I've actually been back from Dubai since Sunday afternoon, but I was so out of it yesterday that I didn't communicate much -- I had about enough brain power to veg out on Leverage (about which more in another entry), and that was about it. I'm still pretty zoned today, but I figure I ought to at least check in while the trip is still fairly fresh in my mind.
So, the trip was fun, and really interesting. I think Dubai and the United Arab Emirates are probably more culturally different from here than any other country I've visited. On the surface, I suppose it's not so different: Dubai is still a big city, with a very international population (something like 15% of the population of the UAE is Emirati; there are some Arabs from other nations, but the vast majority are immigrants), but I kept being startled by things -- I don't say surprised, because it makes sense when I think about it. Like how most mosques are closed to non-Muslims (unlike churches in European countries, and temples in Japan, which in my experience are usually open to the public, if sometimes with limited hours). Or how no restaurants sell pork products (you don't realize how much you'll miss bacon until it's gone), and water is only available for sale in bottles -- no glass of tap water on the table. Or the way that public displays of affection between couples are frowned upon, including married couples (T and I aren't super snuggly in public, but we are in the habit of touching each other on the arm or the back, and we kept forgetting ourselves). Or -- on the plus side -- the plentiful clean public restrooms (I have never been so content to use a toilet in a train station). Little things, for the most part, but they often struck me.
But we saw lots of cool stuff. I posted many pictures to my Tumblr along the way
, and once T has his photos up, I'll share those as well. Some highlights were our two trips to the Burj Khalifa, which is not only the tallest building but the tallest human-made structure in the world, the beautiful Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the aquarium at Atlantis, Jumeirah Mosque -- that was less about seeing the mosque, which is unremarkable from a design perspective, and more about the Islam 101 lecture from the tour guide, which was quite interesting -- and going out to the desert for dinner and a show, complete with a dervish and sword fights on horseback.
I'm glad we finally got it together to make this trip. Unlike some of the places I've been (Paris, Italy, Japan), I don't feel a strong tug to return any time soon (if nothing else because the trip is so long -- 15 hours on a plane each way! If it were half the distance, it might be a different story). But I can definitely say it was good to go at least this once.