A Travellerspoint blog

Chapter 26: Finis

"Home at last, home at last.."

sunny 65 °F

Chapter 26: Finished

September 26, 2022

The ride home on the Emirates A-380 was as fine a long ride in an airplane as one can expect to have. It is first class in first class. We were able to move to adjoining seats, adding hours together--my best guess is that out of the past 600 hours, we have been apart from one another no more than six. And still, she speaks to me.

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Because Emirates does not have an interline agreement with Delta, upon arrival at JFK, always fun, we had to stand in two different lengthy Delta Sky Priority Lines to re-check bags. Keep in mind that both of us are Silver/Elite on Delta, each having flown over a million miles on the carrier and we have paid for first class seats on our flight. Therefore, we are, of course, VIP's! Oh, maybe not.

In 1763, Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to a friend, wrote these words: "Would you that I should write nothing but truth? I tell you I know nothing that is true. Or would you rather that I should write you a pack of lies?"

We went to original Gate: C60 with just under an hour to spare before our scheduled boarding time. We received the following emails from Delta.

2:56 Flight is On Time at 5:55 Gate C60. EXCELLENT!
3:01 Flight is On Time at 5:55 Gate change from C60 to B48
Took Shuttle to B Uh, oh. Let's go get on the ancient JFK Jitney Shuttle Bus
3:28 Flight is On Time at 5:55 Gate change from B48 to C60
Took Shuttle to C Uh, oh. Let's go get on the ancient JFK Jitney Shuttle Bus
4:24 Flight is On Time at 5:55 Gate change from C60 to C61 No big deal. That's right next door.
4:28 Flight is On Time at 5:55 Gate change from C60 to C61
4:47 Flight is Delayed to 9:08 Gate change from C61 to B44 9:08? That's over THREE HOURS FROM NOW! Uh, oh. Let's go get on the ancient JFK Jitney Shuttle Bus. But, this time, we have time to spare.
Took Shuttle to B
42 People in 30 minute line to enter Sky Club at B32. We made it in.
5:40 Flight is Delayed to 9:08 Gate change from B44 to C67 Uh, oh. Let's go get on the ancient JFK Jitney Shuttle Bus
Took Shuttle to C
6:01 Flight is Delayed to 9:08, Gate change from C67 to C65 No big deal. That's right next door.
7:14 Delayed to 9:08, Gate change from C65 to B47 Uh, oh. Let's go get on the ancient JFK Jitney Shuttle Bus
8:54 Delayed to 9:37, Gate change from B47 to B45 No big deal. That's right next door.
9:35 Delayed to 9:47 No big deal. That's only 12 minutes.

The Truth: we were wheels up at 11:46pm, almost six hours after our scheduled departure time and an experience completely unlike that "promised" by the aforementioned string of one dozen emails. We were, finally, wheels down in Kansas City at 1:28am, today, Monday, January 26, 2022.

As we always do, when we landed we exited the "In Flight" mode on our iPhones and were greeted with this final communication from our dear friends at Delta Airlines:

Hello Paul,

We know spending additional time onboard your flight waiting to depart New York – John F. Kennedy wasn’t what you planned today. Weather constraints prevented us from operating as planned. We strive to provide a seamless service from the time you check-in until the time you get your bags, but that wasn’t the case in this instance. This wasn’t the experience we wanted you to have while traveling with us, and I truly apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

We Appreciate Your Business
I’ve deposited 7500 bonus miles into your account. This is not intended to put a value on your experience but is part of our apology for the inconvenience. Please allow three business days for the mileage to be posted.

Thanks for Flying Delta
We look forward to seeing you on another Delta flight.

Regards,

Aaron O Smith
Customer Care
Delta Air Lines

This message (including any attachments) contains confidential information intended for a specific individual and purpose, and is protected by law. If you are not the intended recipient, you should delete this message and any disclosure, copying, or distribution of this message, or the taking of any action based on it, by you is strictly prohibited. Any personal information you provide to us is subject to the terms of our privacy policy found on delta.com. Please check Delta Privacy Policy.

Rather than being home just after 8:00; we got home around 2:00am. That, our dear followers, made for a very long day. But, the good news is: WE GET 7,500 DELTA MILES! FYI: the approximate value of 7,500 Delta miles is, when used for another flight, about $112.50.

