October 06, 2010

Fhloston Paradise

 Dubai Metro
 I was in Dubai over the weekend for a writers workshop. I was kind of late in going to Dubai. Everybody and their grandmother has been to Dubai these days. I kept putting it off. I had been to Abu Dhabi, which I imagined to be similar, and I was not greatly impressed by that place. But this weekend was a work engagement, so there I was.

Do you know this scene  in the Fifth Element, when Bruce Willis (Korbun Dallas) arrives to the resort planet Fhloston Paradise? Uhuh. Well, that was me when I got off the plane in Dubai.
 
An aquarium in the Dubai Mall

The first thing what happens is that my glasses fog up once I got out of the airport. It took me a moment to realize that it was the artificial atmosphere that did not quite align with the actual air.

Next thing I notice is that I am actually the only person walking. On the street. Well, besides a few migrant workers. There are no actual residents in sight. Those move around in SUV’s with tinted windows, like little aliens in pods, from safe haven to safe haven (read ‘malls’), as if the life in between cannot sustain them.
Downtown Dubai
 I felt like I had arrived to Fhloston Paradise. It was not that there was one alien species, no, there’s hundreds of them. There’s of course the obvious Pilipino contingent, and the Indian one, specifically the Sikh kind with the little hairdo’s knotted on top of their heads. But then there’s this huge array of Arabs that are totally new to me. There were Yemini Arabs, with colorful head dresses in paisley print, great groups of Osama Bin Ladens, slippers and dress and broom beards and all , and of course the local ones in dishdash and white head scarves. A sizeable amount of Europeans, of which the Slavs stood out the most. What were they? Russians? Ukranians? I don’t know, but among the Caucasian race, some are just not as ‘good-looking' as others. Their eyes are so light-blue; it looks like they contain water. And then the ladies in black.
But the ones that really appeared ‘out-of-this-world’ to me were the ladies with the headscarves that were elevated some 20 centimeters above their heads. What is it that they wear under those scarves? It looks like they have their hair piled in great bunches, with elaborate hair clips. It looked like they had elongated heads, judging from the shape of their veils.
The thing is so big, didn't even fit in my screen
 
And so I am sitting at the bottom of a ski slope, while in a desert, eating sushi, and I’m drinking my beer behind a curtain because no one is supposed to know that I am drinking, and I am thinking "I've arived to Fhloston Paradise."

Boy, was I glad to get to Beirut.

6 comments:

Haissam said...

i used to live in abu dhabi! second best place i've ever lived in after lebanon, and would go back in a heartbeat! and the ladies have the gigantic heads because they use a clipper thingie that attached to the back of the head, and its usually a gigantic flower, i really don't know why they do it and i absolutely despise it but hey, let them do whatever they want to do in their own country :P

joseph said...

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are absolute shit holes.

I have found there are two types of people who like the UAE

1) those that come from a much poorer country and can not find decent work at home (india, nepal, sri lanka - these people end up becoming
the slave labour)

2) those from the west who might be considered "chavs" "bogans" "ned necks" - generally people who would otherwise
lead a pretty dull, boring, suburban life in the west, but come to the UAE as they are paid much more, and in tax free $$, and get to have a maid slave around their 'villa' for about AED 500-800 a month


Those elongated head things are usually a flower or some sort of clownish looking head piece, woven into the hair and worn by the local women.

Haissam said...

i lived in numerous countries, including canada, saudi arabia, u.a.e and qatar, and i enjoyed living in abu dhabi most, its not about who you are, its about how you spend your time there, and i'm telling you , living in abudhabi or dubai is an urban lover's dream and i would love to go and live there again.

joseph said...

well that is the problem - when you compare the UAE to qatar and saudi, it is not too hard to see it as "a dream"

i wonder if the slave labour, migrant workers would agree with you about it being how you spend your time that makes all the difference. i mean, why would they be committing suicide at such alarming rates (even worse than in lebanon) if things were really that good?

Danielle said...

I went to Dubai in December of 2008. I had saved up for months to afford the trip from Miami, and was the envy of all of my friends... You can imagine my disappointment when Dubai, at least to me, was less then stellar. "Did I really pay to come and visit a place with less soul/personality/character than the US!?"

I was there for two weeks. Two weeks too long! Whenever someone asks me about Dubai, I tell them..that if they happen to be in the area..to stop by Dubai..but to never take a trip JUST to Dubai..It really is not worth it.

Haissam said...

lol, you seem to just see what you want to see, and i said that i lived in saudi arabia, qatar, u.a.e AND canada. Now i'm sure canada has no worker issues , and is a great country, and i do admit that the worker issue is the negative side but that doesn't really make the country any less enjoyable. Although this may sound harsh but its the truth.