Dubai Travelogue – 2015

Dubai, November 17, 2015

I’m sorry that I haven’t written until now. I was exhausted when I left Madison, WI and have been trying to get some sleep at night to keep going during the day.

The following will be snatches of information in no particular order:

There are two women who are Emiratis who work in the ministry who have been attending the training-both the basic technical trainer’s toolbox training and now the advanced: accelerated learning and tomorrow- how to avoid learner overload.

They are very young and seem umbilically attached to their phones. They wear exquisite abayas (long robes) and hijabs (black veils). They look lovely. To start the accelerated learning training, I gave everyone a small car and a thick sheet of paper on which to draw what they would see along the road when they went on their ideal road trip. Both of the women drew beach scenes and explained that they would sun bathe. I asked if they wore their abayas and they laughed- they wear bikinis when at secluded beaches with family and close friends. One even told me that she wasn’t usually this dark, she had a tan!

I asked them why the Emirati men wore white and the women wore black. It is just tradition and apparently the women can wear other colors: beige, light and dark blue, etc. I asked why they didn’t and they said they were used to wearing black- and another woman in the class suggested that black dye used to be the most expensive, so wearing black clothing indicated wealth. It is all so interesting!

It is a matter of national pride to wear traditional dress, so many wear it. Men wear dishdash or kandoora with the headscarf known as keffiyeh. The traditional keffiyah in UAE is white and it is held in place by the agal which is a type of rope. These days the younger Emiratis prefer red and white keffiyehs around their head and avoid the agal.

Seta told me that women who are not Arab or Emirati have also taken to wearing the traditional clothing. Even her older daughter has an abaya!

Lunch has been catered every day, in the hope that the participants would take a shorter lunch. Ha! Their sense of what 10 minutes is happens to be extremely divergent from my own. I probably lose 2 hours or more waiting for people to come back. Anyway, you’ll be interested (or appalled) to know that our lunch has been catered either by Subway or Pizza Hut. Massive quantities of food are provided- for example, everyone got their own pizza- and we’re not talking small pizzas!

The front desk staff remembered me from my visit in January of this year, which was nice. I can’t believe all of the construction- there are six buildings going up around the hotel. This seems to be true throughout the parts of Dubai I’ve seen.

Seta, who is the administrator over training and was the person who brought me here the first time, brought me home with her tonight. She lives in a gated community. She explained that this is not for security but more to delineate small communities of homes and apartments that pay the landlord to maintain the roads and the buildings, etc.

I only saw the first floor, which was absolutely enormous- entering out onto a small but lovely garden. Seta didn’t use a key to open her front door. She rang the doorbell and then pounded on the door. She has a young live in housekeeper/cook from Kenya who leaves the key in the door so no one can come in and surprise her (I wonder what horrors she may have left in Kenya). So, with the key in the door on one side, no one can fit a key in the door from the outside. However, once Seta is home, the housekeeper pulls the key out enough so that Hani (sp?) Seta’s husband can use his key.

I met both children: Zora, who is 17 and wants to be a chef. She came home with a traditional Arab delicacy of rice inside some leaf (grape, perhaps). I tried just a little. That was that for me. Zora is graduating soon and will be going to a university in Holland. Because Seta and her husband are Bulgarian and therefore part of the European Union, the cost is 70% less for Zora to go there. I think the costs mentioned refer to housing, books and food, because college in Europe is free. Seta can’t understand our huge tuition costs and result in enormous loans to be paid back (nor can I).

Seta and her 12-year old Marianne (very sweet) took me to the Mall of Dubai to see the dancing water fountains. The mall is enormous, it has four floors and although we walked for probably an hour, we saw 1/20th of the place! There was a Dior exhibit that was actually fascinating- very clever tableaus showing miniature Dior fashions, videos, histories. I’m definitely not into fashion, but this was interesting.

There is an entire section of the mall just for shoes- all high fashion, very high fashion and I’m assuming very expensive.

At the water’s edge, we could see the Burj Khalifa, which is a landmark in Dubai as the tallest sky scraper in the world: rising 2,717 ft. and containing 209 floors. It was bathed in the colors of the French flag to show solidarity.

Every nationality, size, shape, color, dress, age of people continually passed by- we ate outside where we had a terrific view of the fountains. They really do dance to the different songs every half hour. They last for the length of a song- 3-6 minutes. I saw the fountains dance to Arabic music, Japanese music, something else, and then Sarah Brightman & Andrea Bocelli singing ”Time to Say Goodbye (Con te partiro) “ just lovely.