This morning, I received this nice note to Paul Russell, Delta "Million Miler" 386ac320-3db1-11ed-b790-f104b075ccb0.png

Some--the older among us--will remember this song sung by Glen Campbell https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXZmupqz8s0
Others--more youthful--will remember it performed by Green Day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnQ8N1KacJc

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Sorry but to watch you'll have to paste and click one of those links. I'm not allowed to paste the actual video here--copyrights and all that I suppose coupled with "I don't know how to do it."c55b4630-3c10-11ed-b98b-a19f3837ecfd.jpg

Either way you enjoy it, here is my message to B4 after spending virtually every waking and sleeping hour by my side for twenty-five straight days:

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Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time
It's something unpredictable
But in the end, it's right
I hope you had the time of your life
So take the photographs and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories, and dead skin on trial
For what it's worth, it was worth all the while
It's something unpredictable

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But in the end, it's right
I hope you had the time of your life
It's something unpredictable
But in the end, it's right
I hope you had the time of your life
It's something unpredictable
But in the end, it's right
I hope you had the time of your life

Love,
Paul

Oh, and are you ready for the next adventure I have in mind?

Posted by paulej4 15:39 Archived in USA Comments (6)

Chapter 25: Politics

The Sheikh calls the Shots

sunny 103 °F

Chapter 25: Dubai Politics

September 25, 2022

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5c2c16c0-3cd4-11ed-a59f-51a7a2038aa3.JPGAfter a sub-Emirates first class pre-flight experience (the airline has lost a bit of its allure for me on the past few flights) we left the gate on time but were held on a taxiway for a bit longer than normal giving us a chance to enjoy the graphics of the pre-flight safety video. On this double decker aircraft, I always find the animation fascinating.

Ours was an unusual route of flight leaving Dubai and the UAE on a northwesterly track over Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and the Gaza Strip to the Mediterranean. Then over Greece, the Ionian Sea and up the entire boot of Italy into France before leaving Europe at La Rochelle with 3,500 miles remaining at the mid-point of our 13-hour flight. Unusual heading west, we averaged well over .8 mach thanks to no headwind and even, at many points, tailwinds.

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Sometimes, the best time to discuss politics of a foreign country is after you've left it. We saved this chapter for this journey home. On our way to the airport, we passed the truly fabulous Museum of the Future, a "torus-shaped shell" adorned with Arabic text. What are the words on this iconic building? They are 3 quotes from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (also spelled Muḥammad ibn Rāshid Āl Maktūm):

"We won't live for hundreds of years, but we can create something that will last for hundreds of years."
"The future will be for those who will be able to imagine, design and build it, the future does not wait, the future can be designed and built today."
"The secret of the renewal of life, the development of civilization and the progress of humanity is in one word: innovation."

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The Billionaire Sheikh carries the titles of emir of Dubai and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates—the UAE. (The Muslim term “emir” derives from the moniker given early local chiefs or rulers). To be clear, he is the absolute ruler of Dubai where the government is autocratic; no democratic institutions exist and internal dissent is prohibited. His official photograph is omni-present.

The UAE itself was born after the British withdrew from the region in 1968, six years after the first cargo of crude oil was exported from the region.

Mohammed’s father took him to a summit of the Trucial States Council in 1971 whereupon Mohammed was named minister of defense of the new entity. His early life included English studies at Cambridge and military training at Aldershot in the U.K. He became an accomplished equestrian and owner of a race horse dynasty.

His brother Maktoum became emir upon the death of their father in 1990. During that time, Mohammed engineered the creation of modern-day Dubai which, due to its lack of massive oil reserves enjoyed by the other emirates, of necessity became an international business and tourist destination. He presided over, among many other things, the $12-billion-dollar creation of the man-made Palm Islands and the $8-billion-dollar construction of both the island and the structure known as the iconic sail-shaped 202-room Burj al-ʿArab hotel, the world’s fifth tallest (but only the third tallest in this city).

Upon the 2006 death of Maktoum—who was at the time visiting Queensland, Australia—Mohammed became emir. His was a rough start as the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 devastated the economy which left him with a $100-billion-dollar developmental debt burden.

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Two 10-billion-dollar bailouts from neighboring Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Kahlifa ibn Zayed Al Nahyan saved Dubai itself from default. Mohammed renamed the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, to Burj Khalifa in tribute. Abu Dhabi, 90 miles away by car, is described as the world’s richest city and sits atop about ten percent of the planets oil reserves. Our recent visit there was brief and covered more extensively back in chapter 11.

Sheikh Mohammed ibn Rashid Al Maktoum is reported to have had six wives and over 24 children. His second wife, Haya bint Hussein, daughter of King Hussein of Jordan, fled Dubai and divorced Mohammed in 2019; his daughter Latifa fled the country a year earlier but was captured and returned to the country. Discussion of this situation is fraught with peril and I am both ill-informed and unwilling to say more.

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The Sheikh's 40-year-old second eldest son (by his senior wife) is popularly known as Fazza, which in Arabic means "the one who helps." Born in 1982 as Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, he is the Crown Prince of Dubai and was educated in both Dubai and the U.K. He married his cousin, Sheikha Shaikha bint Saeed bin Thani Al Maktoum in 2019 on the same day his brothers, Maktoum and Ahmad, also got married.

