Tuesday, October 29, 2013

So, um, where is Dubai again?

"So..." a number of people have replied upon hearing that I'm moving to Dubai, "is that like a country or just a city or what exactly and where is it again?" I've also been asked: Is it safe? What language do they speak? Is that the place with indoor skiing? Do you have to wear a burqa? Is that where they filmed that Sex in City movie? I think I knew someone who went there and she had to get a letter of permission from her husband in order to drive a car? Can you drive a car there?  What are you doing with all of your stuff, will you ship it over? Do the police there really drive Lamborghinis?
The U.A.E. or United Arab Emirates have only been united and a country since 1971, prior to that they were tribal lands, governed by Sheiks, not especially unified, kinda tied to Great Britain, lumped together (along with Bahrain and Qatar) as The Trucial States...

The UAE is the dark pink crescent just inside the mouth of the gulf- a little hat for Oman!
There are 7 Emirates (think provinces or states): Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al-Khaimah and Umm Al-Quwain. They weren't exactly players in the world scene 45 years ago. They didn't even have an electric grid to speak of and that means no AC. In a desert. Where summertime heat and humidity is legend. (I'm still getting my brain around this humidity in the desert bit.)

Dubai- which is both the name of one of the 7 united Emirates and also the name of the city (like New York, New York)- was big in pearls until the Japanese learned to culture them which, along with some general economic depression, was a major blow to their one-export economy.

Enter some really visionary leaders in the 60s, 70s and 80s and bam! The seven emirates are united, oil helps make Abu Dhabi rich, tourism and transportation industry development gambles pay off for Dubai and now the UAE (and especially Dubai) is home to a bunch of superlatives: the world's tallest building, the world's biggest man made island, the world's first 7 star hotel, largest mall, richest horse race... the list goes on.

It's super safe, "lose your wallet in a cab and have it returned to you untouched" kind of safe.

The official language is Arabic but English is spoken widely as are Farsi, Hindi and a bunch of other languages.

Yup, indoor skiing at the mall.

No, I don't have to wear a burqa. Modest clothing at work, covered to below the elbow and below the knee with a little more leeway outside of work.

The Sex in the City movie was supposedly set in Abu Dhabi but I hear it was filmed in Morocco.

I can and will get a driver's license and buy a car and drive there. They drive on the same side of the road we do in the US.

I'm only taking a couple of loaded suitcases with me. I'm storing some things but have also been selling and giving away a lot. I get a furniture allowance a day or so after I get there and then it's off shopping to fill my apartment. There is a shipping allowance for when I return to the US with all of my Middle eastern loot!

I'll have to get back to you on the police cars, I've heard conflicting reports!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

the adventure begins

Zayed's Dubai campus- photo from an online news story
I'm off on an adventure- not just a 2 week vacation but a big, uprooting, "move to another country with some vastly different cultural norms for about 3 years" kind of adventure. I'm excited and nervous, thrilled and a little overwhelmed by everything I want and need to do in the next few months but here goes....

I have accepted a position as the Associate Director of the Library and Learning Commons at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates. I will be the day to day manager of the campus in Dubai, making frequent trips to work with colleagues at the university's other campus in Abu Dhabi. Zayed is a national women's university, dedicated to providing a "world class" education, primarily in English, for Emirati women. From what I understand, there are about 9000 students at ZU's two campuses, mostly women though the graduate programs are co-ed and they are also offering limited undergrad programming for men. It looks like I'll be manager for a staff of about 17 and when I video interviewed for the position, they mentioned that they've been called the UN of libraries! I may have a few details wrong but I'll update and correct as along the way!

I was offered the position originally about 2 months ago but thanks to an epic slew of administrata, I did not receive an official signed contract until yesterday. I had to have my graduate degree attested and for those not in the know, that means that about 236 people and John Kerry needed to sign off on it. OK, I exaggerate, but not about John Kerry. Luckily, he was able to confirm my Syracuse degree just before he turned his full attention to Syria. Crazy.

I'm selling my house, moving my cat, Butternut (first to MI for a few months and then, when I'm settled, on to Dubai), I've already given away my coffin and sorted through the Halloween costume trunk in preparation for a yard sale, my last day at Westminster will be November 15th and I start in Dubai on December 1st.