Hani joined us for dinner and spent the entire time on his phone. He showed us photos that an employee sent from Saudi- of cars and trucks under water. Saudi had two straight days of rain and now has terrible flooding, that they are not equipped to handle. Who would be?

Since I was in Charleston, S. Carolina as the rains came and saw cars and trucks floating by, I have some idea of their current experience!

Training here at ICBA, International Center for Biosaline Agriculture, is crazy because the growing season has just started and the scientists have meetings and research, etc. All this to say that today’s class started with 15, and by the end of the session I had 7!!! People come and go continually, not mentioning if and when they’ll come back. It tries my patience, my resilience and my flexibility in reconfiguring activities.

Seta wants me to come back in the summer when it is so hot no one goes outside or works in the fields. She would have had me come this past summer, but knew I had the operation on my shoulder.

I came here with a contract to conduct two days of Technical Trainer’s Toolbox, one day of Accelerated Learning and one day of How to Avoid Learner Overload (cognitive load theory), with one or two meetings on the fifth day. However, as happened last January, it wasn’t possible to videotape all of the participants in the Technical Trainer’s Toolbox in one afternoon- so seven are coming back Thursday morning to be videotaped facilitating a 10 minute participatory activity that they designed. Then I’ll meet with the climate change group to help them with their training. Then meet with the training director, then make recommendations to the Director General, and who knows what else!! It’s always interesting and I do enjoy the people.

But I’m also bushed so I’m going to end this now.

Day Two of a two-day Technical Trainers’ Toolbox in Dubai, United Arab Emirates was extended to a half Day Three, which I’ll explain in a moment.

January 27: Day Two

Somehow we managed to get through all of the activities I’d planned for the morning, so the participants would have 50 minutes in the afternoon to prepare their 10-minute participatory learning activity. There were two caveats: (1) no lecture and (2) no activity they had facilitated before.

Because there were 14 participants and I could only schedule in 7 for the rest of the day, I had previously arranged with Ghazi to have a separate video camera and room. That meant that 7 participants would need to be given feedback by someone other than me. They didn’t like that idea. It was finally decided that the 7 people (who had to facilitate their activities today) would do it today and the rest would come in tomorrow morning.

Ghazi started us off and he was absolutely brilliant. He used an art project and questions, and really modeled how to engage the participants completely for the entire 10 minutes. I was thrilled.

Unfortunately, the next facilitator stuck to lecture entirely. I think he is new and feels that he needs to prove himself. I was very disappointed, because he seemed to understand (at least academically) the adult learning principles and participatory techniques I’d been teaching and modeling.

The third facilitator was only marginally better, choosing to refer to a case study he’d used before. So, both number two and number three blatantly ignored my two caveats. Grrr!!!

Number four used brainstorming and questions, which was pretty good.

Aziz was number five and he was fantastic! He had created a horticultural game that engaged everyone, satisfied all learning styles, and was both educational and a lot of fun.

The next one was also quite good, and the last was excellent. Hurray! We ended on a high note!

Everyone then took the post-test and increased their scores by 10-15 points, so they (and I) were very pleased.


January 28- Day two and a half…

This morning we had a role-play, a case study, two games, brainstorming- and one lecture. Ouch!!

Then I met with Setta, who is the Director of Partnerships and Knowledge Management and is the one who suggested I be brought here. I will be giving an hour briefing to the Scientific Director and Director General tomorrow and we discussed what I should include.

Then I met with Ghazi to see examples of training proposals and presentations he designed. I was surprised to see that the proposal specified that the training was for people 25-40. When I asked Ghazi about it, he explained that they wanted to target young people who were more likely to use what they learned and be in positions where that was practical. Older people were typically managers and this particular training was not targeted at them. He acknowledged that the junior people who should attend the trainings are often bumped by managers who want to visit the country.

Ghazi coordinates all of the logistics for enormous conferences all around the Middle East and Africa. It is very impressive!

What a loving man. He had brought an extra banana and apple for me while we waited to go to lunch- and asked for water to be brought when I had a small coughing fit.

He had cartoons and brochures on the wall, as well as a poster he did years ago for a company where the slogan he created was “sweet from salt.” ICBA now uses that slogan, because they can get sugar from date trees that are planted in sea water!