With 14.7 million followers on his Instagram, the charismatic prince posts pictures which include animals, poetry, sports, photography and adventures of which he has many.

I'll not write much more about politics here, leaving it for you to Google it for yourself. YouTube is full of content; one of the most interesting is a long interview with him from the BBC. Be advised that YouTube is rich in both accurate and inaccurate information which comes from verified and unverified sources who hold both noble and wicked motivations. It is up to you to discern which is accurate and which is the one you wish to embrace. The BBC is, in my opinion, highly trustworthy, making it a source that I embrace while rejecting others. If that process sounds burdensome, it is the choice each of us makes on a daily basis when we decide whether to watch either Fox or CNN or neither. Interestingly, the option of "both" is exercised, I propose, by nearly nobody. That is unfortunate and I hope and wish that not to be true. Listening to only what affirms what one already believes doesn't open people's minds and allow them to independently evaluate what both sides are saying. We would be much better off if we still had a 'Walter Cronkite' when news was truly news and no one had to doubt it. Now in many cases the news has become entertainment. I try to be an optimist and hope that we can one day find our way again.

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On our final day here, with my contribution virtually complete but B4's just begun, we (mostly her) have been invited back to continue this engagement in more depth, perhaps next spring when it is cooler. Have I not told you of her brilliance?7a04a9e0-3cd5-11ed-a59f-51a7a2038aa3.JPG

Posted by paulej4 22:21 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (2)

Chapter 24: What NOT to Do

You can keep as busy as a tourist as you might like

sunny 103 °F

Chapter 24: What Not to Do?

September 24, 2022

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Here, from the Khaleej Times, is a list of ten things not to do in Dubai:

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1. Call someone silly or stupid. The maximum penalty for this is a year in jail and a Dh10,000 fine. ($2,722)
2. Install an illegal satellite TV dish. It was one month in prison and a fine of Dh5,000 ($1,361) for selling satellite TV receivers that decode channels.
3. Possess khas khas seeds (popular in India and Pakistan but ruled a narcotic and psychotropic substance here) 20 years in jail.

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4. Employ illegal domestic help. A fine no less than Dh50,000 and up to Dh5 million besides a jail term. ($13,613-$1,361,000)
5. Feed stray cats. Dh500 fine. ($136)
6. Film an accident scene. Six months in jail or/and a fine between Dh150,000 and Dh500,000 for take pictures of accident victims. ($40,838-$136,128) Dh1,000 ($272) is the penalty for crowding an accident scene.
7. Fundraise. (Only licensed charities, federal and local authorities can collect, receive and make donations) A fine no less than Dh200,000 and a maximum of Dh500,000 ($54,451-$136,128)
8. Wash a car in public. A fine of Dh500. ($136)
9. Seek unlicensed massage service. One-year in jail or fine or both.
10. Check someone else's phone or access any information system with a password acquired without permission. Jail and/or a fine of Dh50,000 to Dh100,000 ($13,613-$27,226) for accessing any information system with a password acquired without permission. If it is ruled that you have criminal intent, that increases to six months in jail and/or a fine between Dh300,000 and Dh500,000. ($81,677-$136,128)

That, dear readers, is but a partial list or quirky offenses. Do something more serious and you will instantly regret it. The list seems silly - no pun intended - and we don't really know to what degree if any these type of offenses are truly watched. As far as calling someone silly or stupid - well, that could leave little kids in a tough spot, they typically say things like that. But make no mistake, there is law and order here and it seems a good thing. There is virtually no crime and everyone seems to live in harmony. I'm sure there is much we don't see but what we do see and learn from talking with friends who have been here a long time, it is a good thing.

My impression--and it is ONLY my impression--is that expats strictly adhere to rules and regulations here because to break them means rapid expulsion without recourse. And, it seems to me that expats here both accept it and like it that way. Keep in mind that the expats make up about 85% of the population. They are here because they have the opportunity to build a better life and send money back home, they are here because they are running businesses here, they are here because they choose to 'home base' here to run multi-national businesses, and a multitude of other reasons. They don't want to leave, life here is good. Ex-pats don't really have any 'rights', they are visa guests in this country. On either a work visa or a 10 year golden visa. But no one bothers you either as long as you obey the rules.The reward is that they feel safe. What they give up, they give up happily because it seems to them that because others have to give up that same thing, life is not only safe but it is fair. If you play by the rules--even those rules you don't like and with which you disagree--you'll be fine. The idea that "It's a free country" so I can break this rule or that rule seems to them disruptive and undesirable. Again, that is my impression only. I would warn scofflaws not to come to Dubai or the UAE. I also speculate that a double standard exists. I also get the impression that Emiratis and expats are not treated the same and everybody understands and accepts that. Be advised, however, that I have had absolutely no exposure to even one Emirati other than to see him or her across the room in a restaurant or across the promenade in the mall.

