For those of you who are unfamiliar with the geography of the United Arab Emirates (and I was one until I moved here), it is a country in the Middle East which is comprised of seven emirates. They are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and Ajman. Even though Abu Dhabi is the capital and the largest (and richest) emirate, Dubai is the most populated with over 5 million people living here. Most of Abu Dhabi’s immense wealth comes from oil but Dubai gets only about 13% GDP from oil and about 70% from tourism – and so that’s why it has the most developed infrastructure (and the most malls!!). Each emirate is ruled by it’s own sheikh (always pronounced ‘shake’ and never ‘chic’), and Dubai’s is the beloved Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He’s a very forward thinking dude – when presented with the problem that Dubai had only 70km of coastline one of his advisors said they could probably add another 60km by building an island offshore; the Sheikh said (possibly with his pinky finger poised elegantly at the corner of his mouth), “Why does it have to be round??!!”. And thus was born Palm Jumeirah, and an extra 520km of coastline.
When we first got here I came with the best intentions of making a pretty big effort to learn the language of the country I was planning on living in for the next few years. I bought a book/CD lesson plan in basic Arabic and started to teach myself. I must confess that my efforts have waned as time has passed, simply because in the eight weeks that we’ve been here I have not had a conversation with a single Emirati. I could learn the language to my heart’s content, become conversationally proficient, nay fluent, and it still wouldn’t do me any good because I wouldn’t have the opportunity to use it. I suppose I could walk to up to any old National on the street and strike up a conversation, but frankly I can’t see that happening. I still intend to go ahead with my lessons though, just in case.
If I actually wanted to learn a language I could use I’d be better off learning an Indian dialect or Filipino for the people that speak these two languages make up about 70% of the entire population of Dubai. Emiratis make up close to 10%, nationals from other Arab countries make up 10% and western expats (eg. UK, USA, South Africa and Australia) make up the remaining 10%. But everyone here speaks English (to some degree) so the motivation factor is pretty low. Why bother with a new language if it’s not necessary?? Indeed. I’m thinking of learning Italian.
The Dubai Stone. No, this is not a geographical landmark in the vein of the Rock of Gibraltar. Neither is it a linguistic artefact a la The Rosettta Stone. Nope, the infamous Dubai Stone is a measure of how friggin’ easy it is to pile on the pounds here with the proliferation of amazing restaurants, brunch deals, “all you can eat” specials, and yummy cocktails on offer. I didn’t in fact quite put on a stone (for my US friends a stone = about 14 lbs), but I was well on the way. And I had to take some pretty drastic action to halt the weight gain (after all, I still have the Melbourne Stone to contend with). Yes, I did a brown rice detox!! Mmmmm mmmmm!! Of course there couldn’t be a worse time of year for this self imposed torture – the amount of food, drink and merriment being bandied about the city is incredible. Let’s just say I planned it to end the day of the office Xmas party (all brown rice and no cocktails makes Chryss an irritable girl). And since then we’ve been able to moderate our diets more as we’ve settled into our apartment and started cooking healthy, home-cooked meals instead of going out twice a day, every day. Of course we did decide to move into an area described as “the most exclusive square kilometre on earth” (let me assure you, it might be considered that one day but right now it’s the most exclusive construction site on earth.
What it means though is that there is a multitude of eateries – high end, mid-range, fast food, all types of cuisine, pubs, bars, wine and champagne lounges – all on our doorstep (within 1000m in fact) so the temptation to indulge will always be great. Insha’allah the temptation to fit into my bikini will be greater.
Merry Xmas all.
Talk to you soon
PS. I was driving around the other day and was extremely amused to see a milk truck beside me. Naturally this was no ordinary milk truck but a “Camelicious” milk truck. Oh yes, Camel Milk Goodness!! I was very sad to have not taken a photo of it to share the joy with all of you but as funny as it seemed, my life felt more important at the time. But if I’m ever in the car with David and we see it, I’ll get him to take a photo of it for sure!!!!