Henda, his wife, joined us to go to a huge mall where we sat and had lunch in the food court. I had chicken tikka and French fries (!), while Ghazi had a big Mac and Henda ate a happy meal! They apparently come here at least once a week to buy happy meals for their two little boys (when there are good toys). Henda came back to our table with two huge bags, because she had purchased two happy meals for each boy so they would get the same toys. Ghazi is Syrian and Henda is Tunisian- and they met at an ICBA conference.

By the way, I discovered that everyone at ICBA calls it IckBa rather than ICBA!

The lunch and driver were very educational. First, I saw incredible electric wire towers like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Second, the food court was spotless, with chairs and tables in radiating rows. It was incredibly well organized, and Henda explained that Dubai puts a lot of money into this. Even the gas stations have very clean and well-organized rest rooms and prayer rooms.

Third, as we drove out of the mall parking lot, there was a terrible stench. Ghazi explained, as he sprayed some air freshener in the car, that we had just passed what we would call in the States a honeydew wagon. There are no septic tanks, so everything has to be piped and carried away. After treatment, the sludge is given to ICBA to use as fertilizer in their enormous test fields.

Ghazi gave me a driving tour of the fields, where they test what will grow in fresh water, part saline, brackish water and seawater.

Let me tell you what I learned about ICBA from reading their strategic plan. It has an international team that includes soil, crop and water scientists, and policy and socioeconomic experts. They focus on challenges in marginal environments- of sustainable production, use of saline and alternative waters, environmental impacts, natural resources assessment and management, and policy and governance.

It has excellent research and training facilities, including an experimental farm, soil, water and agronomy laboratories, and a genebank of salt-tolerant germplasm with over 11,000 accessions representing 260 species.

They operate in six arenas: research innovations, assessment of natural resources in marginal environments, climate change impacts and management, crop productivity and diversification, aquaculture and bioenergy, and policies for resilience.

I read the strategic plan to build my talking points for the management briefing around key provisions for capacity building and a knowledge hub. Then I met with the videographer to create a brief montage of excellent, good, and bad facilitation to accompany my briefing tomorrow.

I asked him where he learned to work with cameras and video and his answer- Youtube!!! While we waited (and waited) for the videos to download into a movie edit program, we had a fascinating conversation. In no particular order, I learned that: Arabic is a very complimentary language- and there are lots of ways to say “good morning” that are in increasingly complimentary language!

By the way, I had thought he was American, because his English was terrific. However, it turns out that he is Lebanese.

He spoke about the government of the Emirate of Dubai, who is a sheikh and, as with the rulers of the other emirates in the United Arab Emirates, is part of a ruling dynasty. The good thing about him is that he makes decisions quickly. The bad thing is that he can change his mind easily. I was told that Dubai used to have a law that gave people who were unjustly fired 3 months of compensation, and those who were justly fired just one month of compensation. After the economic crisis when there were many layoffs, he changed the law so that everyone only got one month of compensation. Why? Because he owns half of the businesses. And if you don’t get a job within that month, you are deported.

He told me that he spent two months in Phoenix so that his wife could have their second child there. The reason was that when she had their first son in Lebanon, even though both he and his wife had visas to live and work in Dubai, the government refused to give their 6-month old baby a visa, claiming she was considered a threat to security. It took a huge effort to get past this.

So, he wanted his next child to be born American and have an American visa. He figured that if things got too bad in Dubai, he could send his son back to America.

He loves how people respect others in America, or at least that was his experience. When I asked him to explain, he gave a few examples. First, we pull over when an ambulance is behind us. In Dubai, no one pulls over and people die because they can’t get emergency care. Second, we slow down for children. In Dubai, people keep speeding without any regard for children in the street. Third, he is very impressed by how America came together over the shooting of a black man. Shootings occur all the time and no one cares in Dubai.

He also spoke to discrimination. Lebanese are discriminated against. A glaring example:
A Lebanese friend of his pulled his car over on the yellow line at the edge of a highway to check something. It is illegal to park there. An Iraqi who was swerving in and out of traffic and moving at a very high speed swerved around a truck and crashed into the parked car. The Lebanese’s 20-year-old daughter was killed on the spot. The Iraqi went free and the Lebanese spent 6 months in prison!!!

So, needless to say, he wants to move his family to America. He is 100% in favor and his wife is 5% in doubt, so he said that they were 195% in favor! He said that Dubai is a transient place, that most people who come to work there end up moving somewhere else.

He really opened my eyes with his perspective, which was completely opposite the perspective I received from my Pakistani driver when I first arrived in Dubai.