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I am reminded of 19-year-old Michael Fay in 1994 Singapore. Some readers will remember him as the young American boy who was found guilty of a ten day spree of stealing road signs and vandalizing a car. He was sentenced to six strokes from a cane. The story garnered global attention and divided opinion prevailed. I suspect that the population of Dubai would react to such a situation here, today, saying that expulsion without appeal is a proper punishment. The prison population here is 104 per 100,000 with 88% of those being foreigners. In the United States, the prison population is 629 per 100,000. So, from my poorly informed perspective, it would appear that the UAE would say to a foreigner who committed a misdemeanor or lesser felony, "Rather than incur the expense of imprisoning you, we are simply going to expel you so you are somebody else's problem." Finis!

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Let me give you a prediction. When the FIFA World Cup comes to Qatar in November, it will draw football ("soccer") fans from around the world. Such fans are known to be rowdy in their support for their clubs. Some tend to drink to excess. Some are obnoxious in public. Since hotel rooms in Qatar are few, fans will be commuting from Abu Dhabi and Dubai. There will be an incident and it will be controversial. It will hit the media like a modern day Michael Fay. It will embarrass the Arabs and it will embarrass the fans which I further predict will be Brits and/or Germans. Boy, do I hope I am wrong about what even has a name: football hooliganism.

What CAN you do here?

Go shooting at one of 5 clay shooting ranges. Go shark diving at the aquarium. Horseback ride around the Al Qudra lake looking for desert animals. Ride a hot air balloon or a helicopter or a gyrocopter—a low altitude two-seat aircraft. Go wake boarding, jet skiing, sand boarding, or flyboarding. Or take the X Dubai human catapult Slingshot, a 400 foot ride over the water and sand or the X Line which is a 50 mile per hour zipline starting at 550 feet above ground level ending up 2/3 mile away. Or, just take a walk. (In September, dress properly. It is over 100o every day, the sun is unforgiving and the haze eventually irritates your throat.

There are parks, an indoor ski slope, theme parks, race tracks for cars, camels and horses, water parks, adventure parks, floral exhibitions, butterfly gardens, an indoor tropical rainforest, and, or course, a swim-with-the-dolphins and sea lion park.

Go to the Desert Platinum Heritage Tours to the Desert offers safari vehicles but buyer beware. They promised more than they delivered with us. Falconry, which we did not really experience, is the one thing I wanted to see but didn't.

The Dubai Fountain Show at night from the bouncy floating platform is an option. For photographers, I am told the Shangri La Hotel SUNRISE SHOOT delivers great pictures. But, I would suspect, not at this time of the year due to the omni-present haze.

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Oh; and shopping. There is more than a little of that. Dubai is a shopping Mecca. If you can't find it here, it likely doesn't exist. The malls are beautiful, the US could learn a thing or two. You could get confused as to where you are as a good half of the stores in the malls are US names; am I in Dubai or am I in the Dallas NorthPark Mall? That said, the prototypes are different and so is the overall environment. Climate controlled malls make a lot of sense in a country where it can get blazing hot in the summer. There’s Citywalk Mall, Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Marina Mall, Ibn Battuta Mall, Wafi Mall, Burjuman Centre, City Centre Deira, Times Square Centre, Al Bhurari Centre. Souks (marketplace) include The Springs Souk, Souk Madinat and The Old Souks.

But there are no liquor stores. You can consume liquor by the drink or wine by the bottle at hotels or clubs—or in your home—but you are not able to buy from local stores because there is no such thing as a typical U.S. style liquor license. You may apply for a tourist alcohol license which is good for 30 days. But one source I read indicated that applications are usually approved within 48 hours but then only issued “within four weeks.” My advice: stick to hotels and clubs and do not drive or even walk home while intoxicated. Public intoxication is a serious offense and even when carrying alcohol from the car to your hotel room requires that you conceal it. The beer in supermarkets is alcohol-free. If you want a bottle of vodka while you’re here, pick it up at the Duty Free shop at the airport and bring it with you to your hotel. Or, better still, take advantage of cocktail hour at the hotel and leave it at that.

