Is there a question?
After watching this movie some years ago, I vowed never to go to Abu Dhabi. I have since learned that it was filmed in Morocco but still the apparent luxury of the Emirate cities deterred any desire to visit.
I assumed it would be like Las Vegas on steroids.
I was right.
Before moving to Saudi Arabia, some people asked if I would visit Dubai. At that time, I was living in Las Vegas and told everyone there was no need to go to such a city. I liked simplicity and was looking forward to moving into my simple little fishing town/university somewhere between the sea and the desert.
Of course I could not have been more wrong about where I was moving to. There is nothing simple about KAUST. We practically live in a resort.
There are many things about KAUST I was not expecting, such as the grandeur of the buildings and laboratories or the fact that almost everything is taken care of for you, (everything except maintaining your own sanity). I expected a lack of alcohol and dance clubs at KAUST but I was not expecting to miss those particular things so much. After living there for some months, I finally understood why places like Las Vegas exist. Somehow the world must maintain its balance.
Our trip to Dubai happened to be a layover on our way to Taiwan for a conference. We would have a little less than 24 hours in this glitzy city and best of all, I would be seeing a friend who was now living there. Gjiro had moved to Dubai a little after I had moved to Saudi. I knew I would run into her eventually.
We made some arrangements before the trip, informing Gjiro of our itinerary and buying five tickets to the water park. Diego wanted to make reservations at a seven star restaurant in this hotel. I was not sure we could afford it, even with our oil money. Once we arrived and met Gjiro, she quickly brought us down to earth. She told us that if you merely wanted to walk in, you would have to pay for that. So the story of expensive places was true but so was the story of normal and affordable places as she told us what she had planned for us instead. It was beginning to feel more familiar. Vegas and Dubai are both rapidly built cities in places where they should not exist. Yet there they are in all of their ostentation for the world to see. But they are also made up of people, normal people who build their normal lives.
After Gjiro fetched us from the airport, we went to her apartment to chat and relax. From there we headed to the Atlantis waterpark which is by far the fanciest waterpark I have ever seen. For someone who has never been to the middle east, the sight of a bikini clad woman walking side by side a burqini clad woman might be a funny juxtaposition.
We definitely had a lot of fun, the rides making me feel like a kid. Once we had our fill of water slides, we headed back to Gjiro’s where we showered and got ready for the night. After dinner, it was back toward the palm tree island where we would be watching the game between Germany and Ghana under a tent. Gjiro is from Germany so out of respect, I cheered for her team but we all secretly wanted Ghana to take that game.
Dubai is a good place if you are having mini-skirt withdrawals. Apparently it is also a good place to meet Saudi princes with ferraris but that is not my story to tell…