describing Dubai for my folk at home, especially for Kiley

When I first told my mother I was going to Dubai for Spring Break, the first thing she asked me was, “Are you going toward upheaval?”  After (laughing &) answering her “no,” she then asked me if I were traveling with a group.  Again, I answered “no.”  I totally get my mother’s concern (& ignorance), for, like her, I’m not world traveled–& with the exception of a few creative non-fiction essays & side conversations with friends who receive the daily news–I don’t really know much about what is happening outside of the United States.  Hell, I don’t know much about what is going on inside the United States.  So, while I knew (only because the friend I was visiting there had already informed me) I wasn’t traveling into upheaval–I admittedly knew NOTHING about Dubai, had not heard of it until my friend relocated there, & was not really interested in visiting.  Like my mother, I am not so attracted to traveling the world–though I’d like to see the Pyramids as well as the Maasai Tribes.  I wouldn’t mind visiting Athens, Greece either, only because I am interested in Socrates, Plato & ’em.  Anyway, I knew I was going to the “desert,” but my friend assured me that  Dubai was just like the United States, but more expensive.  Worry not, I’d be able to pay with plastic & eat good food.  Ha.  So, without googling & wikipedia-ing the emirate/city, I boarded a 13-hour flight to Dubai, UAE.  & what I saw when I got there, is that with the exception of visible Arabic writing, traditional Islamic garb, & Fridays off for prayer, Dubai–the 22nd most expensive city in the world that was founded in 1799, first mentioned in 1095 AD, & gained independence 43 years ago–was “designed,” if you will, by Quentin Tarantino’s Django.

Django is one of my favorite film characters, because he is courageously stylish & over the top–in his clothing, his dialogue, & his rescue.  My students would say, “He was doing the most.”  Undoubtedly, Django was, right?  & he should have been “doing the most,” for he was enslaved & separated from his wife Broomhilda for so long, that once King Schultz “rescues” him, Django wastes no time in asserting his humanity–which begins when Django chooses his own clothing.  You see, I strongly believe for most black men–especially those of the hip-hop era–that fantastical clothing encourages a braggadocio that otherwise lies dormant in an America that historically stripped African Americans of their humanity.  & so, I imagine that Django–the Django that chose a  blue Fauntleroy suit as an exercise in his freedom to express his humanity–designed Dubai.  For, Dubai is an exaggeration of Miami, New York, & Las Vegas–sans the casinos, of course.

Like Miami, Dubai’s complete with Palm trees, beaches, tourism, malls, & foreigners.  However, one will not likely run into Cubans, Jamaicans, or Haitians there.  Instead, Dubai is populated with Indian, Emirates, Pakistanis, Filipinos & others on that side near the Middle East.  Also, while Miami has Lincoln Road, Dubai has The Walk at Jumeriah Beach.  But, Lincoln Road is more established than The Walk, which makes Lincoln Road a better shopping experience.  & Dubai’s mall districts are just as–actually, more– congested than Adventura and Pembroke Pines.  Its malls, complete with ski lifts and slopes, seaquariums, video arcades, movie theatres, restaurants upon restaurants, & luxury stores upon luxury stores, truly minimizes every major mall in Miami into strip malls–flea markets.  Real story.  & like any major city, traffic is a beast in Dubai.  As a passenger riding through its major highways, I felt like I was riding through Time Square, sans Broadway.

Big, bright, bold advertisements are EVERYwhere in Dubai. With the exception of those in Hong Kong, I have never seen advertisements so luminous, so big, so in yo face.  They are everywhere–& they are GIANT.  On American highways where I’m used to seeing road signs & speed limits, toll warnings & car pool directives, in Dubai, highways include all of that, along with advertisements–building size advertisements–of Donald Trump’s real estate, Adidas foot wear, & Nivea lotion.  I had never seen advertisements that stretch out like The Wall of China across busy highways.  (Clearly, capitalism in Dubai trumps conservatism.)  Like New York, Dubai is also the place for good eating & sightseeing; the tallest building in the world is there, along with Tribes, an African restaurant in the Mall of the Emirates that offered me the tastiest coconut rice & curried fish, the sexiest ambiance, & the most enthusiastic African drumming.  Yes! I absolutely enjoyed my eating experiences–especially, too, since every restaurant in Dubai offered soda water.  Thank you, Dubai.

