Wednesday, January 17, 2001
We were exhausted after the “interesting” day traveling on Tuesday, so we didn’t do much in the morning. After naps and showers we took a walk with Michele around their neighborhood while Nat spent his last morning at work before taking his semester break. They live in Al Attar Tower, one of a long row of high rise sparkling new, elegant, office and apartment buildings that line Sheik Zayed Road. To the north of this area is the intensively developed new section of the city, Bur Dubai and Dubai Creek. To the south is stark desert with construction beginning for many more new high rise buildings.
That afternoon we had our first taste of “Arabic” food. Actually, there is little actual Arabic cuisine except for dates, fish and goat meat. Most of the cuisine is borrowed and much of that is Lebanese. Nat and Michele took us to one of their favorite places, the Automatic Restaurant, which is Lebanese. The food was excellent, the service outstanding and the prices very reasonable.
It is winter in Dubai. That means clear skies, temps in the 70-80 deg F range and pleasant breezes. In the summer the skies are still clear (there are only about twenty cloudy days each year). But the temperatures typically reach 110 F or higher and are accompanied by high humidity! Even though the weather was fair, Michele excused herself from many of our activities. She is six months pregnant and has a limited amount of endurance. Since she and Nat had a fairly ambitious tour schedule in mind for us, she would usually take part of each day off.
Nat drove us the short distance to the Arabian (we say Persian) Gulf beaches. We walked shoreline and watched as a large fleet of sailing dhows finished a race. They were beautiful! It was a one way race, though, which seemed unusual. After crossing the finish line, each crew furled their sails and was taken in tow by a power boat that transported them back down to their marinas about five miles down the beach.
We then took a driving tour of the residential areas of Bur Dubai. Some of them are amazing. All residences, fancy or plain, are surrounded by a wall. It is very important in a Muslim country that men not see and be tempted by the bodies or even faces of women they are not married to. That is why the women wear their abayas and sheilas in public. At home, of course, they want to be able to relax and the wall provides the necessary privacy. There are thousands of new homes under construction. Many thousands more are newly constructed and occupied. Most are one or two story. All seem to be built from concrete block with stucco exteriors. They range from simple, 1,500 square feet or so homes with small yards to very elegant places with thousands of square feet and multiple structures within the wall. Some even include their own mosques! The most elegant are built for sheiks and are, deservedly, called palaces. Although you can look at them, there is a rule against photographing them.
We didn’t last long that night and fell asleep early.