We’ve now been in Dubai for two days and I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that I’m actually here. The weather is perfect, the food is fantastic, and the views are breathtaking. I could honestly stare at the Burj Khalifa all day long and never get bored, okay that’s a lie, but just like seeing the Space Needle every time you’re in Seattle is the same way I feel about the Burj.
My morning started off just like any other morning, with coffee in hand. Since the hotel’s breakfast was a little too pricy, we decided to meet up at the Starbucks a few feet away from the hotel to eat. I never thought my coffee order would be so confusing but over here it is. “Grande iced coffee with soy and toffee nut, please,” (maybe I should just stick to what’s on the menu next time). After breakfast we decided to go sit out by the pool. Immediately as we step foot out there, we are greeted by a hotel staff member who lays out a towel for us and another staff member brings us fresh squeezed strawberry juice. That’s right, strawberry juice. Dubai sure does like it’s fresh fruit juices. Some of us are keeping count of how many we’ve tried. Once we were done lounging out by the pool we decided to go try this cafe by the hotel called Bastikiah Nights. Since we were staying at the four-star hotel, Al Manzil, we would see expensive car after expensive car drive through. We saw a car with the number 13 license plate! Here in Dubai, the lower the number on the plate, the more expensive that plate was. The hefty price tag on this beauty: $14.3 million.
*Updated (01/07/12): Found out that Al Manzil would host a lot of meetings about building plans and political groups. The number 13 plate belongs to one of the Sheikh’s sons. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE as well as the Constitutional Monarch of Dubai. His son was at our hotel. The look on our faces when we were told that news was pure shock. I don’t know if I would ever come that close to the Obama’s back in the states.
After lunch we had the privilege of visiting The Dubai Museum and The Sheik Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding. I was able to get some pictures of what the traditional homes (bastakiyas) looked liked but I started to feel nauseous while walking through the museum and needed to get out. It’s on my list to go back though! We then continued our visit over at SMCCU where we were greeted with water in pudding cups. Who knew? Debbie and Naseef were our guides through the bastakiyas. Al Bastikiya is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Dubai and is known for it’s architecture. While walking through you start to notice the sounds of the freeway starting to fade away, it’s peaceful, quiet. Debbie starts to talk to us about the doors into the homes. Why do some homes have bigger doors than others? Wealth. A man with more money would have the bigger door. Now even with wealth being a little obvious, everyone acted the same. The all left their doors open for any visitor to come in. Very different than what you would see back home. We then made our way over to dinner. Took off our shoes and sat on the floor. A man walked up to us offerring Arabic coffee and dates. While I am a coffee drinker, this was too bitter for my tasting. While eating dinner we asked Debbie and Naseef questions that we had about the culture, religion, or anything on our minds. Naseef told us right off the bat that their are no stupid questions and don’t feel like you are offending us. “Open Doors, Open Minds.” I’m sure we could have sat there for a few hours just asking them questions. The next morning we visited the Jumeirah Mosque with Naseef as our guide. All of the women on our trip had to dress modestly and wear a head scarf or hijab. The traditional wear for women is the abaya while out in public. This is due to there being no distractions and all women look the same. When you think about going to church back home, I know I spend time getting ready, hair, makeup, and clothing. Women here still wear what they want but out in public they wear the abaya or burka to cover. Stepping into the mosque you see prayer times displayed on the front wall. There are six prayer times and if you are practicing the religion you need to make it to five out of the six. If you missed one, you would stay longer after a different time. Every wall was adorned with a pattern or color. The carpet has a pattern of lines that goes from left to right to show where you stand, lined up shoulder to shoulder facing Mecca. All Muslims facing Mecca while praying is to symbolize the unity of all Muslims worldwide. Even when buried after death, their heads are positioned towards Mecca. The mosque was beautiful on the inside as well as the outside. Like the Burj and the Space Needle, I will never get tired of looking at any mosque I happen to pass by.
Pictures from dinner can be found here on the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding’s Facebook page.