Quite the buzz here about so many things! The World Expo (World’s Fair) will be held here in Dubai next year, starting in October and continuing until April 2021. The first photo is of the Museum of the Future, still under construction, and slated to open next year. It is in a torus shape and is encased in stainless steel with Arabic calligraphy. Unbelievably, it has already won design awards! The museum will serve as a base for exploration of the future’s greatest challenges and technologies, from climate change to medical breakthroughs. It is stunning to look at, and is already being called the new iconic symbol of Dubai. We can just imagine that being inside will be a great experience as well. The city also has many stunning skyscrapers, and we are showing just a few. We flew here from Bangkok on Emirates Airline, and we were way impressed! For us to be impressed by an airline is almost unthinkable, as they are all so mindlessly similar and, usually, unremarkable. We flew in an Airbus A380, with an upstairs area. We had more legroom than usual, and all meals, snacks, alcohol, and other drinks were FREE. They gave us a menu from which to order lunch! And the menu noted that if you get hungry at any time, you can order a free cup of noodles! Headphones were free, and we had a choice of 1,000 movies…so we watched two! We were in Economy class, but the Airbus also has private suites and…get this!….private showers! It was all too much. The flight attendants were genuinely friendly and never lost their smiles. It was like an alternate universe. When we got into Dubai, it was the only place for which we did not have to turn in an immigration card; we did not have to prove that we had booked a hotel; we did not have to prove that we had a flight OUT; and, we did not have a long line for passport control, as we did in Bali, Bangkok, Malaysia, and Cambodia, in particular: plenty of passport control agents, no line, done in 1 minute. It was fabulous beyond words! A truly modern country!
After that is a photo from the Mall of the Emirates, where we went to see a movie. It is very modern and has many American restaurant chains inside. Interestingly, most public buildings, including the mall and the airport, have Prayer Rooms. We have heard the Call to Prayer (Adhan) called out by a muezzin (chanter) in Istanbul and Casablanca, as it is mandatory five times a day in Muslim countries. Normally, it is presented from the minaret of a mosque. We were quite startled, therefore, to hear it chanted in the mall! We weren’t sure if we should stop, or stop talking, or do anything at all, so we observed what everyone else was doing. They continued walking and talking, so we did the same. It is mandatory worship if you are Muslim. The “weekend” here is Friday and Saturday, with the first work day of the week on Sunday. In the US, “hump day” is on Wednesday – the middle work day of the week. In the Middle East, hump day is Tuesday! It can get quite confusing as our brains try to pry away from what we have always known and learn new ways of thinking about time and about cultural norms.
The next photo is, of course, a ski slope with real snow and real people walking around with winter coats! This takes up a huge section of the mall, and is the only place you can ski in the UAE! And the temperature outside is 110 degrees Fahrenheit! After that is a photo of the stops on the segment of the metro we rode. If the stops don’t tell you this is a city for business, nothing will: World Trade Center, Financial Center, Business Bay, Noor Bank, and First Abu Dhabi Bank. The other two stops are mega-malls! The next photo just cracked us up. Every morning in the gym, the televisions are set either to news or some international sporting event. But what is on here? Camel races!! The last photo was taken just 3 minutes ago…the city getting ready for the evening. You can see all the way out to the Persian Gulf.
The food at the breakfast buffet here is nothing short of amazing. It is Middle Eastern, and always includes hummus, baba ganoush, laban (yogurt dip), shakshouka (eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chilies, garlic, nutmeg, cumin, and other rich spices), foul (a terrific bean stew with olive oil, parsley, tomatoes, onions, hummus, and lemon), Arabic breads, a dosa stand (rice batter spread thin and cooked into a crispy crepe, then filled with veggies or potatoes or cheese and eaten with any of the items already listed above), and Indian foods. It is fabulous. We were mourning leaving Asia a little, as breakfast had so many different and delicious items other than eggs, pancakes, and waffles. But this more than compensates!
Another thing we have found in this amazing city is its technological advancement, as we find it similar to Singapore. The metro is new and shiny, quite extensive, and runs aboveground rather than underground. Airports, malls, subway stations, and even office complexes have moving sidewalks. Escalators do not run constantly, but start up when a person gets within a foot or two, thus saving all that energy of running continuously.