I think this message is long enough. I just have two more things to mention.

First, I found out that my aged cat, Jake, is very ill. He is in good hands but it is very hard to be so far away when I know he won’t really relax and eat well until I’m home. So it was very good that I was distracted by work and preparation of my report and sitting with the videographer

Second, Sissy (actually Dr. Dionyssia Aggeliki Lyra, who is a post doctoral fellow from Greece and a very enthusiastic and natural trainer) invited me to go with her and a Pakistani postdoctoral fellow, Shugufta, to visit the Global Village tomorrow after work.

Global Village is the largest seasonal cultural extravaganza in the region that offers visitors an amazing array of festivals, shopping and entertainment in an open-air theme park.

This entertainment and shopping destination is open from November through to April and hosts over 70 participating countries presented in over 36 pavilions, with more than 50 fun rides and 26 restaurants offering food from around the world.

Also included at the Global Village this year is “Illumination World” a Lantern city with popular monuments of the world. Come and see the world light up.

It is apparently a terrific place to shop, particularly since it is sale month in Dubai. It was very sweet of her to invite me and I’m looking forward to it!

January 29th, 2015

I went into ICBA at 8:45 a.m., first to talk with Setta and Ghazi about a talking points paper I wrote last night in preparation for a management briefing this afternoon.

Then to continue coaching the upload of the three videos I decided to highlight- just a minute or two of a poor, good and excellent facilitation from the last two days of the class.

At 10, there was a staff meeting, so I sat in the lobby to work on another proposal for a different client. I was supposed to meet with a group involved with a climate change project at 11, ostensibly to help them redesign an upcoming training program. The staff meeting went on until about 11:55, at which time Setta sat down with me to discuss the points she wanted me to stress during the management briefing.

I wolfed down a Subway sandwich (the same thing I’ve had for lunch all but one day while I’ve been at ICBA) and then met with the group at 12:30. Adla (remote sensing scientist), and Karim and Rashyd (climate modeling scientists) were eager to learn how to put into practice what they learned during the class. I was thrilled! We brainstormed a variety of learning activities and a revised flow of some of the content- and I’m sure that they will follow through to use it.

Then I met with the Director General (DG), Dr. Ismahane Elouafi (a bright, lovely woman, who just had a baby 3 months ago) and the Acting Director of Research, Dr. Shoaib Ismail, as well as Setta and Ghazi. I gave both of them a Rubik’s cube, which the DG pulled apart during our conversation (saying now she would be ready to put it together later). (I also gave my driver and Ravi, the IT guy, ducks for their children. They were pleasantly surprised.

The DG was very receptive to my observations of the participants and my recommendations for future curriculum design and intensive train the trainer workshops. Setta is talking about having me back this summer, when it gets to be 104 F and no one goes outside! Yikes!

Oh, I felt terrible. Charbel is the videographer who spent so many hours yesterday and most of today trying to create the short video to show during the management briefing. He came into the meeting about 2/3rds of the way through and was going to play the video, but he told me that he only had the last few minutes of the excellent facilitator. Since I needed her set ups of two different activities at the beginning, I thanked him but didn’t want to show it. Setta immediately said that, once the video was completed, he would show it to the management team later. I absolutely hated cutting him off, but it would not have provided any benefit. Later, I left him a long note of apology. I hope he understands and forgives me. We had discussed several times what I needed and I know he had notes about it. There was probably some difficulty isolating what I wanted in the time he had available.

Then I met with Khalil, a hydro geologist who is involved in negotiating Arab Gulf water rights with Syria, Iraq and Turkey. He was interested in learning more negotiation strategies, particularly when dealing with people who have a history of mutual distrust.

I was able to suggest some activities, including appreciative inquiry (think about a time when you got past your distrust of someone- who was it- who was involved- what happened- and what would your wishes be for how the group interact with each other based on your previous successful experience?); and using an affinity chart and nominal group technique (each delegation of approximately 8 representatives from each country is led by a senior delegate who does most if not all of the talking- this way, the less senior members would have a –more anonymous- say to encourage their engagement and ideas).

I’ll be sending Khalil information on these strategies. He certainly has his work cut out for him- and he’s already doing a great job, from what I’ve heard.

Next, another meeting with Setta to discuss a proposal she is working on, possible certification of waste water specialists and other specialists (in coordination with another organization and a Canadian university, I believe), as well as my availability to assist long distance in the development of a training program they need to create and pilot before the end of the summer.

