Sunday, 26 January 2014

A Road Trip to Dubai

on friday - the muslim day of rest - i set off for dubai with two trusty companions. they are Lovisa Bjorkman, from the Swedish International Theatre Institute in Stockholm, and Meher Awachri, a writer and performer from Tunis. They are excellent company (Meher's headscarf below is a joke - he borrowed it from a 16 year old white kid - our hostess's son - and upon seeing his reflection said, "Man - i look ARAB!")

we've been invited to visit a friend of mine from a thousand years ago - Jill Rosenberg. Jill and i trained in musical theatre together (seriously) at the Banff School of Fine Arts in the 80s. She's now married with a family, and living in Dubai, and has been kind enough to be our hostess for the day.

we are picked up by Shan - a driver from India, who has been in UAE for many years. we set out across the desert. it takes about 2 hours. we speak about theatre and religion and the modern world. like one does in a car full of such varied people in the desert. and then we see the science fiction city rising up along the coast.

it is good to escape the resort hotel dynamic, and go somewhere else. and dubai is definitely somewhere else.

jill is a great host. she and her husband john (another Canadian) have a beautiful house. 

jill and her teenage son agree to be our tour guides, and we set out. our first stop is the beach, where bikinis and burkas exist side by side.

we, of course, go to the mall. dubai seems to exist for shopping, and the dubai mall is enormous and shiny and packed with shoppers. there is also a GIANT aquarium - complete with sharks, and an olympic sized ice rink. for the canadian nationalists in the crowd, there's a tim horton's AND a second cup. 


the Burj Khalifa - the world's tallest building - is immediately outside and is both impressive and beautiful. we don't go up, because it is sold out (and costs a lot anyway). so we take some photos, and have some lunch.

after lunch we head over to a district called the Creek - where there is much shipping/trade with points east. here we see the port culture in full swing - with labourers moving around on water taxis, and many iterations of the Dhow style of boat building. we wandered around a market maze packed with Indians and Pakistanis and Afghans selling t-shirts and dishes and carpets and electronics, etc etc. there is also a replica area where some old buildings have been reproduced.

finally, we meet up with Jill's husband and some friends (an architect from the USA and an interior designer from Iran) have a drink on the 24th floor of something tall, with an amazing view out into the gulf.

it's a fun day.

The overall impression of Dubai is newness.  The building is all new. The city is spotless (they replace the flowers along the highways frequently to always have different colours). And there doesn't seem to be much to do, other than shop and drive and be fabulous (if you are emirati) or work (if you are a foreign labourer). i have never been in a place quite like it.

and then we journey back across the desert to fujairah, and the monodrama festival we have ducked out of for the day...

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