Al-Ain and some more observations on Dubai
Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
127Trip End Aug 01, 2007
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Being an economics teacher, when I travel I tend to see countries through that frame. The United Arab Emirates has really piqued my interest on how their huge boom has evolved. I have so many questions about what enabled this tiny nation to attain more development in the last decade than most nations have been able to in centuries. Most of this has happened by enticing huge numbers of guest workers to temporarily emigrate here. Our guidebook said that 75% of the residents of the UAE are guest workers! I would estimate that well over 1000 large scale residential and office buildings are currently under construction, huge infrastructure projects are underway, and the future plans for development are absolutely mind-boggling. There is so much happening here that defies my basic assumptions about supply and demand, labor forces, and patterns of development. Right now, all I can guess is that the leaders of the UAE heard a whisper in their ears a few decades ago, "If you build it...they will come."
Ramadan began the day after we arrived in Dubai. In case you are not familiar with Ramadan, here is a quick explanation. A practicing Muslim follows the "five pillars" of Islam (central teachings/guidelines), which include things such as praying five times a day, doing a Hajj at least once in your lifetime (pilgrimage to Mecca), and fasting during daylight hours during the month of Ramadan (figuratively burning away sins). This means that a devout Muslim should not have any food or drink from sunrise to sunset for this entire month unless you are ill or this would risk your health. So to be respectful to the dominant culture here, most restaurants are closed during the day and one should not consume food or beverages in public. We've been getting around it by eating in our hotel restaurants (which usually stay open), and by stopping at grocery stores and eating in the car. No big deal, sunset happens at 6:30pm so it really doesn't affect us that much, just requires a bit of planning ahead.
We spent our third day in Dubai visiting yet another amazing shopping center, this one lavishly decorated to look like different regions of the world. I never thought I'd become a mall-rat, but when it is 110 degrees outside and the malls offer A/C, unbelievable amenities, combined with an incredible food court it is tough to stay away. Oh and we saw "Talladega Nights" at the multiplex! In Dubai it is easy to forget you are over 5000 miles from home.
Later that afternoon we drove a few hours southeast to oasis city of Al-Ain to break up our drive to Oman. Al-Ain is much slower paced than Dubai. Not a lot of big sites to see, or architecture to marvel at. A slow drive around town, dinner at the shopping mall food court and a not-so-fancy room at the oh-so-1965 Hilton Hotel pretty much completed our visit. Tomorrow we are crossing the border and doing the desert drive though Oman to get to its capital, Muscat.
More from me in a day or two