Monday, December 3, 2007

United Arab Emirates

WOW!  what a total whirlwind!  I have really missed keeping up with my vox but between really hectic work schedule and my trip, wellll I had to sleep sometime!  So - HI EVERYBODY!  Missed you and give me a bit to catch up!

Dubai was amazing.  The week was non stop work - only had a chance for a wee bit of shopping and hardly any sightseeing at all but from a work standpoint, it was great.  I met some amazing nurses, got to tour a bunch of hospitals and all in all soaked up the UAE culture which is quite different. 

I only had a slight momentary panic of OMG I AM IN THE MIDDLE EAST when I first arrived.  The flight was 6.5 hours and we flew on Etihad with is the Emirates airline and was fantastic.  The hotels were just soooo good - we stayed in the Crowne Plaza (5 stars woohoo!) in Abu Dhabi and the Sheraton in Dubai.  Just sooo service oriented and the conversion to durhams (UAE money) was quite good - as an example room service breakfast was eggs, bacon, hash browns, muffins, fruit and a pot of coffee enough for three people and cost about 7 pounds or 14 dollars.  I did utilize that on 2 mornings as I laid in the massive plumped up bed and had breakfast while watching CNN.  The night before I was actually watching a current episode of 24!  THAT was surreal! I cannot even watch that here in London. 

The people are split into 2 categories - the first one is the Emirati local who is actually a UAE citizen and then there is everyone else and, believe me, there is quite a distinction!  Everywhere tho, everyone speaks English very well and all the signs are in Arabic and English.  Of course, there was McDonald's and Burger King and Pizza Hut and KFC and Starbucks, etc etc etc...the malls could have been picked up and placed in any upper middle class region or higher in the US.  There were regular department stores and Ikea as well as some very high end shops like Louis Vuitton and Harvey Nichols.   My personal favorite is Carrefour which is sort of like a Walmart style with everything including groceries and it was so cheap!!  Beautiful pashminas for like $2US and the SPICES were to die for.  I will include some pics of the mall.  I got in trouble a few times snapping pics were I was not supposed to (unknowingly) and they do not like it if you photograph the local women, many of whom are covered head to toe in very stylish black veils.  Completely different from the Afghanistan burka - the women in the Emirates are just considered so highly prized that their men do not want anyone else looking at them.  Underneath the veils are thousands of dollars worth of designer clothes and jewelry - it was just fascinating.  An interesting sidenote is that plastic surgery is the latest craze among the women and they are averaging 8 procedures a year!  STUNNING but they have to keep up with those younger wives coming up behind them!

The men for the most part were very respectful or completely ignored us.  In Dubai, they did tend to be a bit more aggressive but nothing out of hand.  One little guy kept following me and wanting to take pictures of me until our driver stepped in and sent him on his way - haha - but that was DEF the exception. 

You hear the call to prayer throughout the day which is beautiful but odd, although having a prayer to Allah televised on the little airplane tv's before takeoff was kind of different :)...

The weather is very similar to Florida with the humidity but has some of the high heat components of the desert as well.  While I would not go wandering the streets alone at night (in any major city tho), I felt very safe.  There are enormous amounts of police and private security everywhere as they welcome the income of the tourists to boost their economy.  Only 10% of Dubai's income is from oil, the rest is tourism and building what they hope to be a financial center of the world.

Sadly, there is not much evidence of the native culture,  Everything is very western and since the oil money has come pouring in, the Emirates tend to tear down the older buildings to be replaced by huge skyscrapers.  I saw what will be the tallest building in the world and even from a distance, it was overwhelming!  I do not do heights - hehe.  Another interesting tidbit that we learned as we were touring the Health Authority facilities is that approx 30% of the local population now has diabetes.  The sheikh that is head of the Health Authority was relating that due to the lightning fast rate that they have entered the Western World and the fact that there is tons of money, people are eating more, exercising less and due to native custom, they are not exposed to sunshine hardly at all, being wrapped.  All this has contributed to a sky high diabetes level which has now become genetic - and all this in the past 60 years.  Another not so great side effect of the rapid Westernization is the very high rate of automobile crashes - they are buying high speed power cars and then drive like bats out of hell.  Driving in Dubai was a frightening experience for the times that we were not stuck in traffic jams.  One extreme to another!  But that is kind of the theme of the Emirates - extremes...I went to a hospital in Al Ain - another Emirate that is located in an oasis in the desert and they had separate male and female entrances, yet in the malls, everything is WESTERN to the max. 

I found the people who live there, very warm and very welcoming.  Again, the excellent command of English was the rule and not the exception.

The food was great and ranged from Arabic delights to very Western as well - something for everyone!!! that is a little bit about the trip...I will be posting some more soon!

HUGS all around and I will catch up with everyone's blogs SOON!
Here are a few more pics - I do not have as many as I would have liked - my camera batteries were being disagreeable so I was reduced to cell phone pics at times and most days we worked 12-16 hours so not many photographic opps - SIGH....guess I will have to go back!! haha - which I look forward to!

So please bear with the quality of some of these pics!

Sheikh Khalifa Medical City - DubaiAbu DhabiDoes this look like "the middle east"?!?!Dishdasha Dude crossing
hotel in Abu DhabiThis was just too funny - Arabic Dunkin DonutsAbu Dhabi - Marina Mallsome evidence of local architecture - Dubai
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