Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Monday, 2 January 2006

The Return

Well, I'm back. I had a great time viewing the country, and looking at possibilities. I figured out the difference between getting things done in Yemen and Morocco. Here in Morocco, it's about beaurocracy, a French word. You need 4 forms for everything, and everyone has to do it. I went to get a Christmas package from my mom at the package post office the other day. They send you a form, saying there is a package. If they're late in sending you the form, you get to pay. But they started new hours- now they work through lunch, and close at 1600. We work outside the city, and finish at 1510. Which gives you enough time to get there, barely. But though you may have ID, and the form that they sent you, and they have the package, they absolutely will not give you the package until you get the form stamped first, at another desk. He quits at 1510. Which means that I had to have someone from school go in with my ID while I was working to get the package.

In Yemen, it's not a matter of beaurocracy. It's more if the person behind the desk feels like it. I spent 2 hours chewing qat with the police, trying to get a permit to go by bus to Shibam Hadremowt, but they wouldn't let me, saying it was too dangerous for Westerners. I was unable to establish a enough of a relationship with them to be allowed to travel through the contested area. Which is unfortunate. It seems that 7 other tourists were kidnapped from the North at the same time as I was there, and got treated fabulously!

But for all of the hastle of travel anywhere in the country, I really enjoyed the people, culture, and language there. Having to practice classical Arabic, and having to read the signs and numbers. And there is a Wadi Dhahr, near where I was in the Hadremowt (Hadramawt), which has, by popular acclaim, the best honey in the world. I bought some from there when I was in the Hadremowt- I could only afford the third grade, and of that, maybe 4 tablespoons for 750 Riyal (200:$1)- and it is very delicious.

I flew back through Dubai, spending New Year's night in Dubai on a 17 hour layover. Less eventful than my time traveling to Yemen- where I saw that Raja (mentioned in the December archives as my favorite football team) was actually on the plane! I went back and got one of their members to sign my ticket. They were flying on their way to Dubai.

After Yemen, Dubai is such a shock. Morocco is a 2/3rds world country, but compared to Yemen, it looks 1st world. The shops in Yemen are so much more tiny, and other than the Mountain Dew (which I tried to drink up so much that I would be sick of it so I wouldn't miss it when I left) you can't there near as much as you can in Morocco. But compared to Dubai, the US looks at least 2nd world. Everything is so advanced and expensive! The only cheap place to stay- the hostel, in a shared room, for $35 a night. That's the cheapest in all of Dubai. The only 7 star hotel in the world is there, too far away for me to visit in the time I had- it costs about $50 to visit it! And rooms run into the thousands per night. There are plenty of other amazing modern technological feats as well, such as the planned tallest building in the world (pictured above), but little of the ancient culture.

I spent the time exploring these modern endeavors, including the center of Emirati culture, the mall, where they have both Starbucks and Burjer Kinj (who make a hamburger the way you want it, flame-broiled, far superior to McDonalds). And then, wonder of wonders, saw a movie in a theatre in English- King Kong. (Other than my visit to America this summer, the only time I've been able to do this in the last 2 1/2 years.) It's strange- it's a country with only about 20% Emirati. Though you saw them all over, in their distinctive white cloaks and designer abayas for women, I heard Tagalog spoken more often than Arabic. There were far more Indians and Philipino there, and when I'd ask for something in the shop, I'd be told that they didn't understand Arabic, and I'd have to ask for the same thing in English! For basically, with English, you can get everywhere you want in Dubai.

New Year's Night I found for only 1/2 an Emirati Dirham (3.7:$1) you can take the ferry across the strait that runs through Dubai. It's a flatbottomed boat, with wooden rudder, about 20 feet long- the kind that's good for calm water only. I paid double to go to the other bank and back, so that at the stroke of midnight I could be on the water, listening to the wavelets lap the boat, surrounded by Hindus and Muslims, who have different New Years than we, and so for whom the 31st of December is simply, another day of the year.

And a friend notified me of an article in the newest Aramco World. Aramco world is a sweet magazine, snailmailed anywhere in the world, for free, by Saudi Aramco, the oil company. It will never say anything bad about oil, Arabs, or Islam, but if you get past those biases, has got some great pictures and cultural information. The article set to come out is all about Sana'a, that city I just visited, and is very informative.