Shopping at the airport upon your departure is amazing. Give yourself time; arrive early not for immigration and security but to experience what they have created: a mall-port. Precisely what I am planning on doing. I am on the hunt for a great pair of glasses or whatever else I see that I can't live without. Our suitcases are quite full. How is it that all of your things fit in the suitcase when you leave home but coming back, even if you have purchased little, its a struggle to make it all fit. Someone has been grumbling at me all morning as we pack for just such a problem. I'm not sure how it is that Paul can't see the difference between all of my black dresses. To me each is vastly different, to him they are all identical. I am chastised and told there is such a thing as laundry which means I could travel with one pair of workout pants instead of 4. I must admit, there is some logic to that. Oh well, next time. But I digress, a bad habit that I have. Let me add here that if anything ever happens to our girl you should dump your Eileen Fisher stock.

As you do all of that, the final watchword must be: Obey the rules--even those you find silly or ridiculous or cumbersome. The cry of "It's a free country," might be met with a local gaze implying that you are lacking in worldly wisdom (naïve) in a foreign country and would be better off going back home where you are somebody else's problem. Oh, and true both here and around the entire world is the adage that "Ignorance of the law is no excuse."

"Good riddance," they will say.

In 1966 (the year I graduated from high school) at the "sock hop" we all danced to the Marvelettes hit: "Don't Mess With Bill." It went like this:

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Don't mess with Bill
Now I know he's the guy who put tears in my eyes
A thousand times or more
Oh, but ev'rytime he would apologize
I loved him more than before

Here, I think it's "Don't Mess With the Sheikh." We love him even if he may put tears in our eyes.

There are Americans who chant: "America. Love it or Leave it." In the face of that, the population is divided as to what it means to "Love America." Some believe in American Exceptionalism, that America can do no wrong. There are those who believe that America has done much wrong: slavery leading that list. There are those that are quite satisfied with what and where America is today. There are others who are trying to decide where in the world they might relocate should a fascist government come to power or if evangelical extremists succeed in making Christianity the official national religion or if parental rights activists succeed in banning and burning books or if...
That doesn't exist here. They demand, not request, tolerance. Perhaps paradoxically, there is an official governmental Ministry of Tolerance whose website clearly states: "UAE is an incubator of the values of tolerance, peace, security and multiculturalism, with more than 200 nationalities enjoying decent life and respect. Accordingly, the laws of UAE guaranteed justice; respect and equality, besides it incriminated hatred, fanaticism, and causes of division and difference."

The intolerant are not tolerated.

We are curious. What do you think of all this? Your comments are both welcome and encouraged.

Posted by paulej4 13:33 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (4)

Chapter 23: Restaurants and Food

Fine Food to Fast Food--its all here

sunny 104 °F

Chapter 23: Restaurants and Food

September 23, 2022

Before we begin, we want to answer a couple of off-line questions we received: "Are you all going to talk about Iran and the protests? How does that affect those around you?" It has not been a topic of conversation here. What we know about it is what we see on the BBC. And this: "When you say someone is an Arab, what country does that mean they are from?" The answer to that is: Many. Everybody from the UAE is an Arab. The countries our client does business in: Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar; all Arabs. But there are many other countries that claim the title of "Arabs." Algeria the Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. These countries are all members of The Arab League. For the full history of all that, one has to research the Ottoman Empire.

Now, on with today's chapter.

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We have been privileged to dine or graze at several wonderful restaurants here. The One & Only at the Palm on the water, at Carine, Netsu, the Burj Al Arab, Nafoorah Al Qatar, Almas, The Arts Club Dubai (members only), Orfali Brothers and more.

Brunch is very big here but very different from the typical U.S. Sunday brunch offering. First, brunch has been a Friday afternoon affair. Now, the brunch trend is moving to Saturday. Figure on spending between $50 and $100 per person. Once you see what's on offer, you'll determine it is money well spent. We did brunch on our trip in February but skipped it on this journey.

At our hotel, TJ’s offers a brunch in the sports bar consisting of a barbecue every Saturday for $46 including soft drinks, $62 including house beverages, $108 with sparkling wine or $184 with champagne. They serve from 11 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. We peeked inside TJ's but didn't much care for the vibe so we didn't eat there. Or, go to Zuma—a sushi spot near the financial center—where the soft drink brunch is $162 or $216 with champagne. Kids are $70 each.

At our hotel, the aforementioned TJ’s is a neighborhood sports café, Shamiana is Indian (but it was 'not clean' when we went there for dinner, Paros is Mediterranean where the fish is wonderful (we ate there twice and would have dined there more if they hadn't offended me with the way they handled by request to bring a special bottle of champagne) and NONYA is Pan-Asian and the view is to die for--unless it is a hazy night and then it isn't quite so nice.)

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Food is a big deal everywhere in Dubai. This is the first year that the Michelin Guide handed out awards here. Both Il Ristorante – Niko Romito and STAY by Yannick Alléno got two stars. At STAY, the three course dinner runs a bit over $100 per person without beverages.

