Tag Archives: dubai

honest discrimination

Discrimination has gotten a bad rap over the last generation.  It has a negative connotation when it’s not only natural but vital to our health.

Sure, there are all forms of biases.  Not only the more notable such as skin color and religion, but also social status, gender, intelligence, body type, culture, age, and a myriad of others.

Discrimination is hard-wired into the animal kingdom, not from conscious thought, but from a kind of natural selection.  Animals, including humans, tend to identify with the familiar.  We are attracted to those with overlapping qualities or complimentary characteristics.  Those who don’t fit in are filtered out, perhaps even unfairly.

several cars on both ends of each metro car are "women only" a stiff fine is levied to any man with a foot over the line

several cars on both ends of each metro car are “women only” a stiff fine is levied to any man with a foot over the line

Animals living in clans or tribes (a human trait) are innately suspicious of those they don’t know.  Our ancestors, the chimps, have been known to treat those outside their band rather harshly.

Fortunately, most of us have evolved to the point where we’ve learned not to harm those with whom we are not attracted.  Nevertheless, we use our inherent prejudices to avoid those with whom we choose not to interact, or consider detrimental.

In the USA, being a racist is slander.  It’s commonly used by media to peg those they find disagreeable.  It’s partisanship, or discrimination, at its finest.

It’s not to say that we are not attracted to differences.  In our ever-connected world, millions roam the globe seeking out dissimilarities, attracted to novelty.   Many of us have rich experiences doing so.  But we have our moments — times where we have an inability to fully connect, creating subliminal biases.

In the Arab world, whether it’s race, gender, or religion, open discrimination is alive and thriving.  In Dubai’s metro system, there are separate cars for women only.  They can ride in those cars or mixed cars with men, but men are not permitted in those allocated for women.  Local restaurants typically dedicate mixed sections for families and sections for men only.  In many supermarkets, non-Muslims have their own meat shopping area.  Forget entering Dubai with an Israeli passport, and expect problems if your passport has a stamp from that country.

Customer service -- for a (non) religious community

Customer service — for a (non) religious community

Open and honest discrimination can be healthy.  It can also be harmful if we deceive ourselves.  If a supermarket has made a section for non-Muslims, it’s a form of discrimination that we’ve deemed acceptable.  If we go about hurting or harming others due to an intolerance, it could be said to be a kind of discrimination gone awry  — a form of devolution.

We constantly make conscious and unconscious judgments, some barely noticeable and ever so slight, about everyone we see.  The question isn’t about whether we discriminate or not, it’s to what degree.  And, about how honest we are admitting so.

And yes sure, there are loads of spiritually enlightened individuals who operate in a sphere above natural selection.  It’s just not most of us.  Maybe some day.  As a species, we are working to get there.

So if we think we don’t discriminate, in all likelihood it wouldn’t be true.  But if no overt harm is done, no harm no foul.  But we’d be wise to be wary of the invert repercussions of fooling ourselves.

nihari nights

Pronounced just like it’s spelled, this stew dish is a favorite among those who like rich Pakistani and Indian food.  Mutton or beef, normally from the leg, is slow cooked for many hours over low heat yielding a semi-thick spicy gravy with meat which easily breaks apart with a fork (although nan and hands are often used).

Every trip to Dubai includes at least two nihari nights, even though many eat this traditional dish for breakfast.  There are at least three spots in the Karama section of Dubai within walking distance of each other (although you may not want to walk during the long summer months) where delicious nihari is available daily:  Ravi, Daley, and Jaffer Bhai.

somewhat oil laden, this nihari was quickly consumed at Jaffer Bhai

somewhat oil laden, this nihari was quickly consumed at Jaffer Bhai

I’m lucky enough to have been to these places with those who read and understand this type of ethnic food.  Otherwise, I’d be missing out on a unique mix of succulent dishes.

I can’t say I yearn for this dish so often, but for some reason being in Dubai spurs the yen.  If you end up there, do yourself a favor, if you are not a veg head, treat yourself to a nihari night.

One section of Ravi's menu

One section of Ravi’s menu

creekside

When I grew up, a creek was smaller than a stream, which was smaller than a river.  Creeks were something you could jump across, like a brook or a small tributary.  Not so with the Dubai Creek.  This creek, although not very long, is a body of water.  This creek carries cargo, transports people, and separates sections of this city.

Dubai Creek at Creekside

Dubai Creek at Creekside

The source of this saltwater creek is the Persian Gulf (Arabian Sea depending on which map you look at).  Barely nine miles in length, it separates Bur Dubai from Deira Dubai and has been dredged on several occasions for commercial vessels.  Four important bridges span its width, and it hides a tunnel underneath for traffic near its mouth.

