This was a guest post of mine written for Marginal Boundaries. To see the original post, click here.
I have to admit, I had never entertained the idea of ever going to the Middle East in my lifetime. Considering the hostilities that have entrenched that part of the world for a while now, along with the unfortunate assumptions Americans have made as a result, many people absolutely miss what is one of the most culturally rich regions on the planet. I was the last to believe that I had been presented with a last-minute opportunity to board a plane in Denver that would take me into Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, but I am glad I seized it.
I fortunately was very close with someone who had done some contract work overseas in Afghanistan, and he was relocated temporarily to Dubai during some work changes. He was supposing, as was I, that he would only be there for a week or two, at the very most. But upon realizing it was closing in on a month and he was still living at a resort in Dubai, the idea came about that I should go visit. And why not—I only had a few shifts to have covered at my job with the prospect, and the trip was promised to be cost-free for me (I know, lucky girl).
The most exciting part about this trip is that upon believing it would maybe be too risky job-wise to hop a plane last minute to Dubai, and then deciding it was not going to happen, I found myself nevertheless purchasing a ticket the next morning, with only twenty minutes for a shower and a quick pack in order to get to the airport on time. Talk about exhilarating!
While sitting on a plane for 20 hours isn’t exactly the highlight of a trip the only good news is I was so excited to be in the middle of this unplanned adventure that the flight passed by considerably faster than I had believed it would. Upon arriving into the airport, I made sure to be polite going through customs, and I made sure to purchase alcohol at the duty-free store. I was visiting during what was Labor Day week here in 2010 in the States, which happens to fall during the holy week of Ramadan for the Muslim countries. I knew we could enjoy some adult beverages within the comfort and confines of our hotel room, as well as by the pool at the resort, but other than that it was going to be a dry trip. When I arrived I was ready for my very much needed shower and overall decompression, as I was out of sorts after traveling so last-minute and with such a limited amount of time for preparation.
Firstly, I could not believe the humidity and heat that welcomed me into Dubai. Although my northern Colorado location now feels similar, being in the desert during what is considered to still be a summer month was nothing short of physically miserable. The good news was that every taxi/private car was heavily air-conditioned. The only time I had to be outside was to walk to and from one of these vehicles (whew!).
I found Dubai to be a magical city for many reasons, but the first and most prominent thing was the incredible hospitality and grandeur that accompanied my hotel stay. This was no normal hotel; my friend was staying at the Royal Meridien Resort, which is a five-star palace (just about). The mini bar was stocked daily, room service was available around the clock, as well as service by the pool, we had our own butler who greeted us every morning, asking what our plans were, and even if he could open the curtains for us.
The hospitality and customer service these people offer in Dubai rivals what we have here in America, and is a far cry from the daily news that would have you believe that the Middle East is some backwards, repressed section of the planet where people still live in caves and tents. Granted, this is Dubai, known for being one of the most opulent cities on the globe, but even so the people were the kindest, most courteous and helpful people I had ever come across. Our butler rang our room phone every night to know what our dinner plans were, and if he could make any suggestions. And did I mention the in-house dry cleaning that arrived sealed in a leather box? I know, amazing!
My place of stay was just the beginning of what I was to experience in this beautiful Middle Eastern country. To be continued…