At 4:30, Sissi was ready to go to Global Village and Shagufta was able to get out of a meeting so we could be on our way. You should have seen the parking lot. It must be acres and acres! Sissi treated me to the entrance fee and told me that most places have a line just for women, so it goes very quickly, which it did.

How to describe Global Village. Hmm, maybe a cross between Disney Land, Las Vegas, a world bazaar, an amusement park, with enormous areas devoted to different countries (lots of beautiful things!), rides, entertainment, music, acrobatics (ever see two people standing on the shoulders of someone who is jumping rope!!!???) and lots of restaurants and colored lights, including dancing waters (with laser lights and music).

I’m so glad that Shagufta was along. She is a sweet faced, melodious voiced, tiny woman from Pakistan, who is *** on wheels when it comes to bargaining (which you have to do). There was something I wanted and she bargained them down from 250 AED to 50 AED!!!

Sissi was looking for a belly-dancing belt (with coins than jingle) for herself and a friend, since they were going to take a belly dancing class (its good for the abdominal muscles). We were unsuccessful in the AED and Pakistan and Turkey shops, but hit pay dirt in the Egyptian area. As a matter of fact, after she bought two (bargained down in price by Shagufta) from the first shop we saw, we realized that every Egypt shop had them!!

We walked for quite a while and then had dinner in a Turkish restaurant. The waiter was handsome and flirtatious, Sissi ordered a huge amount of food to share, in addition to the chicken kebob I ordered. So we shared pita bread, Turkish salad, and French fries. They both shared a piece of their dorner sandwiches (chicken for Shagufta and lamb for Sissi), and I insisted they share mine as well. During this time, it happened that we were seated right opposite the dancing waters, which I videotaped. Very pretty, very cool and very loud! We also had entertainment right next to our table, where one of the servers was serving ice cream and fooling with the customers. He would do some flourishes with a large paddle as if he were filling a cone, and then hand an empty cone to the customer. Then he’d pretend to serve the ice cream upside down from the paddle. He also hit some noisy gourds to get people’s attention. He was a real showman and both the adults and the children loved him.

I suggested that I should pay for our dinners, but Shagufta was incredibly generous. She insisted on paying for our dinner. She also loaned me her metro card so I could get around Dubai. The card gets you on the bus, the subway, and can even be used for parking!! I was worried about how I would be able to return it to her, but we agreed I would leave it at the hotel for her (along with some training gifts for her and her 12 year old daughter).

I should tell you something about Sissi and Shagufta. Sissi, Dr. Dionyssia Aggeliki Lyra is a postdoctoral fellow, as is Dr. Shagufta Gill. Sissi is Greek and has a job in the Greek ministry from which she has had a 3-year leave. She feels that the work she is currently doing at ICBA is exactly right for her. Her current research is:
valuation of agronomic characteristics of selected Salicornia bigelovii and native halophyte populations using seawater irrigation
Seed multiplication of Salicornia bigelovii populations by using groundwater irrigation
On-farm management of available water resources (low quality, brackish, saline water and aquaculture water residues) for setting seed production and optimizing crop production
On-farm demonstration of using available technologies (desalinated water from RO units) for managing farms
Her areas of expertise include:
Agronomy and management of field crops under stressed conditions
In vivo and in situ screening and evaluation of crops resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses
Optimization of management practices for efficient use of resources, for maximizing crop yield and minimizing environmental risk
Morphological, physiological and genetic diversity in crops and weeds
Symbiotic plant life-forms with other plants (with emphasis on non-mutualistic relationships)
Biological control of parasitic plants
Soil and climatic impact assessment studies on crop production and weeds dispersal
Analysis of plants distribution with the aid of Geographical information (GIS) and Global position (GPS) systems
Her project lasts for another year, so she has asked for a fourth year of leave from her job. Greece will allow her a total of 5 years leave. She and her husband have a house in Greece and that is where her parents live. She is an only child and has a very close relationship with her parents. This is the first time she has lived in a different country. She goes home every 3-4 months. She would love to stay at ICBA, which would be possible only if she got funding for a new project. But her work is project-based, and she would like some stability and security, so that she and her husband can have a child. Needless to say, she is very conflicted about where to focus her future.

