Money, camels, sand, skyscapers and many wives

Trip Start Nov 12, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

After volunteering in Sri Lanka and trying to save every penny it was weird to be in a country where most car salerooms were for Porsche, Mercedes, Bentley and Jaguar. Not to mention the ubiquitous Rolls Royce. If only I had the value of just one of those I could make a huge difference to so many people's lives.

It was also weird to cope with the idea of one man having up to 4 wives. We later found out that what he gives one wife - he has to give all wives to ensure it is equitable. Hence why there are so many jewellery shops in Dubai and shopping malls. Plus he can’t spent time with just a new wife - this too has to be equitable and he must spend equal time with them all. Blimey - is that worth the hassle?

Anyway, I hadn't expected to like Dubai but I did. Linda and I spent time in the old part of Dubai seeing how life would have been working on the river. It’s shopping paradise for people - my worst nightmare of course.

From the photos you will see a lot of the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. We went there on our first day as Johanna (another German girl that Linda met in Sri Lanka) had a work conference there. Johanna had kindly offered to let us stay in her apartment - saving us a fortune. We passed Ferrari World and the entrance to the Yas Marina circuit for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - wow. There are a lot of photos of the mosque from my little camera and Linda's much better Canon.

All 3 of us did a day trip to Oman on an old Dhow - it was lovely. Dolphins swimming next to our boat and snorkelling in the (very) cool waters of the sea. Until I spotted a jellyfish and that was the end of swimming.

We went to the Atlantis Hotel which is supposed to be top notch and I must say I was very disappointed in the beach and the pool area. Pretty average considering they charge people 40 each to use it for the day. We were going for a massage and spa treatment so it was included with that. I left after 10 minutes as I would rather be in the spa and steam room than on a mediocre beach. The spa however was really nice. The jacuzzi was HUGE and the Turkish steam room had flashing lights and soft music which mimicked a heartbeat giving the overall effect of being inside the womb. A truly WEIRD experience. My massage was great with the Filipino girl using her elbows and arm to really get into the muscles in my shoulder. Wow - felt great.

Linda and I did a side trip to Oman for a few days. What can I say - overpriced and much better to do day trips from Dubai. We finally got Linda her wish of seeing a camel and in fact I got so close to one I managed to feed it an orange biscuit! Our guide for the 2 day trip was Hussain and we managed to ask all those awkward questions that you want to ask about the clothing Muslims wear and about taking more than one wife and so on. All very interesting. In return he got to ask us questions about Westerners that he may not normally have been able to ask. His first question was why do some older people go out as boyfriend and girlfriend and not get married and in fact still have 2 separate homes? Well there are a number if answers to that – I said perhaps they had been married before and didn’t want to do so again. Or maybe they don’t want to give up that little bit of independence. I also noted that in the past people got married to leave their parents’ house – well that is not the case now as women don’t NEED to get married. We have careers, homes of our own, friends and so on. There is not the pressure to get married as there was in the past. Although it was not that long ago that the father had a dowry for the daughter and offered this in marriage. I then tried to sell Linda for one camel – not just any old camel - but a RACING camel that would be worth a lot more! Linda also explained that we tend to say "partner" now rather than girlfriend or boyfriend. Shame really I think!

So we had a great night in the desert but the next day was a real let down with just some sink hole in the ground and the coast road. The whole trip was certainly not worth the 300 euro we had to pay. On arriving back to Muscat, Hussain kindly gave us a tour of the place and then we had a nice walk in the park before he dropped us at the airport. On entering the airport I spotted the board which said our flight back to Dubai had been cancelled. Apparently there had been atrocious weather there all day. Our option was to rebook a flight with Swissair at 12.30am and hope that it could get to Dubai. Now bear in mind that I was flying to Singapore the next night so I really wanted to get back to Johanna's. Luckily we had just given Hussain our facebook names and so I suggested to Linda that we get onto the internet and accept his friend request and ask him to drive us back to Dubai as she suggested. Its funny as we had all been laughing about this earlier. He said he had had so much fun that it would be great to continue the day and drive us back. Oh how we laughed at that one - not realising that it came true. So he came back and we paid him to drive us back to Dubai. It took about 6 hours and we arrived back at 2am - I have never been so glad to get somewhere. So thank you Hussain.

So what did I think of this side trip to Dubai and Oman? Well I met a very kind and generous german lady who invited Linda and myself (a complete stranger) into her home. I also learned a lot about Muslims and their traditions. However, I think the most important thing for me was that no matter how much money I had - I could not spend it the way they do in Dubai. There is so much wealth and so much emphasis on purchasing more and more that people have forgotten that we are all in this together.
I stood in Dubai Mall at 11.30pm watching people buy even more things. Clutching their Louis Vuitton handbags or looking at their 5,000 Breitling watch - they were consumed with the idea of spending more and more. I stood there in my 5 T-shirt from Sri Lanka (quite posh by their standards) and my tatty old trousers and felt ashamed. Ashamed that people dont do more for others who are less fortunate than themselves, ashamed that there can be such poverty in the world at the same time as such vulgar wealth. But most of all ashamed that I cant do more for others.

So please, as you read this blog, think to yourself "can I do more to help others?" And then just go out and do it.

Lots of love

Alison xx

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Natasha Hoffmann on

Great photos love your Blog:)

Susanne on

Hear hear Al!

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