The Gulf

I am currently in Tel Aviv and having a great time and will have a report here tomorrow, but in the meantime, I recently wrote an email to a friend about Dubai and the gulf and thought some of you may find it amusing, so am posting it here:

I was in Kathmandu, Nepal and had decided one morning that I did not want to be in Nepal any longer, so I headed to the airport. It was almost impossible to get a flight out… something I found odd and wondered why. After almost giving up, someone walked up and said, “Where you going?�. I said, “Anywhere, I just want to leave Nepal.�. He said, “You want to go to Sharjah?�

I said sure and paid him $300 cash and he hand wrote out a ticket, something that would seem very shady anywhere else, except for in Nepal!

As he was walking away I asked, “By the way, where’s Sharjah?�

He told me it is near Dubai, which was in the direction I wanted to head so I thanked him and headed off.

I flew on Air Arabia, a new low cost flyer based out of Sharjah, which I later found out, is practically part of Dubai, a short drive away (although it could be hours depending on the brutal Dubai area traffic).

The airline was very nice, had a brand new plane and everything felt great but I noticed something different about the vibe as I got on the plane.

Everyone else on the flight were men, all about 5 feet tall on average, wide-eyed and almost cattle like as a few “handlers� appeared to be herding them onto the plane.

While they all were in their 20’s and 30’s, the mood was that of an elementary school field trip as the frazzled flight attendants ran from seat to seat, telling them how to use the seat belts, to stop playing with the onboard equipment and various other instructions amongst the group who were half wide-eyed with wonder and half with looks of base fear.

As I looked at the paperwork in the hands of the man beside me I began to realize why this flight felt so unusual. He had a hand written letter in his hand stating, and I repeat word for word, “Dear to Whom It May Ever Concern, Please take notice that XXXXXX of Nepal is a contract employee to Makarrech Services Inc…�

Those that have been to places in the Gulf, like Dubai, know that there is not one person who is Arab and born in the Emirates who holds any sort of labor or basic job position. Every taxi in Dubai is driven by a Pakistani or Indian. Every retail store is attended to by a Filipina.

And every construction and basic labor and services job is done by Bangladeshis, Indians or, as I just found out, Nepalis.

The Emirates, and most of the Gulf states, have created a massive industry just surrounding their search, which appears to go deep into the villages in the Himalayas, looking for basic labor.

The flight was a lot of fun. As we took off, a process that has become all too mundane for many of us nowadays, I couldn’t help but notice all the clutching of armrests, gasps and prayer. As I later entered the bathroom, which was unlocked, although there was a Nepalese man inside peeing, I was welcomed to a completely full-of-urine toilet bowl. An apparent lack of understanding of the flushing process, no doubt.

As I flushed I could only laugh at the constant, and unrelenting pulling and pushing on the door by a passenger outside, obviously unable to grasp of the possibility that there may already be someone inside.

Upon landing, most of the passengers were again herded into various areas in the airport after which I would likely never see them again.

As I drove past various construction sites, operating at all hours of the day and night, in the 45c heat, throughout the week I couldn’t help but wonder how these men, from undoubtedly cold climates in the Himalayas, were faring.

BLACK ROBES

As per the comment, “The bazaar is populated by only a few women wearing the most severe of black robes, the sort that only leave eye slits.�

There actually is an even more severe black robe than the eye slit model. It is one I saw most often in the city of Doha in Qatar.

I was at the mall and saw many women with head to toe black robes with NO eye slit! Upon closer inspection, the material around the areas where their eyes would be is of lighter black material than the rest of the ensemble, something to which they must be very thankful for to Allah and to their husband for giving them.

If you spend enough time in areas where all the women wear these robes with just the eye slit, it is quite amazing how quickly you become attuned to becoming attracted to a woman based solely on the rough, general shape of her body and the look of only her eyes. This, no doubt, also became apparent to some of the men in the group, who quickly took care of that heinous transgression with the new style, no eye slit models.

Now that you cannot even see their eyes it becomes almost impossible to feel attracted to any but the most voluptuous of females. However, I wonder how long before it reaches its next logical step, in the form of dressing them in abstract shaped robes, such as a circular or triangle cut, or perhaps an unsexy rhombus, just to ensure that you absolutely, unquestionably cannot even discern anything about what they may look like.

One thing is certain, the last place you would want to engage in a high stakes poker game would be in the Gulf. Those non-eye slit women would be near impossible to catch on a bluff!

I spent 20 minutes at the food court of the mall awaiting like a bird watcher waiting for a rare species to come into distance, wondering how these women ate food with these contraptions.

It may have just been happenstance, but during my short attention span I never saw any of the women eat. The men they were with ate but their robed partners just seemed to sit there.

A woman beside me made a motion to half remove her head scarf numerous times, which got my heart palpitating with excitement, only to nervously put it back down.

I am not sure if my eager on looking was the reason for her shyness or if there was another reason for her to not disrobe and eat.

Later that day, as I walked along, I hoped I wasn’t the reason for her not at least getting the basic enjoyment of some mall food.