Part way up the creek is a gem of a restaurant not easily found unless you are in-the-know or you stumble across it.  Opened in 2014, its name Creekside is quite appropriate.  About half of the tables are inside, the rest along the creek in front of the docking area for water taxies who haven’t yet gone on the clock.

homemade granola and yogurt -- a must try.

homemade granola and thick creamy yogurt — a must try.

Fortunately my second visit here has been during the ideal winter weather months.  Not long from now, sitting outside in this city will feel not much different from sitting in a sauna.

The other day, the morning after our long flight from Shanghai, my associate and I stopped for breakfast after our morning walk.  We found the place by accident during our prior trip several months ago. The lunch and dinner menu sounds deli, but breakfast is dynamite.  He had the eggs Benedict this time while I had the homemade granola with yogurt.  I’m no food critic, but the granola with thick creamy yogurt was one of the best I’ve ever tasted.  And the coffee was delicious, flavorful and strong.  The last visit I had the Arabic coffee french toast which was so good I was tempted to order both dishes.

a late breakfast we had the place to ourselves

a late breakfast we had the place to ourselves

One thing for certain, when I’m in Dubai during the not-so-terribly-hot months, I’ll make it a point to enjoy a relaxing, picturesque, and scrumptious breakfast at Creekside.

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map view of Dubai Creek

water taxis waiting their shift

water taxis waiting their shift

menu

just around the corner from the Dubai Museum

just around the corner from the Dubai Museum

being the creekside souk

being the creekside souk

along side creekside souvenir shopping

along side creekside souvenir shopping

a view from the creek

a view from the creek

 

Dubai

The commercial hub of the Middle East.  With good fortune, work prompted me to spend this past week in one of the hottest places (take that however you like) on this side of the globe.  Actually weather-wise, it’s been quite pleasant, shirt sleeves during the day, light jacket (maybe) in the evening.  It’s certainly not that way in the summer months when sitting outside at midnight can be like a sauna.

Since I lived here in the late 90’s, it’s changed immensely.  Add a couple of million people and billions of dollars and any city is bound to change.  But Dubai likes to do things big, including  harboring the world’s tallest building.  When I first came to Dubai, somewhere around 1990, there was a one-lane road connecting the city of Dubai to its newly established and relatively massive free zone in Jebel Ali.  The 35 km drive was nothing but desert.  Today, there are five lanes each way and if you don’t time your trip correctly, it’s a parking lot.  That same drive is now lined with high-rises, malls, and commerce.  There is also a new parallel road with at least as many lanes — always full.

the china eastern flight from the western china city of Kunming was only 7 hours, with choice of rows to dive into

the China Eastern flight from the western china city of Kunming to Dubai  was only 6 hours, with choice of unoccupied rows to dive into

Enough has been written about this city and Emirate that no expounding is needed here.  The three years of living in Dubai filled my desert-living quota.  Visits suffice without pangs of moving back.  Why wouldn’t I want to spend most of my time here?  For one thing the weather is too damn hot for half the year.  For another, it’s not a walking or bicycling friendly area.  You go places in a car, and there are just too many of them.  Thirdly, it’s not cheap.  A small unfurnished one-bedroom on the edge of the desert averages about $2,200 per month.

Still, there are millions who have transplanted themselves and call Dubai home.  Fortunately, that’s what keeps the world buzzing — different strokes for different folks.  By far the largest segment of Dubai’s population are Indians.  Without them, Dubai would collapse.

could not capture the full height of Burj Kalifa, world's tallest building

could not capture the full height of Burj Khalifa, world’s tallest building

The UAE, of which Dubai is a part, turned 43 last week on December 2, having gained its independence from Britain in 1971.  The city closed down that day (except for the malls) and celebrated with enormous fireworks at the seaside, among other celebrations across the seven emirates.

The long and short is that I’m lucky to have been connected to developing business with one of the largest retailers in the Middle East, which was the reason for this trip.  It gives me the opportunity of returning and witnessing the evolution of a booming and surreal oasis, once a lazy seaport and fishing village consisting mostly of sand dunes, turned into a playground for the well-off, and an opportunity for those bound for a better life.

old Dubai empty on their independence day

old Dubai empty on their independence day

 

down at creekside by the water taxis as a typical dhow passes

down at creekside by the water taxis as a typical dhow passes

on the man-made island of The Palm, looking back towards Dubai, with Burj Al Arab on the right and the Kalifa barely visible.

on the man-made island of The Palm, looking back towards Dubai, with Burj Al Arab on the right and the Khalifa barely visible.

the group from China who flew with me as we enjoyed the holiday morning at breakfast near the creak.

the group from China who flew with me as we enjoyed the holiday morning at breakfast near the creak.