Friday, May 11, 2007

did someone say sass?

Part three of my three-part article for a Cairo magazine. They've officially given me a column, but I don't know what that means in Cairene speak. So, we'll have to stay tuned for further developments.

Here we go again!

Dubai: All that glitters

In the last issue of EGO, we hitchhiked from the Yemen/Oman border to one of the most boring Omani cities imaginable, watched as giant turtles pooped out mounds of eggs on the beach, and didn’t interact with any Arabs. Will Dubai be able to wake us from our Omani coma? Let’s hope.

After a week of pure and utter boredom in Oman, my fond farewell came in the form of an offer for oral stimulation from an aged man in the bus terminal restroom. I admit I would have appreciated a little pick-me-up to get me through my last hours in Muscat, but I was thinking of something more along the lines of a tumbler (or four) of Jack Daniels. Needless to say, whiskey wasn’t on the gentlemen’s menu and I waited for the bus to Dubai alone.

The journey from Muscat to Dubai was a pleasant, air-conditioned experience. No ear-piercing Quranic recitations, no homeless people selling tissues, and certainly nobody throwing bags of vomit out of the window (am I the only person to witness such behavior in the Middle East?).

The bus stops near the airport which, thanks to urban sprawl, stands pretty darn close to the Dubai skyline. From there, I caught a taxi to the one-and-only youth hostel in town – certainly the best value at $20/night for a 5-person, shared room.

The first stop on my Dubai itinerary was the Museum. Let’s face it, the Emirates was a nomad stomping ground until about 5 minutes ago, so the area’s heritage isn’t exactly awe-inspiring. Visually, the museum was pretty fierce, as it’s one of the only surviving buildings from the 1800s. It has a slew of rooms depicting various periods in Dubai’s history, as well as extensive displays of weaponry and clothing. And, best of all, it was air-conditioned.

After seeing the one historically significant thing on offer, it was time to take care of something that had been bothering me for the past three months on the road – a craving for Mexican food. During my abundance of free time in Oman, I performed extensive research on the burritos and chimichangas on offer in Dubai, and decided that Maria Bonita’s Taco Shop was the way to go. I worked up an appetite trying to find the place with my clueless taxi driver, so it was no surprise I managed to devour an appetizer of ‘loaded’ nachos and a ridiculous number of fajitas. Sadly, margaritas weren’t on the menu, so I consoled myself over Italian gelato next door.
I had one giant spatula full of dark chocolate-orange and one of date-marzipan. Not even in Italy had I consumed such orgasmic gelato. And not even in Italy did I pay so much money for such a small portion. Welcome to the Gulf!

I think I was drunk off of the Mexican/gelato combo because I started chatting up a woman sitting at the next table. She turned out to be American-Iranian with a Louis Vuitton bag full of problems. She didn’t know why she was in Dubai, where her life was going, nor why her bank account was empty. She was a ticking bomb, so of course I decided to spend the entire day with her jet-setting around Dubai in other people’s cars. She didn't have her own vehicle, so she would actually ask random people to give us lifts to the nearest taxi stand. I totally support hitchhiking, but hopping from Mercedes to Jaguar to Porsche was a little out of my league.

We checked out some hotspots like mOre Cafe and the art galleries Third Line and B21 in the Al Quoz Industrial Area. Sitting in mOre was very reminiscent of my time in Oman – again, I found myself asking, “Where are the Arabs?!” Don’t get me wrong, Arab-spotting isn’t a sport for me. However, without discussing the obvious monetary aspects, am I the only person that finds it bizarre that so many foreigners have decided to settle in the desert? At the risk of sounding like Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw, are fashionistas the new Bedouin?

I was surprised by the progressiveness of the galleries – a male prostitute photo series and living with HIV in Ethiopia were components of the exhibitions showing at the time, with future plans for works by Golnaz Fathi, a Tehran-based artist. But we started to get ancy, so we caught a lift with a fancy Lebanese lady to the Medinat Jumeirah for our date with quite possibly the most ridiculous thing on offer in Dubai at the time – 100% Kylie.

For those who haven’t yet been exposed to this fabulousness, 100% Kylie is a two hour engagement with a Kylie Minogue impersonator. I’m not kidding. “Kylie” and her team of dancers replicated an entire concert, complete with costume changes, strobe lights, and confetti. The audience, a healthy combination of gay men and families with small children, were totally feeling the outrageousness and cheered her on with off-beat hand-clapping and outbursts of 'You go girl!'.

No night, especially this one, would be complete without a drink at the infamous Buddha Bar. It’s the perfect place to get up close and personal with Dubai’s pretty people while drinking yourself into an overpriced stupor.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to end. The next morning, I awoke to the housekeeper in my room sweeping the floor. As I watched this frail, South Asian man through my haze of one-too-many mojitos, I realized how easy it is to lose oneself in the most vacuous lifestyle imaginable. I had read the magazine articles and news reports, but I guess I became blinded by the glean of Swarovski-adorned abayas, never noticing the pervasiveness of Dubai’s underbelly. Until next time…


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