These were all awarded a single star: Al Muntaha, 11 Woodfire, Armani Ristorante, Hakkasan Dubai, Hoseki, Ossiano, Tasca by Jose Avillez, Torno Subito and Tresind Studio (which only seats 20 guests for dinner). I dined at Orfali with a friend here, unfortunately Paul was under the weather so i was out on thetown by myself with one of my diamond dealer friends. Orfali was just given one Michelin star. The restaurant is owned by three brothers, Mohammad, Wassim, and Omar Orfali. They are inspired chefs and passionate about their craft. The food presentation was beautiful. i'm sharing the pics so you can take this gastronomic odyssey vicariously. Orfali is not a white table cloth restaurant. It is small, a very trendy vibe, no alcohol (remember in what part of the world we are), and you have to walk outside to go to the ladies room (very odd). The meal was amazing! All this food has been great - i think. I am quite sure that my jeans are not going to get on me when i get home. It will be leggings until i get the 'trip weight' off of me. Our new scale that weighs in pounds seems to climb a pound a day - OMG!0164c5b0-3b4f-11ed-b806-b9f9eb71b2e7.jpg01098650-3b4f-11ed-b806-b9f9eb71b2e7.jpg00ede800-3b4f-11ed-a37c-4f4e3ee8b49c.jpg00ee3620-3b4f-11ed-898c-e3b79520271e.jpg00ae1fe0-3b4f-11ed-a37c-4f4e3ee8b49c.jpg

Here we have, from Orfali Brothers, a vegetarian dish, a lemon tart, wagu beef skewers, bread and cheese course and scallops.

Famous chefs abound: Gordon Ramsay has Hell’s Kitchen and Bread Street Kitchen here, Jason Atherton opened Marina Social, Kim Joinie-Maurin has Al Mahara, Nobu Matsuhisa has a Nobu here, Heinz Beck opened Social and Vineet Bhatia has Indego.

At Dubai Mall, recognizable names include a Burger King, Chili’s, Cinnabon, Dunkin’, Eataly, Five Guys, Hardees, Joe’s Crab Shack, KFC (two of them), Krispy Kreme (three), McDonald’s (two), P.F.Chang’s, Panda Chinese, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut (two), Red Lobster, Shake Shack, Starbuck’s (five), Subway (two), Texas Roadhouse, Cheesecake Factory, Tim Hortons and a Wendy’s. One of the Starbuck’s is called a Starbucks Reserve which is “a selection of the rarest, most extraordinary coffees” where “we push our own boundaries of craft, developing a unique roast for each individual lot before experimenting with coffee as an art form.”

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The normal dinner check will include at 10% service charge but tourists are often encouraged to add a bit extra if the service is good. There are Ladies Nights virtually every night of the week at various bars and clubs where women can drink either free, or very cheaply. The rooftop bar outside “Paros” here at TAJ is such a spot. But, at this time of the year, it is awfully hot up there. The restaurants and bars at the Taj truly rock on the weekends. We have stayed clear. I'm not sure what that says about us but i think it starts with our clubbing days are over.

Paul writes of the ladies nights, it may surprise you as to how progressive Dubai has become. This has been a slow process in the Middle East with Dubai likely the most progressive. It is close to anything goes. I digress to a funny story on this process of becoming more progressive. One of our associates who was a former Bulgari who had been visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In Saudi, where the morality police are no longer an issue in most places, the government decided that the Saudi's should all work and was encouraging companies to hire women and encouraging these women to work. How they did that he either don't know or didn't say. But, the story he told went on to explain, at Bulgari a woman who had been a housewife was hired and objected to being asked to clean the glass on the jewelry cases. After much conversation, the next day she brought her maid in to clean the glass for her. Why in the world did she take the job? Maybe for the employee discount? For those of you who work in retail i thought you would get a kick out of this story. Just when you thought you had heard it all......

Pricing at a fine dining venue here is similar to what one would expect to pay in the U.S.

And, as a final mention, across the road and down the block from our hotel is, get ready for this all fans of “Chef Paul’s” amazing pizza night feasts: Papa Murphy’s Pizza!

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Getting its start here a decade ago, Papa Murphy’s is about a quarter of the way to its franchisee’s goal of 100 stores. One big difference: here they deliver and they will even bake the pizza for you if you want. We were tempted to have one delivered to the hotel to see how they do it here. I called from the phone in our room. The operator said I needed to have a phone number registered but would not accept the hotel number nor my mobile number saying both were international numbers and only a local number would do. I cannot explain how the hotel number is anything but local but it does not pay to argue with a telephone pizza order taker.

