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The City that Speeds up for YOU

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Monday, 5 April 2010 | Views [592]

Well, not quite the whole city. But the escalators do. Many of them stand still in shopping malls and train stations until you come close enough for it to register your presence. Then, all of a sudden it’s running at full speed right in front of you, ready to take you wherever you need to go. It’s wonderful, and often in excess of anything you need or want. Really, it is a demonstration of the way that the whole of Dubai has been built: in excess. Everything constructed here is well beyond the needs of the community, so much so that train stations stand mostly empty with lonely cleaners swiffling the dust off the floor throughout the day. It’s quite clever though. Unlike the idiots in the Australian government system, they don’t build what they need right now, nor do they build for three years into the future. They build high quality systems with exceptional aesthetic appeal to last them until the population boom they’re waiting for actually happens. Ingenious, decadent, yet also the reason why everything runs over budget and time. I suppose it will pay off in the long run, and Dubai will have the last laugh. Clever thing.

Anyways, on with a couple more things to fill your inquisitive minds and convince you to visit.

The men who stare at go-…at women
The first weekend we arrived, I had very little evidence of this great myth that you need to cover up otherwise the men stare at you. However, as the days here progressed I noticed a couple of things.

  • First: when you see a westerner walking through the mall in a miniskirt and singlet, she stands out like dogs’ balls. Even I stare because she’s an idiot by doing such things in a conservative Muslim community. Cover up hussy, you look like a whore.

  • Second: when I’m not with Andrew, it’s a whole different ball game (apologies for all the testicular references). Andrew’s first day at work left me walking around Dubai on my own looking for an apartment. I was, in true Dubai style, walking across construction areas, along roads, across traffic, inside malls…the whole kit and caboodle. Every car I passed, every group of men I passed, every truck I passed, every male in a train station I passed stared at me like I was walking with neon arrows pointing to my head (or breasts). One particular man of a particular descent actually pulled his aviator glasses down in order to look over the top of them, right in front of me! They have no care that you’re aware of them staring, and will often do it in groups.

The difference to Australia though, is that apart from that uncomfortable feeling of being watched, there is no safety risk. These people have more to lose by going to jail and being deported than to act on any desire they might have. It is simply an unfortunate after-effect of not being covered by an abeya (gown). That said, it’s actually more offensive for a westerner to cover themselves in the same way as Muslim women than it is for them not to. Catch-22. It is so ingrained into the community that there is a provision for the next fabulous invention of Dubai: the women and children’s carriage on the train. It’s a blissful place where you can sit and relax out of the deep stares of men who haven’t seen their wives in an awfully long time. Every now and then, some idiot male makes his way into our carriage only to be quickly ushered out by the attendant always on board. It’s fabulous and also indicative of just why the Emirati women are covered – it’s all about protection. Husbands simply want to offer protection from those stares and feeling so uncomfortable, and not being able to do anything about it.

That luscious glass of vino
Dubai is not a dry Emirate. Myth-busted.
It is expensive to drink here, but expensive in a very clever way.
These guys are pretty darn ingenious, and I’ll explain why…..

To drink here at a mid-range restaurant (say, Wagamamas) will set you back around $20 for an average brand 250ml glass of wine, and $20 for a pint of Asian beer. It adds up VERY quickly, and often usurps the actual price of the food (as do many drinks in restaurants, even non-alcoholic ones). It is however, the most ingenious way to regulate the consumption of alcohol in a community so that the people who can afford to drink are smart enough to not be the drunken louts that may risk jail and/or deportation. The whole system completely out-prices the construction workers and similarly paid here on very limited working conditions who may not be able to regulate their own consumption. This concept eliminates the occurrences of your drunken goon-bag swizzler sitting on the kerb with no job or way of life begging for cigarettes or money for his/her next goon-bag. The city is essentially bum-less and it’s all because of their unique system where you either work (no matter how menial) or you leave. It’s wonderful. You can purchase alcohol at a bottle-shop at a slightly lower price, however in order to be able to do so, you need to apply for an alcohol license which is only granted to you on reviewing your salary and a letter from your employer confirming you are a reasonable person and can support drinking on your salary. It’s a rigmarole, but one that ensures we don’t have the levels of danger currently plaguing the streets of Melbourne, Sydney or the Gold Coast.
And who says the Middle East is more dangerous than Australia?
I haven’t felt unsafe yet.

Stay tuned to see if I do ever feel unsafe (unlikely), and for an in-depth discussion about chai lattes, an outline of the black-hole postal system, and my all-time favourite: New Zealand in the Gulf News.

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