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.
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."