I went down to the ground floor where I knew the concierge could handle the ordering for me. He got farther than I did with the telephone ordering center but my credit card number was twice rejected--no reason given. He tried to simply order it from their app. But there, we could not discern whether or not the order was placed as we wanted it to be.

I gave up and walked; it was no more than five minutes away. Everything went as it should. The pizza was good. Having said that, when I cook a Papa Murphy's Pizza it isn't merely good. It is phenomenal, monumental, awe-inspiring. Ask anybody for whom I have cooked and they will tell you it be so. Paul does cook a mean Papa Murphy's pizza and it is always a hit. It's tricky too as he has to pull the paper dish out from under the pizza and then put it back. But please don't get the idea that Paul is a chef. His repertoire of dishes is limited. If i hard boil the eggs he can peel them and make himself eggs salad with two ingredients - egg and mayo. If you want a bowl of Raisin Bran Crunch with skim milk, Paul is your guy. Bologna and cheese rolled up together, a true culinary treat. I am the chef, unless it is pizza night, and Paul cleans up, it is a very good division of labor and works for us.

Note to self: Since I clean up when she cooks, it seems only right that she cleans up when I cook. It's only fair.

Posted by paulej4 14:46 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (5)

Chapter 22: Lost in Translation

The Name Game: Shirley! Shirley, Shirley Bo-ber-ley Bo-na-na fanna Fo-fer-ley Fee-fi-mo-mer-ley Shirley! Now, let's do Ashokbala!

sunny 104 °F

Chapter 22: Lost in Translation

September 22, 2022

First, we wish you Happy Saudi National Day! We missed out on Emirati Women's Day and it is too early for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 celebrations. Each of these, as you might imagine, are of critical importance to our client's marketing department from whom we heard all morning long.SaudiNationalDay.jpgEmiratiWomensDay.jpgFIFAWorldCupQatar.jpg

I would list their names here but the names here are quite difficult for us.

For every time, there is a season. And here, for every Tommy, there is a Tejashree. To our American ear, we find ourselves incapable of remembering the names of the wonderful people we meet. (That is also true of us at home, however) We know the 'hacks' such as "repeat in your head the name of the person you have just met." But saying, "Andy" over and over again in your head after you have just met Andy is not the same as saying "Ashokbala" over and over again in your head when you didn't properly hear "Ashokbala" in the first place and can't properly pronounce it anyway.

large_503b0190-3a37-11ed-bf07-5b32f2b727ee.JPGWe have met Rajnish, Pravina, Charie, Feda, Fater, Hargovindar and Nachiket. We struggle with those names because our American brains can't seem to put them in a proper cubbyhole of pronunciation as we would or could with Bobby or Sue. For every Alex, there is an Amalraj. For every Benny there is a Binod; for every John a Juzar and for every Sarah a Sarvenaz or Senthil or Shilendhar or Suchilla or Sunil or Swapna.

When we met Shakil we rejoiced because we could relate to basketball great Shaquille O'neal. But then I found out the spelling differential. When I was introduced to Souzan, it was the same once someone spelled it for me. It's not the Susan I think it ought to be.

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When we met Christophe Bop, the visual merchandising guru here we knew we would love what he said if only we could get it all. The CEO here listed a group of six French nationals at work here and inquired of a meeting group which one had the most pronounced French accent. Christophe won. For us, we have to listen quite closely to Christophe or we miss something important. As he would say, "Voilà!"

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We have spoken before of our struggles with miscommunication. The time we wanted to shift the bathroom scale from Kilograms to Pounds (now mysteriously accomplished during our absence) so they sent someone to help us weigh our luggage. We wanted was to weigh ourselves--in pounds. Whenever we wanted "Americano" coffee rather than syrupy Arabic coffee, we struggle to make ourselves understood. Then there was the time when we wanted to understand if the mall entrance where we were being dropped off was the same as the mall entrance where we would be picked back up. The several times we tried to explain just how we would like our morning eggs cooked or how to describe the pastry variety we had so enjoyed the day before that was missing today. These are the hallmarks of international travel and for one to assume that a visit to the global metropolis called Dubai would alleviate such confusion would be nothing more than confusion itself. Unless you want to play Scrabble and the only board they have is in Arabic.

This is a place in the U.A.E.--the United Arab Emirates--that, for us at least, seems devoid of Arabs or Emiratis. We have had no contact with a true "local." They are elsewhere, in enclaves, in neighborhoods reserved for only them. We are among Indians or Brits or Pakistanis or French or Filipinos or Belgians or Seychellois or even Ugandans. We're not from here and neither is anybody else that we encounter. Maybe the reason for that is that Dubai is so close to everywhere. If you have an interest in traveling to a place, there is a good chance that Emirates Airlines has a non-stop that goes there.