& finally, like Las Vegas, Dubai is filled with entertainment, prostitution, & late nights.  Perhaps “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” also applies to Dubai?  While I did not partake in prostitution & late nights, I did enjoy Dubai’s water fountain show.  I lucked up & was able to experience a show that included Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Of course, it was a thrilling experience.  (Oh, Michael.) When my friend suggested I see Dubai’s water fountain show, I didn’t know what to expect.  I thought I’d see something like the “shows” shoppers catch at Adventura Mall, Miami.  The water gets so high in the fountain across from the Apple Store, when it comes crashing down, mist lightly showers those standing around the fountain.  My 5-year-old niece use to be afraid to get close to it.  However, Dubai’s water fountain show made Adventura’s fountain look like a sprout.  Ha.  Its water show, I imagine, is much like Vegas’ Fountains of Bellagio–tho I have never seen a Vegas water show.  Nevertheless, the three water shows I witnessed in Dubai were fabulous & absolutely amazing.  & of course, while Dubai isn’t lined with casinos, it is lined with beautiful, gaudy hotels–one of which is pyramid shaped like the Luxor Las Vegas.

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I wasn’t in Dubai for long–only for about five days actually.  (My friend took me to Sri Lanka–that blog is forthcoming–during my Dubai visit.)  & so, I was able only to see Dubai, not truly be in it.  & that’s what visiting other places really is–seeing.  Until one actually absorbs herself into the culture as a native of sorts, all there is is seeing.  So, I saw Dubai, & as one of its advertisements boasted, it is–seemingly– “The World’s Capital.”

While in Dubai (Today’s World Women’s Day)

I was sitting in a coffee shop at The Walk on Jumeirah Beach Residence when I realized (thanks to Google) that today’s World Women’s Day.  As a tourist in Dubai, UAE, where women are second class citizens, I thought about what World Women’s Day means for Arabic women–the traditional ones, especially–who wear the abāyah & the niqāb.  I mostly thought about their bodies–how confided their breasts were, how tucked in their hair was, & how covered their skin was.  With the exception of an occasional nose ring, I saw no jewelry on them.  I don’t even remember their purses and shoes–although I know they had them.  & while I understand that these Muslim women’s long black robes and headdresses are “shields” that, according to the Quran, protect them from the world by covering intimate parts of the body, I was focused on this idea of freedom–of women’s rights to burn bras & wear pants–to get funky hairdos–& to do it all publicly.

I’m not quite sure–for I am still processing–why I imagine that these Muslim women aren’t “free.”  After all, Orthodox Jews, Amish, Tibetan Monks, et al. have customary clothing.  & even Arabic men wear long white robes (very much like Jesus).  But, I think because the abāyah & the niqāb (that I saw in Dubai) are black, & because the niqāb conceals the entire head except for the eyes, these Muslim women’s bodies appear less liberated, some how more confined than the bodies of others who prescribe–faithfully–to a particular religion.

Maybe if the abāyah & the niqāb were a canary yellow or a periwinkle blue or a moss green, these Muslim women’s body would dance, if you will, signifying a liberation movement akin to Alvin Ailey’s “From Before.”  Colorfully dressed, these traditionally dressed Muslim women would look like flowers, I think, sitting, standing, walking beside their white-dressed men.  Or, they’d look like Black women mothers belonging to a Missionary Baptist church.  & that would be ok too.  But, these desert women are clad in all black everything–which is both Lupe Fiasco & Black Panther hip–& therefore, is cool all by itself.  However, I’m pretty sure they are not carrying that particular spirit with them–or maybe they are?

Anyway, so I’m sitting in a coffee shop, sipping on an amaretto soy cafe latte, wearing a tank top & jean shorts that revealed my tattooed body, flossing three leather Pandora bracelets, three rings (plus a toe ring), & a red & black rosary.  I’m sporting a ‘fro hawk of sorts with a fat part up the side (which perhaps contributed to this Arab brother mistaking me for a boy when I entered the women’s bathroom at the airport last night), & I–a bit excessive in my dress–am thinking about World Women’s Day in Dubai.  What does it mean to be a woman in a space where I exit the airport & there are two waiting areas outside of Baggage Claim: One marked “Women” & another marked “Men”? What does it mean to be a woman in Dubai where pink taxi cabs are assigned to women drivers–who, in 2007–earned the freedom to drive women passengers & their families? And what does it mean to be a lesbian woman in a place where homosexual behavior is forbidden?

I’ve been thinking on this for two days now (as this post is becoming outdated), & John Lennon’s 1972 song, “Woman is the Nigger of the World,” continues to beckon me.  I don’t know if these Arabic women feel like “niggers” in the slave, slave master sense of the word, ’cause I think only slaves can understand that dichotomy.  & why would they feel like slaves or “niggers” anyway considering that they have chosen to follow Islamic doctrine, right? However, these Arabic women dressed in their traditional black robes cause me to stare–much like those who stare at (& marginalize) Black skin.  & of course, my wanting their black robes to be colored Easter kinda makes me a contributing voice to woman’s oppression.  Folks always trying to make a woman look, act, and sound soft, petite, & inviting.

Sigh.  I am absolutely lost in my thoughts.