Thursday, April 21, 2005

20 Hours From Home

My head aches. And, yes, there is a drowsy numbness as though of champagne I had drunk. I left town on Wednesday afternoon. Caught a shuttle to Karachi, only to discover en route to the airport that I had been booked on economy as that is what my clients were traveling. With me, traveling anything below business is purely a human rights issue. I do not fold over into pieces like a paper doll. My legs do not fit into seats designed for “normal” people. Unbeknown to me, salvation was at hand. The private airline was one I had helped create many years ago. “But, Sir, you cannot travel economy.” “Alas, I must. My cheapo clients are packed in there already.” “No question. Here’s your first class pass.” And so it goes.

Cut to Dubai. I get there at 2 am in the morning. Life is full of second chances, and I think it fair to give Dubai one too. My 20 hour stopover did not give the city enough time for a fair hearing. But sometimes broad brush strokes are a better indicator of opinion than studied response. First, Dubai has changed. The sheer tackiness I had encountered on previous visits seems to be toning down. Yes, there are instances of shrieking bad taste, but these are visible throughout the world. The Emirates Tower(s) where I had my meetings were “handsome”. Second, (possibly first) there is an amazing tolerance, which is a rare commodity in the Muslim world. I am not talking about the overt signs (booze, Ukranian hookers et al) but the manner in which people from all over the world are given a fair employment opportunity. And they look none the worse for it. Had we employed even half the number of Keralans, Tamils, Philipinas, South Africans and Koreans in Pakistan there would have been an outcry beyond belief. Our inherent xenophobia would have frothed to the surface like a surly cappuccino.

On the downside, Dubai has been taken over by crass (read Western) commercialism. There is virtually nothing to remind you of the city-state’s origins, no matter how humble. The focal point in my life seems to have been a gi-normous Lancome poster which I saw everywhere I went. There is a twee attempt to arab-ise: the odd palm tree or camel depicted in neon. There are few, if any, locals to be seen. Apart from immigration at Dubai airport (which seems to be run by fifteen year olds taking a break from prep) you never see an Emirati. This is unsettling. Should they be preserved like the Panda ? On the other hand there is a profusion of Global business types and Essex-style Juicy Lucy clones running all over. I can take them in London ..but in the middle of a desert ? Or (more likely) in the middle of dessert ?

On the positive side, my Dubai appetite has been whetted. Emirates (business of course, darling, there’s no first to Pakistan) is a pretty good airline. Three hours go by in no time on a diet of just champagne. Oh, yes. There’s enough eye candy in Dubai to last one a few days at least. I did tell you I was fickle.


Blogger Sin said...

Fickle you may be, but at least you're not fickle AND short. ;)

2:10 pm  
Blogger Uber Homme said...

No. I am fickle and tall. Which means that my fickleness can be stretched over a larger surface area. Not condensed into an insignificant package :)

5:06 pm  
Blogger livinghigh said...

mmmm.... poor me is an economy traveller. the one time i did business on Air India, I wondered what all de fuss abt B was - but then, i dunno whether AI qualifies as an AI at all!!!

PS: I've heard hitherto good accounts of Dubai. are the cutties really dat hot? lol

9:00 pm  
Blogger Uber Homme said...

living: AI is pretty good ..the achaars are to die for ! I'm travelling qatar on monday wait for the reviews. The cuties are pretty hot..and I did wipe my glasses before I left. Its so cosmopolitant that you have to be on the fringe not to find ANYBODY attractive out there. I wonder what they wear under their dishdashas ?

9:20 pm  
Blogger livinghigh said...

hahaha.. what they wear????

be adventurous one night AND FIND OUT!

8:37 pm  
Blogger s said...

the only reason they employ so many different nationalities (mostly third world) is because they're cheap labour. and the actual emiratis make up only 20% of the total population, and are in very cushy, higher paying jobs or in the government sector.

dubai is a strange place - i hate it as much as i love it. it's very shallow, very fake, a bit too glassy, and it's very difficult to feel inspired here. everyone is obsessed by money, it's a transit lounge for most - stay 5 years, save, and move forward.

but its difficult to find another place like it, thats as safe, offers most of the comforts of living 'abroad' yet it's a lot like back home...

oh and sorry boys, they don't go commando under those disdashas. the good news is that most of them are rumored to be gay.

6:40 pm  
Blogger Uber Homme said...

Sarah: Agreed it is cheap labour, but I got the feeling that everyone seemed better off than they would have been at home. I did see many happy smily people there. Oh yes, thanks for making my day. If the rumours are true, I'm packing my bags and heading out there, pronto!

11:08 am  

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