Shagufta is working with growing soybeans using different types of wastewater. Her areas of expertise include:
Research on Soil Biology and Biochemistry
Planning, execution and reporting of research
Use of stable and radioactive isotopes in soil science and plant nutrition studies
Soil microbiology and biochemistry
Chemical analyses of soil, plant and water
Laboratory and field experiments
Advisory services on soil/water quality
She is certain that she will look for another position when her project ends. ICBA can only support a certain number of scientists and the current scientists don’t look like they’ll be leaving any time soon. She said that school is very expensive in Dubai and she would rather move somewhere else.

We walked for about 40 minutes after dinner, through enormous crowds. Getting me back to my hotel was a real problem. The Silicon Oasis is new so it was difficult to find it. But finally, we did. And I was too bushed to do anything but take a shower and go to bed!

January 30, 2015

I forced myself to get up in time to have breakfast and take the 10 a.m. shuttle from the hotel to Dubai Mall. The trip took 30 minutes, with a stop in the middle at the Mall of the Emirates. I found out how to get a ticket for the hop on-hop off bus, choosing to pay for a 48-hour rather than a 24-hour ticket. I knew that I would be coming back tomorrow and this was cheaper than paying for the 24-hour tickets. The bus was a double decker, so I sat up top in the sun. There were also an enclosed air conditioned area and a covered area.

I enjoy touring new cities this way, because I find out all about the different areas as well as the history. I took the red bus, which had 16 of the 27 stops both the red and the blue buses make. The driver gave us a package of earphones to plug into speakers at the seats, where we could choose from 12 different languages. Very clever.

The architecture is amazing- all sorts of very tall and attractive buildings, with lots of geometric shapes (because that is part of Arabic art). Palm trees are everywhere, carefully irrigated, as are flowers and other trees and even grass in places.

Random facts I remember from the audio: Dubai began as a fishing village. When oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi, the Dubai Sheikh was far sighted and dredged the Dubai creek so the old tankers would come through Dubai. He set up a “free zone” so that other countries could establish offices and set up their own financial laws- a free zone is like a country within a country. The Sheikh’s family has ruled Dubai for over 200 years. The Sheikh of Abu Dhabi is the President of the United Arab Republic and the Sheikh of Dubai is the Vice President and Prime Minister.
The current Sheikh loves cars and has over 150 of them, which he drives himself without bodyguards. He also drops into government offices to check to make sure they are treating his people properly.

Dubai has enough oil reserves to last until 2040, but the Sheikh wants Dubai to have other things to sustain it. Innovative entrepreneurs are attracted to Dubai, and tourism, particularly retail, is huge. There are a number of mega malls and more being built daily.
As a matter of fact, there was building going on everywhere I looked in Dubai. One major building project will be the opera center, providing an enormous venue for music, art, and theatre.


Rather than try to tell you everything I learned, I strongly encourage you to look up Dubai and the Burj Khalifa (the incredibly tall building that has something like 28,000+ windows and can be seen for miles from any vantage point). I took the entire trip, about 1.5 hours, and got off at the Dubai Mall to get some lunch. My God, you should see the thousands of people everywhere.

On my way to lunch, I saw the Dubai aquarium (right there in the Dubai Mall!) Sharks, manta rays, all sorts of fish. Part of my ticket gave me “free” access to enter the aquarium. If you’ve ever been to the aquarium in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, it is initially set up the same way: you go in a long tunnel where you are walking under and next to the fish. There were three levels to the aquarium, with lots of different fish, turtles, and sea creatures (otters, penguins (?), crocodiles, etc.) I took lots of photos.

Then to the food court, with lots of American (Burger King, MacDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken) as well as various ethnic fast food restaurants. I ended up having Chinese, which was all right.

Then I had to find where to exchange my $ for AED. I wandered up and down several levels of the Mall before, after asking four different people, I found the exchange. Next, outside to get the red bus again, because I wanted to go somewhere that I could get some nice gifts to bring back home. I also needed some water, and when I asked the woman at the bus stand where I could get some, she handed me two small bottles. How nice!

I had to travel 6 stops to get to the Old Souk, which is a bazaar filled mostly with textile merchants. I sure wish that Shagufta had been with me, because I haggled but I have a feeling I was definitely in the minor leagues, if I even made any league. There were so many people you could barely walk down the narrow road and alleyways. However, I was moderately successful in my purchases although it took hours.

Then, to wait for the red bus and travel back to the Dubai Mall, where I planned to find a bathroom (!), have dinner, and get a taxi back to the hotel. It must have taken over an hour and a half to drive the 30 minutes back to the Mall, because there was bumper-to-bumper traffic and no one lets anyone else in their lanes. I thought we would never get there!

