Saturday, February 28, 2009

Just wanted to let everyone know I made it safely back from Turkey. It was a great trip and Istanbul is BEAUTIFUL! I can't wait to go back! I won't have time to write about it until probably later this week (midterms, papers, etc. must take precedence...) but I'll try my best to update before I leave for Jordan on the 7th!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Oh, Mr. Sandman...

Once again the weather in Dubai has decided to turn freakish. This time instead of floods of biblical proportions, the Emirates have been graced with a sandstorm. Yeah. A sandstorm. North-westerly winds have been blowing hard since last night, apparently from high atmospheric pressure over Saudi Arabia and low atmospheric pressure over Iran. The wind has kicked up sand, making the air gritty and visibility terrible. The sky is also a depressing dryer-lint shade of gray. I heard it is supposed to continue at least through tomorrow. Here's a link to the story about it in Gulf News:

Also, here is a link to another story in Gulf News, which I found completely and utterly hilarious: A man flying from Dubai to Melbourne smuggled live pigeons on the plane... in his pants!

There was a lecture on campus this week sponsored by the Islamic Club. It was called "Evolution Deceit and the Fact of Creation". I went to it. It was a crazy Turkish man using misrepresented and out of context quotations from everyone from Charles Darwin to Adolf Hitler to prove that evolution was not real. He showed a video of Richard Dawkins being asked about evolution and stopped the video before Dawkins gave a response, and then used it as evidence against evolution. It was ridiculous, and totally non-academic (including his reference to Harvard University spelled "Harward Univercity", among other egregious errors).

Also, I think I have officially seen the most ridiculous car in Dubai. Sure, you see plenty of Bentleys, Maseratis, Porches, Maybachs, etc. I think something like 17 or 27 percent of the world's Range Rovers are here, too, but I saw the dumbest one EVER at JBR the other day. It was a Range with a matte hot pink paint job and Swarovski crystal details. It was also driven by two men, which came as something of a surprise, but hey, to each his own, right?

Allllso..... I've just been informed by a friend from home that an article about my study in Dubai ran in the Indiana Daily Student today. I did the interview for it a week or so ago. Anyway... its not very interesting, but you can read it if you like:

That's all for now. I'm trying to be a more conscientious blogger. I'll leave you with some pictures. Happy Valentine's Day!

Malibu Barbie's Range Rover cruisin' in JBR
Crazy thing (I don't know what it is, I want to say it fell from outer space) that washed up on the beach last week. Notice the Atlantis (reddish building on the left) in the background-- that's the Palm Island.
Part of the "Fossils Exhibit" from the "Evolution Deceit and the Fact of Creation" lecture. We all got free "Miracles of the Quran" CDs as party favors. I haven't played mine yet.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I'm quickly learning that perhaps I'm not the biggest fan of blogging... sorry, Mom. There's always so much going on that I feel like its impossible to get all my thoughts organized and written down. On the other hand, though, maybe I'll be glad for these reflections one day, when I'm old and overly nostalgic about my youth. Yuck... Anyway....

Sometimes I walk around Dubai and I forget I'm in the Middle East. Just looking out my window I see advertisements for Nokia, CNN, Leo Burnett Group, Sony Ericsson and a Radisson. I eat at places like Subway and Quiznos more often than I eat schwarma or hummus, and I'm certainly not making any use of the Arabic I'm supposed to be learning. It is only when I zoom in a little closer and see men in their dishdashas and women in their abaayas, or try to go somewhere on a Friday during the day (when EVERYTHING is closed) that I realize that I am in fact in another country and another culture altogether. My weekend border-run to Muscat, Oman (now two weekends ago) was a pleasant little reminder that I am, in fact, quite far from home and am, indeed, in the Middle East.

We took a bus there. I think it was 110 Dirham round trip, which is like $30.00, so you'd be correct to assume that it was a little bit shady. Not wanting to break suit, we spent the night at an equally glamorous hotel not too far from the bus station. The day we got in we took a cab out to another part of town, where the Muscat Festival was going on. We walked along the beach for a little while, just taking it in. It was a really gorgeous day, and the beaches were awesome... that is until I almost walked on some dead fish that were lying in the sand... at that point I (may or may not have flipped out and) was done with the beach. We found out way to the Muscat Festival, which was WAY farther away than we'd estimated from the map, but of course we didn't realize that until we'd already walked a really long way. Walking places in Muscat is a lot like walking places in Dubai-- totally hampered by construction, with sidewalks mysteriously ending and reappearing at random intervals, among other lovely traits.

