Heritage Museum, Lebanese Flower

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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Monday, February 15, 2010

Today, I went to the Heritage Village by myself because Cynthia had to work.  It reminded me of Jamestown because it's a recreation of an old Emirati settlement before the country found oil.  There are tents and palm frond houses, a mosque, a souk, camel rides, an Arabian horse and a donkey. 

The other tourists were really nice about helping me to snap photos with me in them, since I was there by myself.  One nice couple came up to me and told me they were Palestinian, then asked me where I was from.  I sheepishly answered, "the U.S.," wondering if volunteering that fact would be the end of our conversation.  “We don’t like the politics, but we like the people,” the guy said.  “I agree,” I answered, extending the olive branch.  Taking it, he returned, “I work with some Americans and they are very nice.” 

Our friendship thus firmly established, he offered to take a shot of me with the camel and its handler, but cut the head off the camel.  I checked the picture and asked if they’d mind taking it again, “so I could get the camel in it.”  They said “Ok, no problem,” and took another.  This one cut out even more of the camel!  AAAH!  This is a pet peeve of mine – people who take photos of me at tourist attractions that are so close up I could be standing in the bathroom for all anyone can see.  Anyway, they also took pictures of me with each of them and the camel handler. 

Next to this old village was a replica of an ancient outdoor souk that sold kitschy souvenirs.  Across the way, fountains and stone buildings made up the other half of the Heritage Village.  This part is still old, but who knows where to place it in history, because there were very few signs. 

Of the signs that existed, they were not informational but rather tributes to the late Sheik Zayed, who is beloved for his skill in turning Dubai and Abu Dhabi from mud hut fishing villages into modern cities.  The poems about him were very… original.  Click on them to enlarge and see what I mean. 


A museum housed exhibits on pottery, fishing, pearl diving, clothing and jewelry, weapons and other traditional artifacts.  A blowfish skeleton was especially interesting looking.  Almost none of it was labeled or dated and of the labels I did find,
they said things such as: “POTTERYS: IT WAS USED IN DAILY HOUSE LIFE,”
which I found next to a shelf full of pots.  Huh. 

old coffee potblowfish in museumdaggers in museum

A dimly-lit hallway within the museum showcased some interesting black and white photographs from who knows when.  Every fifth light or so was out, but of those I could see, I especially liked one of “Dubai in the 1960s,” which showed just how far that city has come in such a short time, and another of about fifteen little boys grinning and jumping in the air.  Again, no caption, so I don’t know what they were so thrilled about, but I imagined them to be celebrating their release for summer vacation.    


In front of the museum were huge dhows on the beach and a panoramic view of Abu Dhabi.  I sat for a long time under a canopy of branches and watched a water skier doing tricks in the Persian Gulf.    Also in this part of the village, there was a courtyard with rooms around it that were supposed to showcase people carving shells, making bronze things, wearing silk, blowing glass, etc.  The only room with someone in it was the perfume/soap guy who demonstrated nothing but ambushed me with an incredibly potent squirt bottle that sent me running back out the door.

An old stone settlement in the far left corner of the village boasted a plaque attributing the ruins to the “Bronze age 4500,” but I have no idea if it’s really that old or what exactly is going on there, since there was no one to ask.

After sitting in the pretty landscaped garden on the waterfront for awhile, I walked to the Marina Mall, where I spent a couple of hours drinking a delightful “Snickers Chill” and reading The National, an expat newspaper.  As I sat there, I reflected on the fact that I felt totally comfortable walking around by myself.  The UAE is a country where religion is law and there are Sharia police to make sure no one on the street disobeys rules of public conduct.  They have arrested people for publicly displaying affection and can arrest anyone who appears in public with alcohol in his/her system.  Pork is only sold at a few (foreign) grocery stores and mosques are everywhere.  There are times when I can see two or three from where I stand, and the call to prayer can be heard from pretty much anywhere in the city five times a day.  Despite all of these foreign rules, I feel safe here.  I have been walking around by myself quite a bit and have not experience the ogling I get in the U.S.  I like that there are ladies only sections of the public buses and beaches.  In fact, it might be partially because of strictly-enforced laws that I feel safe here.  I understand that there is very little petty theft because no one wants to risk extensive jail sentences and/or deportation, and from a tourist’s perspective, that’s relaxing to know.

For dinner, we went to the Lebanese Flower restaurant and feasted on grilled chicken and lamb, some sort of meat-filled pita, hummus, hummus with eggplant, a white sour cream and garlic dip and fresh veggies.  It was delicious and a real bargain, since we only bought one entrée and the rest were all appetizers.  For dessert, we went next door to the bakery run by the same people.  There was a giant, gorgeous spread of desserts, mostly variations of phyllo dough and honey, with liberal use of pistachios.  The bakers were very hospitable and let us sample a lot.  Huge pictures of the three sheiks you see everywhere (current President, current V.P. and Sheik Zayed) hung above the counter.  Once we were laden down with desserts, we took them outside to eat while Esther and Fiona, two of Cynthia’s friends, smoked sheesha.  I didn’t try it because the smell was sickly sweet and I figure it’s still a health risk, but the pipe was ornate and pretty to look at.
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