My taxi driver, who knew exactly where my hotel was, took only 15 minutes to get me back after I had my pad Thai dinner.

Tomorrow, I am going to take the shuttle to the Mall of the Emirates, where I can pick up the blue bus. It will take me to the man-made palm-shaped island and the Atlantis hotel, the beach and docks, wild wadi, and eventually to the Dubai Mall. There, I plan to take the red bus again to the spice souk and to a place where I can get a “free” dhow cruise down Dubai creek with my ticket. That should be enough of a day!!

My flight leaves at 6:30 a.m. from Dubai on Sunday, so I can’t stay out until all hours the way I’ve done tonight. I’ll need to pack and be ready to go by 4:30 a.m., I imagine, if not before. I’m going to check with the front desk tomorrow.


 January 31, 2015

Last night, I checked my flight arrangements for tomorrow and discovered that I will be leaving the hotel at 3:30 a.m.! At first, I thought that was when I had to be at the airport. Either way, I’ll be getting up brutally early tomorrow. So I spent hours last night packing. I’m afraid that, with gifts received from Mercy Corps and ICBA, as well as gifts I’ve already purchased, my two suitcases are as heavy (hopefully not heavier) as they were when I first set out on my Middle East adventures.

Two interesting, including one somewhat traumatic, events happened that I forgot to mention. First, on Tuesday night, I mis-keyed my room safe and could not figure out how to reproduce the wrong entry so I could open up the safe. I tried, on and off, for two hours. I had given up and hoped against hope that the hotel had some master program to open it (my cash, jewelry, important papers!). Luckily, after trying all sorts of combinations that evening, on Wednesday morning I tried something different and the safe opened. Hallelujah!! I’ve always been very careful in the past and never had any difficulty. I’ll have to stay more alert…

Second, on Wednesday just before lunch, Ghazi came and told me to follow him to collect my contract payment. In all my years of training and traveling, I have never been paid (in dollars!!!) on the last day. With my fee and per diems, this was a relatively healthy sum- and very impressive in an envelope. You can bet that I quickly placed it (carefully) into my hotel room safe when I got back. And now I’ll be traveling with all that cash. I have to put it somewhere safe for traveling and I’m still mulling how many places I should put it- of course, with carry ons that I’ll keep with me at all times. Just a tad stressful.

I’ll be getting the shuttle to the Mall of the Emirates in a half hour. I’m wearing a pashmina that I bought yesterday, because for some reason I did not pack any light short or long sleeved blouses and I got badly sunburnt on the bus. I plan to cover up with the pashmina and sit under the canopy so I don’t get more sun.

My shower never progressed beyond a very light spray. I am thinking that either: (1) it is a problem with the water pressure or (2) it is a conscious decision on the part of the hotel to conserve as much water as possible. All of the African and Middle Eastern countries that I have visited have water-conserving toilets. It would be nice to see them in more homes and buildings in the US.

More after my trip…

I took the blue route today- from Dubai Mall. My idea of just getting it at the Mall of the Emirates was unrealistic once I realized that it was the last stop before the Dubai Mall. If only the cityscapes bus went back and forth instead of in a grand circle.

My shuttle mates also pointed out that I could get the shuttle back to the hotel at designated times. There had been no need to get a taxi, although it would have taken an hour instead of 15 minutes. So- I’m glad I didn’t know this last night!

This route took us past the Union building, where the 7 emirates signed to become the United Arab Emirates on December 2, 1971 after England withdrew. This day is celebrated just like our independence day, as a national holiday with parades and fireworks.

We saw many beautiful mosques- one every block or so. And this area, Jumeira, is very posh, right next to the Gulf. The retail and restaurant buildings were lovely, as were the residences. We were also able to see the Dubai skyline- and the buildings look different from every new angle. I just love how beautiful and unique they are with their Islamic architecture. I don’t recall the name of the architectural firm responsible for many of the buildings, but their motto is “stay different” and they certainly have!

There were all sorts of huge colorful kites in strange shapes flying over Jumeira Beach. I’ll have to look at my photos to see them more clearly, because I was madly snapping photos as we drove.

Random information:

The metro runs automatically without an engineer. The metro stations are approximately every block so that people do not have to walk far in the intense heat. Each station is painted inside to represent either the earth (green), fire (red), wind (yellow?) or sky (blue). Their air conditioning is the best in the city. The metro was inaugurated on 9/9/99 at 9:09 and 9 seconds by the Sheikh, who cut the ribbons at each of the 30 (I think) stations.