Once we finally did get to the Festival we were greeted by the most RIDICULOUS display of flashing lights ever seen. I'm pretty sure my new dream job is to be the lighting designer for the Muscat Festival. Every surface imaginable was strewn with strands and strands of bright, multi-colored flashing lights. Probably enough to cause seizures. It was awesome! Besides lights, the festival had rides, games, shops, performers, tons of food, more food, fireworks, and awesome people-watching. Aside from our group of nine, I think I only saw two other Westerners there. Its so interesting to watch the way people interact here. Families, men with each other, men toward women, women with each other. Everything. Maybe some of it has to do with my Western conception of Arab Muslims, but I find it SO interesting. After the Muscat Festival, we found our way to Trader Vic's bar (There are a couple in Dubai, and I think they are in the States, too) and walked around outside a little bit. The night life in Muscat is very different from that of Dubai in that there is none. Really, we only found the one bar, and there was no one out past about 11:00. Right now its 12:30 and I can hear the bar at the hotel across from my dorm bumpin' at full blast, and will continue to hear it until about 3:30 (bars here all close about then).

The next morning only three of our nine made it out to Old Muscat. We did a walking tour (thank you Lonely Planet) and saw some really cool stuff. Muscat is in the Hajar mountains, in kind of a valley and is surrounded by old Portuguese forts from the 1580s. Very cool. We started out walking through the Mutra souks and the fish market (yuck), saw the marina and the gorgeous blue water, got lunch by the souks, then walked out to see various forts, all built into the mountains surrounding the city. Most of them were closed off, but we climbed up one that was an old watchtower right over the water. Very cool! Muscat is very green and pretty, with tons of flowers. Seeing that, and the mountains all around made me think of The Sound of Music a little bit. The walk along the marina had a very European feel, but still managed to maintain that Middle Eastern vibe at the same time. We saw the harbor, which was probably one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. The Gulf of Oman is really really beautiful. The water is so clear you can see schools of fish swimming in it. The mountains in the harbor have been "graffitied" over the years by visiting ships that pull in. We saw the Sultan's palace and a huge white building that was actually a giant incense burner...

Which brings me to my next point: Oud. I cannot fully express in words how much I totally and completely detest Oud. Its this perfume Arabs wear and burn as incense. I think it comes from a tree fungus (not kidding). It smells like musk and gagging and death. And not only do people wear it often, they wear it in mass quantities, like enough to fill an entire classroom with the smell for an hour. I don't understand.

Anyway, we finished out the day in Mutra, took a cab back to our luxury accommodations, met up with the rest of the group, grabbed a quick lunch and got back on the bus. Oh and about cabs in Oman, they aren't metered, so you have to stand in the road negotiating a price with the driver before getting in. That's interesting, especially because most of them only speak Arabic. Its also interesting to try to decipher peoples' accents and dialects there, as they are much different than those you learn in formal Arabic classes. Cabs are also much more expensive in Muscat than in Dubai, which I feel is ridiculous, as everything else is so much cheaper. Anyway, the bus ride home was unevnetful, and I couldn't believe how glad I was to find myself back in Dubai. For as ridiculous as this city is, it has come to feel comfortable, on some level, in some way, like home.

From top to bottom: entrance to the Muscat Festival, roundabout in old Muscat, the Sultan's palace, me in front of the Gulf of Oman (with the giant incense burner and Portuguese forts from the 1580s in the background), the harbor, men fishing in the Gulf in front of one of the forts.

I might have already written this, but I'm going to Jordan for spring break and am REALLLLLY excited to geek out at ancient Roman ruins and Petra (which we may tour on HORSEBACK!). I'm also in the market for a cheap flight to Istanbul, and Bahrain is hopefully going to factor in somewhere as well.

Love and miss you all! I'm off to the beach!!