the Mall." But that isn't necessarily true. They could have built the retail space sans the Salaya, there many local mosques in close proximity. To put not just one prayer room, but dozens placed throughout the mall  is real genius OR its real evil because they want to give you no reason to leave--oh snap! Regardless, the way I see it it lets you feel less guilty about spending the entire day at the mall!

The Salaya's are adjacent to the bathrooms. They have their own wudu area, which is great because it is always awkward putting your foot in a public sink. I'm not sure if within the mall they do Athan, but that would be interesting to find out.

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Dubai Mall: Part 2

This evening I went to Dubai mall to watch Inception. Although I could write 10 pages on how freakin' awesome that movie was, this blog is about Dubai and not movies. The theater was "fery nice"! The seats were almost lazy-boy like. They had so much cushion that I was sinking into them and had to straighten myself a few times. It was about $10 US dollars for the night show, so pretty comparable in prices. The only thing that made this unique was that at the snack stand, they sold french fries. I'm learning that Arab's have an unhealthy obsession with the Idaho spud.

This time when I went back it was after Mughraib. The food court, cafes, and restaurants were in full swing. People were going bonkers. Those getting smoothies, burgers, or McArabias. I had the opportunity to try a few things I was wondering about. The Krispy Kreme tastes EXACTLY like the ones in the states, but I dont think you could get fried dough wrong. The Taco Bell was also very similar but the chips were off. Finally I found this restaurant named after me, I stood like a nerd among 4555 people and took a picture!

My Dubai adventures get better with everyday Alhamdulilah, I can't wait for tomorrow!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Everything is better in Dubai

Even Chuck E. Cheese. I just went to the most amazing CEC in the world. It had a bowling alley, skating rink, and a fair ride. It was crazy!

The Dubai Mall: Part 1

So Dubai has two things to offer: food and shopping. It has shopping strips, outdoor markets, and then there is The Dubai Mall. The Dubai Mall is the world's largest shopping mall based on total area and sixth largest by gross leasable area (Thanks Wiki). This place is massive. It is four floors and is as large as 50 soccer fields. It has a full size indoor ice rink, an indoor Aquarium and underground Zoo, a 250-room luxury hotel, 22 cinema screens plus 120 restaurants and cafes--basically its got it all.

I did a quick tour of the place, well part of it. I was dragged out of bed, in an attempt to reset my circadian rhythms, and was groggy. Yet I still was amazed by what I saw. In the middle of the a sandy wasteland was  a state of the art, modern, and luxurious retail space that defied all. When I walked in first thing I noticed were how many employees there were. General Mall employees wear red, and it seem like it was a sea of them. Those sweeping, mopping, polishing, and stocking. Store employees opening gates, in the jewelery stores removing hundred thousand dollar pieces from the safes they spent the night in and putting them back on display. Next I noticed how empty it was. Its 11am in a Muslim country during Ramadan, people are still asleep. They go to sleep after Fajir and wake up at 1. I had the mall nearly to myself. I felt less embarrassed to whip out my camera and take pictures.

When I have registered my body to Dubai time and have a wider attention span, I'll go back to Dubai Mall and really see what the 20 billion dollar project has to offer me. Till then, here are a few of the sights within.
Many store fronts are written in Arabic and English

Aquarium has over 30,000 marine species living within (this particular fish is about 6 feet long)
The Ice Rink, They were playing a hockey game. Sheikh Mohomed looks pleased.
 (btw that is both his pleased and dis-pleased face)

Dubai: The Salad Bowl

The demographics of Dubai are really spectacular. Walk into a grocery store and you can find citizens from 10-15 different countries. Emirati natives only make up about 12% of the total population, everyone else is from somewhere else. This is one place where no one is the odd man out, its refreshing. Often in America I feel that I don't necessarily fit in because I am Muslim and Libyan. In Libya I don't feel like I fit in because I am too American, too western. In Dubai, I feel at ease. I'm Muslim like  most, and like everyone else I come from a different country. Dubai is a place where the Arab, Muslim, and Western world all collide. While I may find myself disenchanted by somethings in Dubai, such as their leniency on alcohol/gambling and their lavish lifestyles, I appreciate the middle ground they have created. Who can't love a place with Halal McDonalds?

I love America; I never thought I would ever want to live anywhere else. Yet, the longer I stay in Dubai I find myself willing to reconsider. But this is only day 5, its very possible I'm simply dazzled by its splendor. We'll see how I feel in mid-October.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Up, up, and away!

This May I graduated college. With the job market in little need of people with liberal arts degrees as well as being burnt out from 16 consecutive years of schooling, I decided to take a break. I've allotted the next 4 months for traveling abroad. Most of my travels will be in Dubai, UAE. I have smaller trips planned. There is so much to be seen, heard, and tasted. I only hope I can capture it all and share it with you. I'll try to write as often and as vividly as possible. I'm still new to this whole blogging bit, so you'll have to excuse me.

I arrived in Dubai two days ago and the jet lag is crazy to say the least. I sleep all day and I stay awake all night. Its not all that bad seeing how its 110 with the most intense heat at only 9 in the morning. Going out isn't an option. Dubai is a night town. After sundown the town becomes alive. Even shopping malls stay open till midnight. My outings have been minimal but enjoyable. I hope when my sleep schedule becomes normal and can function more clearly Ill embark on all of the things Dubai has to offer.

Till then, enjoy this video. I captured it on my very first morning. These two cats were having  a standoff and making these scary noises. It sounded like a child whining or crying. Creepy

Here is the link: