One of the most visionary dudes on the planet is Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. In a separate birth of fate, he’d have made all of Silicon Valley his underling. But he’s an oil baron, and the desert is in his blood. I had a good time in his arid colossus, but not a great time.
Maybe if I was into shopping this post would be more positive. But typically, I’d rather take a pipe blow to the knee than go shopping. When I was in Dubai’s famous Gold Souk, I helped my colleague buy his girl a pimped out engagement ring. And I enjoyed the culture at hand, but I didn’t buy a thing. And as far as Dubai’s numerous ultra-mega-malls, eh, whatever. Not my thing. I had more fun checking out the historical displays in Ibn Battuta Mall than actually buying things from oh so many hedonistic foreign outlets.
Plus, I was rather uncomfortable being there at times. I didn’t feel at ease. Maybe Dubai’s gotten better since then. I was there over a decade ago so who knows. But the heavy hand of Dubai had its reputation inside my brain. Maybe it was my one brief negative experience from Vietnam (all taken together; Vietnam was just awesome; more later) which occurred about a year before I got to Dubai. Once you’ve been dragged out of your vehicle and held by the gun-toting-asshole-police-state-authorities for a brief but fierce interrogation by the roadside, you tend to be a little wary in your travels.
Dubai Executive Towers; over a decade ago; most of the towers are now completed.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t seen real danger on travel. If you want to see braver travelers than me, they’re all over this blog site. But in almost all my journeys, almost, I was not looking for trouble or danger from the goon squads. I was just there to have a good time and experience the culture of our delicious human race.
But whether it’s arresting an American worker for a Facebook post he made at home or prosecuting Brits who engaged in the criminal act of consensual sexual contact, it would seem the authorities in Dubai are interested in fiercely pushing the idea that they can be both modern and maintain their one-sided view of morality. Usually, these efforts are not mutually exclusive. But eventually, I think folks begin to realize a trend.
You can be a modern tolerant super-city or you can maintain vicious cultural standards that would make the fiercest mullahs or fire-n’-brimstone preachers proud. I don’t think you can have both. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s my view of it.
Dubai Creek water taxi; note how almost no passenger is an Arab
And yet Maktoum is still getting it done. Dubai is the planet’s place to be for airlines, business, shipping, shopping, etc. I guess as long as you obey the rules, you can enjoy your shopping and/or make a damn lot of money. And compared to other places, Dubai’s is both safe and tolerant. Again, maybe if I loved shopping I’d feel so much better about my visit. Or if I’d just relaxed instead of fearing a club beating if I asked where I could get a beer. Or if there was actually more to do in Dubai. Eh, maybe?
But I’ve been to some real hell-holes. I’ve been to many other places more dangerous or less tolerant than Dubai. Or visited commercial-shopping-titan type places with little else to do. So what’s my problem here? I don’t really know I guess. I can’t explain it.
Arabian / Persian / Human Gulf dhow; the basic design of these ships has not changed in like three-thousand years
I guess I’ll just go with the one line that sticks in my brain from Dubai. It was the audio tour guide on the tour bus:
“It is easy to forget in Dubai; that you are in a desert.”
What they meant was you needed to stay hydrated. What I heard and felt, well, maybe I’ve tried to describe it above. But I think I’ve failed to explain my brain here. It is what it is. If you like to shop, go. Otherwise, find somewhere else.
Dubai Creek; all saltwater; all the sea; very beautiful
Persian (Shia) Mosque; it is this beauty and culture that the so called Islamic State desires to obliterate; fuck them; this was gorgeous to see and photograph; may it stand forever
Dubai Creek water taxi patriotic rudder post
Dubai Fort / Museum watchtower; note the mannequin guy holding the musket for scale purposes; once upon a time, this is all there was in the desert