Observations of United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Driving in UAE is not as crazy as in Greece, but it does have its moments.  Most of these moments involve either speed humps, round-abouts, or both.  There are some traffic lights here, but mostly they like to have round-abouts at major intersections, so it feels like weíve been spinning to the left for half of our visit.  For the other half weíve been thrown upwards by randomly placed speed humps ranging from some with a gentle gradient to the Mt. Everest of speed humps right near the site where we work at.  All in all, these two traffic features donít seem to be conducive to the health of all the BMWs and Mercedes being piloted at high speed between (and in) cities.

We went to one movie here so far; the theatre seemed very much like an American multiplex, but the film itself was edited for content by the UAE censures.  The film (The Shanghi Kid) didnít seem to have anything particularly adult in it, but every now and then there was a sharp and sudden cut from one scene to another.  Weíll have to rent this movie sometime in the future, to see if we can figure out what was offensive about the scenes we missed.

I had my hair cut here; Angela noticed that the three barbers in the shoppe all cut hair in exactly the same way, as if theyíd all been taught by the same instructor.  They also served us sweet tea during the process, which was a nice.  It is quite possible that Angela is the first woman to step foot in their shoppe, as it seemed to be very much a male enclave.  I went early in the week, as we had seen barber shoppes on the Arab weekend (on Thursday and Friday) and they were PACKED; we figure itís customary to get your hair cut before holy days. 

The women in the UAE wear a wide variety of black robes; that sounds sarcastic, but it really isnít.  Some wear just the robe, some wear the robe and cover their faces, some cover their faces completely with a partially visible slit in their full face masks.  This looks particularly unusual if the woman happens to be near-sighted, as she will wear her glasses on the outside of the mask.

As you would probably expect, the gas in country is cheap, about 1 US Dollar per Imperial gallon (which is approximately 5 quarts).  Plus it seems most vehicles burn leaded gas.  The sporty luxury sedans are all around, of course, but so are SUVís.  A good number of all Japanese cars are popular also.

If we can judge by the students were teaching, the UAE education system has a way to go in producing fully functional adults.  They have difficulties with any abstract concepts, and even difficulties in addition and subtraction at times.  We wonder if having a whole generation of rich-from-birth adults is a good thing for a country; anything resembling manual labour or service jobs are given to Pakistani or Indian men or Phillipino and/or Eastern European women.  But we hear (in our guide book) that 20-30 years ago the only education given was memorizing the Koran, so things are definitely improving on that front.

All in all, itís fun.  There are pleasant surprises such as green trees and grass (through the magic of irrigation) with big sand dunes right behind them.  The addition of all this greenery means that birds are migrating through the UAE now much more that before.  The architecture is varied and interesting, as more or less every building as been built within the last 30 years and, of course, cost is no object.  So, itís been good to be here for about a month.