Friday, March 15, 2013

Country #24: United Arab Emirates

I just returned from visiting my 24th country: United Arab Emirates.

I actually had to figure out how many I have visited, and here is the full list: Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United States (38 states)

Quite amazing, really. 9 countries directly resulted from work travel, and even though all jobs have down sides, I am truly blessed with this job.

I flew from Shanghai during a 2 week IBM PureSystems Academy tour on Emirates Airlines...I highly recommend this airline to anyone. This was a fascinating country and I was very glad to have the chance to explore Dubai...the landscape and people were awesome. It was a mix of ultra modern, with extravagant-everything from tallest building to largest mall, to fanciest everything, along with the old city with no tp-toilets, dusty alleys, and ancient boats delivering workers from one side of the river to the next.

The people: I had a fairly negative stereotype of people in this region. My personal experience was so different. Even in the local areas, residents were kind, helpful, and happy. They loved their fruity drinks (maybe because alcohol is illegal they make fruit smoothies and juices very exotic?), they love their food, and it seems they are quite happy to help a many-times-lost American :-)

I went to a "Desert Safari" where we saw bedouin camp, had authentic dinner, and was entertained with dancers…a guy who spun and danced with fancy robes…and a belly dancer. Across the table was a husband/wife from Saudi Arabia, I was able to take a photo (below) of what I saw as a fascinating mix: conservative dress for the Saudi woman, holding a modern cell phone, recording the belly dancer.

I was in the Dubai Mall when the call to prayer came over the loudspeakers…everyone just started to wander into the closest prayer room…and even all the digital signs changed from ads to a mosque with arrow pointing to nearest prayer room. After we were all entertained by watching the largest fountain do its thing at the foot of the largest building.

I flew out of Dubai on Emirates Airlines again and flew RIGHT over Bagdad on to New how that area has changed.

If I were to sum up my experience in photos it would be:

Me by the 'creek', where Dubai started in 1700s as a trading village

Me by the Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world

Panorama of Downtown Dubai...Mall, Burj Khalifa, fountain

Saudi woman, Samsung Galaxy S3, Belly Dancer...mix of cultures and worlds

Since I had spent the previous week I was in Shanghai, another fascinating city, I'll leave you with one photo of my much-better-than-last-time experience:

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