The great grandfather of the current Sheikh made Dubai tariff and custom-free in order to attract companies. There are now 29 “free” zones, each of which focuses on one type or retail or service: financial, automotive, apparel, gold, fish, spice, etc. This enables large corporations from different countries to establish offices and own property.

The flag of Dubai is green (earth), red (courage), white (peace) and black (I think the audio voice said for command, but I’m not sure).

It takes 25 seconds to go from the very bottom of the Burj Khalifa to the observation stand, which is below the last two floors. The ride up sounds pretty hard on the stomach and the ears!!

Jumeira means “embers,” so called because the sand gets so hot it used to burn the soles of the feet of the pearl divers and fishermen.

The Gulf water has a very high salt level because it is small and confined, and the warm climate makes the water evaporate, so the remaining water is highly concentrated.

There is a huge hotel that is built to resemble a sail right on the beach- the Burj Al Arab Luxury Hotel –‎. It is the only 7-star hotel in the world.

Driving in Jameira, we passed a restaurant named the Talent Restaurant. This is because this is where all of the movie stars come to vacation and eat- and will apparently pose for photos. Who knew?

Because land is at a premium and in great demand, the Sheikh is not only reclaiming land but also building it proactively. There are the world islands, I don’t remember how many but many, owned privately and accessible only by marine or air transport.

We went to the Palm Islands – The Palm Islands are two artificial islands, Palm Jumeira and Palm Jebel Ali, on the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. As at November 2014, only Palm Jumeira has been completed. This island takes the form of a palm tree, topped by a crescent. Wikipedia

Incredibly beautiful mosaic mosque, sumptuous residential buildings, and the Atlantis, the Palm hotel- which has an aqua venture where people can skin dive or swim in plastic tubes in shark-infested water, an aquarium with thousands of fish and sea creatures, a paradise that caters to every dream or wish held by the extremely rich.

When someone buys a smaller residence on the Palm Islands, they are given two keys- one to their new home and one to a new car, usually a BMW. If they buy a grander residence, they get a free Lamborghini! I don’t even think I got a handshake when I bought my house!!! I saw one billboard that said that 4-5 bedroom semi-detached villas of 3,479 square feet were AED 1,280 per square foot (approximately $360). I’m sure that the residences on the Palm Islands are much more than that!

There is a marine area with very tall residence buildings because every home is supposed to be only 5 minutes from the Gulf. Since there was a premium on land, they had to build up.

Yesterday when I was eating my lunch/dinner at the food court in Dubai Mall, there was a small parade of drummers, banner holders and three costumed bears, touting a toy store.

The latest enormous project in the area is a Mall of the World, which will be an entire city within a city, with the retail area enclosed so people can walk from shop to shop outside without getting burnt by the sun. It is supposed to be completed for the 2020 World Expo, which Dubai will be hosting. When they got the word they had won, there was a weeklong national holiday!

There is a sea turtle rescue program that has released something like 700 turtles
back into the Gulf over the past 5 years.

There is an actual ski slope, replete with snow, towropes and everything else necessary for a functioning ski lift, inside the Mall of the Emirates!!! I actually watched people skiing!

There is also an enormous grocery/retail/electronics/everything you can imagine store. I asked where I could buy dates, because dates are the only palm trees that grow easily in the area. After 6 years, each tree produces an amazing number of dates and will continue to do that for over 100 years. There are also over 100 different varieties of date palms.

Given this, there was an enormous display (I realize I’m using enormous frequently) of different kinds of dates. I didn’t end up buying any, because what I really wanted were figs- and I found those.

I took photos of 10-20 bins of different kinds of nuts, of different kinds of olives, of different kinds of rices, etc. There are all sorts of fresh fruit and vegetables, many different kinds of cheeses, probably anything anyone could want. And given the fact that there are people there from all over the world, that is not very surprising. But the prices are high, at least compared to Woodman’s prices in Wisconsin.

I have never in my life been in such crowds, wearing everything you can imagine, pushing baby strollers or grocery carts, strolling along 3-4 abreast, an incredible people-watching (and hearing!) experience. I think I’ll need some hours of complete isolation to recover. ☺

Well, I’ve got to get up in a few hours so I’d better try to get some sleep.

I’m so glad I scheduled these two additional days in Dubai. If and when I come back, I know all of the places I’d like to revisit and more I’d like to see. But next time I’ll bring sunscreen, a hat, and light long-sleeved tops!


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