Church, Beach and Indian Food

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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday morning, I went to church with Cynthia's family. It was surprising to see a big evangelical church with its name on the side in a Muslim country.  Cynthia told me that a parishioner helped the Sheik’s granddaughter, so the Sheik gave the church the land and promised there wouldn’t be any problems with permits.  That’s pretty incredible when you consider that a) evangelicals aren’t just sitting in their churches praying.  A tenant of their faith is trying to convert others, and b) In other Arab countries, no other religions are tolerated.  For example, Cynthia’s dad was deported from Saudi Arabia when the government realized he attended an underground Christian church.  I can’t help but wonder if the main motivation for what on the surface appears to be tolerance is ultimately the UAE’s motivation to attract foreigners.  Certainly, foreign knowledge of engineering and tourism dollars bolster the economy.  Cynthia told me the UAE has made increasing tourism one of its main goals so the economy will continue to thrive once the oil runs out.    

I really liked that the congregation of this church was so multi-cultural.  When newcomers stood up to introduce themselves, they said they came from China, Nigeria, London, South Africa, Texas, Kuwait, etc.  It was like the U.N. going to church. 

Later in the day, we headed to the beach and met up with Jen and Rachel.  Then, we picked up Cynthia’s mom and drove to Arab Udupi for a delicious, authentic inexpensive Indian meal.  Indian food is the most popular cuisine here after Lebanese food, so authentic and inexpensive eats are plentiful.  Driving and parking in that area of town was a nightmare with all of the slow-moving crowds jumping out in front of the car.  Inside, the service moved at a glacial pace, which Jen said is not typical there.  Our food was phenomenal: flavorful naan, a giant samosa with chickpeas, yogurt sauce and other culinary bling, doha with potatoes and spices, fish biryani, mutton biryani, chicken maharaja (sweet, like korma but red) and more.  It was one of those times when I wished I had a bear’s stomach and could’ve fit a week’s worth of calories into this meal.  What a shame that I could only eat one scrumptious dinner and then I have to wake up tomorrow and eat cereal.  Boring!
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