Tuesday, March 28, 2006

United Arab Emirates | Dubai | Hotel California

My next order of business was finding a cheaper place to stay. I tried at least a dozen places and got the same answer, sorry, we are all filled up. Many of the places were jammed with Russian tour groups— big beefy guys in shorts, sandals, and “Visit Bangkok” tee-shirts and frousy blonde-haired overweight women all sun-burned to the shade of boiled lobsters. It was not an edifying sight. Finally in a back alley off Naif Street I found a place improbably named the “Hotel California.” They said if I came back in two hours they would have a free room. I went back to my first hotel and got my luggage and returned by cab. When I told the cab driver “Hotel California,” he said, “Hotel California? You must like black women.” Actually the hotel was ran by South Indians, and although there were some African businessmen staying there, I did not see any black women. The neighborhood seemed populated largely by Africans, however. Maybe the black women come out at night. Despite the unprepossessing exterior of the hotel the rooms were quite large, spotlessly clean, with frigid air-conditioning, cool tile floors, and light-colored hardwood furniture. Not bad at all.
There's plenty of room at the Hotel California . . .
Later that afternoon I walked back to the wharf and took a water taxi to the other side of the Creek. It was Friday and most stores and any many restaurants were closed.
Water Taxi Stand
The Dubai Museum, just across the street from Dubai’s main mosque, was open. The museum is state-of-the-art, with huge dioramas and multi-media exhibits on big video screens. The place was packed on this day of rest and easily a dozen or more languages could be heard echoing around the exhibition halls.
Ship Building Diorama at the Museum: the figures are actually mannikins
Sailing boat on display at the Museum
From the museum I walked down to the Majlid Gallery, which had an exhibition of nineteen-century paintings of the Mid-East done by European painters. Edward Said would have had a field day here commenting on the “Orientalist” viewpoint of the various painters. The paintings ranged in price from $50,000 to a little over million dollars.
Several were marked as already sold. I would love to see the homes in which these paintings end up hanging.

While I was there a group of at least twenty young women identically dressed in full length black robes and completely veiled in black except for the eyes came in. They were chaperoned by an older woman, also in black but with only a head scarf. The young women were students at some woman’s school in Dubai and were on an excursion. Each had very expensive designer handbags and the very latest digital cameras and video recorders. They diligently stood in front of each picture as their chaperone gave a small talk in Arabic. The first thing I always notice about any woman is her hands, and with these young women the only thing exposed was their hands and their eyes. It would be a bit impolite to stare into their eyes, but they certainly did have lovely hands: long, delicate, fine-boned fingers the color of mare’s milk, with short, perfectly trimmed finger nails and no polish. Long nails and polish are no doubt forbidden for these girls.

Popped back across the Creek by water taxi and went back to the Perfume Souk. Bought a tola (10 grams) of seven different perfumes and essential oils, four kinds of stick incense, bark of two different local trees which is burned as incense, and a carved wooden incense burner. I am now fully prepared for the Apocalypse, at least scent-wise. Checked out the Gold Souk but I am not yet sure it is time yet to cash out of dollars and into gold so I did not buy anything.
Gold necklaces — apparently just looted from the Tomb of Ur. Necklace and earrings : Eat your heart out, Ms. R!This little gold trinket cost 500,000 UAE dirhams — $136,147.
Dinner in an Iranian restaurant—eggplant stew on rice and mint tea. Later popped into the bar/coffee shop of the hotel for a double expresso. There were two irate African businessmen in white robes, both built like William "The Fridge" Perry, snapping photos of the liquor bottles behind the bar with their cell phones and sending them to their travel agent. Apparently they had been told this hotel with alcohol free, which it is not. The expensive hotel I stayed in the first night was. No alcohol served anywhere on the premises and none in the minibars in the rooms. When you checked you were told you had to go somewhere else if you wanted to drink alcohol.

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