The highways in the UAE appear very similar to the ones at home. We pass a car pulled over by a highway patrolman, which are parked on the side of the road periodically. My new country is made of sand. Regular trees and palm trees line both sides of the four lane highway, as well as in the median. The homes look like fortresses, palaces. You will not find wooden houses, siding or brick.
The speed limit is 120 km for cars. Buses and trucks are not to exceed 80 km. I’m sitting in the perfect spot to see ahead and to each side, directly behind the driver. I may have the best access to the air-conditioning as well. For someone who typically gets dizzy on road trips (when not driving), I am doing remarkably well. Taking advantage of the scenery helps. If I didn’t know better, I could be traveling through any of the desert states in the U.S. My current view offers shrubs across the plains accompanied by electrical lines running east to west, with occasional perpendicular lines meeting. I feel confident that I could drive this highway. The signs for Al Ain and Dubai are clear and easy to read in both Arabic and phonetically for English speakers.
To the right, I notice sand dunes sneaking up. I grab my Canon EOS Rebel T2i, switch to action mode and snap several, hoping to get a couple of clear shots. My camera is my closest companion, assigned to document my new life. I’ve already taken pictures of the beach, the city skyline, and the Grand Mosque. We’ve only just begun. Seeing the dunes spurs my interest in a “desert safari”, a popular tourist event that includes dune bashing, a short ride on a camel, dinner under the stars and bellying dancing.
Aside from the obvious cultural differences (women in abayas and/or burkas, men in kandoras), language differences (Arabic, various Asian dialects, French, and many more), and currency differences (use of Dirhams vs. dollars), life here is very westernized. At the malls, you’ll find GAP, Bath & Body, Sephora, American Eagle Outfitter, and movie theaters or cinemas. If you can’t live without American food, you don’t have to. KFC, Pizza Hut, Baskin Robbins, Wendy’s, SBarro, Subway, McDonald’s, Fudruckers, and TGIF are readily available depending on the mall you visit or the area you’re in.
more to come . . .