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One of our favorite acquaintances is Muddassar, an accomplished trainer, who hails from Pakistan. His accent is minimal. Others, particularly Christophe and Nicholas and May (French and Arab) are more difficult for our ears to follow. B4 said it to me just now: "Anyone who has a problem with diversity had better not come here." We cannot imagine a more diverse population anywhere. We are reveling in the same thing that causes others to recoil. But, it can be difficult to understand each other.

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As we wrote only a couple of chapters ago, Russian nationals, solely due to global politics, are problematic for us. But "the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming" is more than a 1966 movie title here. The New York Time reports this morning: Tickets to visa-free destinations such as... Dubai...were either sold out for the next several days or their prices had skyrocketed. There were no one-way tickets out of Moscow to...Dubai for yesterday on an airline ticket aggregator that is popular in Russia. This uptick is being credited to Vladimir Putin's order to call up 300,000 Russian military reservists to active duty for the fight in Ukraine.

There is skepticism that all those aircraft seats are filled with tourists. Several months ago, Russia banned citizens from leaving the country with more than $10,000 in foreign currency. Locals report that Russians are asking how to incorporate in the UAE, obtain business licenses and open bank accounts, get their children into schools and find a place to live. One real estate agent, when asked by a Russian prospect what homes are available to buy, he first asks, "Where is your money?" If it is Russia, he says, "It's too late."

Of course, it isn't just thick Russian accents one hears. Clearly, the UAE is Russia's largest economic partner in the Gulf Cooperation Council, often referred to here as the GCC. But wealthy families and business owners escaping regional conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon often opt to come here as well. For the past several morning our concierge lounge breakfast venue has been visited by an Indian lady or a certain age. Finally, today we spoke. She is relocating here from Mumbai. "It's safe," she said. "And not expensive."

It's too early to credit this year's World Cup, which is being hosted by nearby Qatar beginning in November, for the influx of tourists and other visitors.

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Even so, hotel occupancy here was up more than 40 percent in comparison with the first half of 2021 but such comparisons must take COVID travel restrictions into account. Even I was not traveling internationally much during that time frame, unable to get to Sri Lanka until August. There are so many reasons to come here. French daily Le Monde, reported a year ago that prostitution, banned but tolerated, has turned Dubai into a favored destination for sex tourism in the Gulf. When walking in old town a couple of weeks ago, we did spot hundreds of cards like this on the sidewalk. In keeping with other discriminatory social mores here, reports say, "Chinese, Filipino or Indian prostitutes are of lesser value than their Central Asian counterparts, who are still less appreciated than European women, whether Russian, Ukrainian or Western." I would be shocked to be told that there was a prostitute here (and certainly not one of Arab heritage) but I have been shocked before.

We have seen no evidence of anything of the sort but we are also not out and about in the evening in areas of Dubai where that sort of thing is likely to be witnessed. Other than our encounters after dinner one evening with provocatively dressed females heading into one mall-based entertainment area and these cards on the street, the idea that this is a sex tourism destination escapes us.

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The happiest local news story of the day is this: Dubai: The life of Bharat BK, a 31-year old Nepalese father of two, who works as a car washman and earns Dh1,300 monthly ($354 U.S. Dollars), has drastically changed overnight after he bagged the top prize of Dh10 million during the 94th Mahzooz weekly raffle draw. Bharat, the top prize winner, said he does not even have a bank account to his name and the massive prize amount he won is equivalent to over 345 million Nepalese rupees. FYI: That amount is $2,722,559 USD. That is, for a Nepalese, a fortune beyond imagination. I pray the financial vultures of the world don't wrangle it away from him and that he can return to his native Nepal (if he so chooses) financially intact. "Bharat arrived in Dubai three years ago with a goal to make enough money to help him continue the treatment of his 25-year-old younger brother, who suffers from a brain tumour. His father works as a driver in India, and the father-son duo have been contributing to the medical expenses."

FYI: a ticket to the Mahzooz weekly raffle draw costs 35 AED: $9.35 U.S. To win the big prize, he had to match five out of five numbers. One wonders how a guy who earns $354 a month can afford to lay down almost ten bucks for a lottery ticket. The Mahzooz lottery web site reported it this way: Although he will receive an incredible amount of money, Bharat remains extremely humble, insisting that all he wants is to provide his family with a good life. “I am looking forward to paying off my mortgages and other bills as soon as possible”, he said. “It's important for me to set up the future of my two children aged 5 and 3 years old. This would be an incredible thing to be able to accomplish. This prize will enable me to achieve so much. It will change the lives of so many people!". Since Mahzooz started two years ago, Bharat has participated fervently without giving up hope that he would win one day.

Posted by paulej4 19:20 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (1)

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