Wednesday, May 31, 2017

miss this

As I wrap up my time in the UAE, of course I'm thinking a lot about what I will miss once I'm stateside again. The number one thing will be the people. I have been lucky enough to meet great friends and to work with remarkable colleagues. It's hard to leave them, but I will carry them with me in my heart. In addition to missing the individual people, I'll also miss the internationalism of them as a group- the values, experiences, traditions, food, humor, songs, and phrases they share every time we interact.

The second big thing I'll miss is the travel and time off. Of course I'll keep traveling, and I have a decent leave policy by US standards at Pima Community College but there's something about being situated in a tiny country with a big fat airport in a region that includes "middle" in the name that has led to some really excellent journeys to unexpected and sometimes exotic places. It'll be hard to keep up that pace and style of travel out of Tucson. It's OK, there's another kind of travel- the epic road trip- that the US lends itself to perfectly and I'm due for a bit of that.

Then there's a list of smaller things that I'll miss when I leave and some things that I'll be happy to leave behind (or maybe more accurately, a list of things that I've missed all during my 3.5 years here).

I will miss the specific soft purple color of the sky near the Burj Khalifa right after sunset as best (but not only) viewed from the garage rooftop pool at my apartment tower. I will miss having a guy who will wash my car overnight where I park it home 2 times a week for less than $30 per month. I will miss ladies' lines, fresh Arabic breads, moutabal, desert dune camping, camels- especially camels in trucks, don't know why but the sight of them lifting their heads up over the truck side to see where they're headed always makes me smile.

I will miss the way the flame trees burst into glorious orange bloom right around the time that the heat outside becomes unbearable- a kind of visual consolation prize for losers in the weather game. I will miss intricate and geometric Islamic design touches in the architecture around me, dates (the fruit) like you've never had dates before- so sweet and soft, the call to prayer sounding (when you're not right next to it but you've got a little distance), the free white sand beaches being enjoyed by all kinds of people in spring when it's snowing in other parts of the world. I will miss carpet shopping, but it's probably good for my pocketbook that I'm getting out now!

I will not miss the limited drying options on my combo washing machine/ dryer, namely "spin some water out" mode or "run for 3 hours at such a high heat that your now tiny shrunken shirts are too hot to touch" mode. I will not miss the guesswork connected with moon-sighting-dependent Islamic holidays, I am too much of a planner to ever become totally relaxed about not knowing which day a vacation will start. I will not miss the crazy and changeable road system with it's round-abouts and highway exits where there are no re-entrances and I'm constantly getting lost. I will not miss humidity. I will not miss so much mall-centric entertainment.

I am looking forward to being able to open the windows in my bedroom especially at night, to having outlets in the bathroom, and easy access to candy corns, haunted houses, pumpkins and pumpkin ale in the fall. I am looking forward to having an address and home mail delivery- though it has been incredible, I must admit, to not get junk mail. I am looking forward to pork carnitas and bahn mi and grilling in my backyard- I look forward to having a backyard!

I am so lucky to have had the chance to be here in this rapidly changing young country at this point in time and with the amazing people I've come to call my friends. It has been every bit the adventure I hoped for.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Inspiring architecture

One of the most striking things about Dubai is its skyline, the elegant needle of the Burj Khalifa double the height of any tower around it, the planes and curves, the geometric, futuristic or neo-classical facades...

Any one single building along the 12 lane highway of Sheikh Zayed Boulevard might be noteworthy but the striking skyscrapers, each with completely original features line up by the dozens and I can barely keep up for gawking. Since I moved here, I've wanted to do a post on the architecture but I've put it off again and again, waiting for the perfect photo or to learn more about an especially iconic building. I have picked up some tidbits, and have gone to some lengths to get shots of favorite examples, but I'm still daunted by the sheer numbers of remarkable buildings.

There are actually several different skylines in Dubai. Skyscrapers are clustered in a couple of areas. The area I'm most familiar with is anchored on one end by an Etisalat (telecom company) tower with a golf ball full of telecommunications equipment perched atop it (they have buildings all over the UAE with golf balls atop) and by the Dubai World Trade Center, the first skyscraper built in Dubai in the late 1970s.
golf ball atop an etisalat building
This bit of skyline makes a kind of "canyon" with a single row of towers on either side of Sheikh Zayed Boulevard (which is actually a highway rather than a boulevard.)

After the World Trade Center Tower, you pass hotel, business and apartment towers. There's a London clock tower knock off, a building with a kind of maze detail, the
iconic slant roofed pair of Emirates Towers beside the Dubai International Financial Center (more commonly just called by it's initials, DIFC). At the DIFC there's The Gate which is covered in a mesh curtain and behind, some funny buildings that resemble penguins.

Slant roofed Emirates Towers

The Gate at DIFC

Do they look like penguins to you?

There's also the Dusit Thani, a Thai hotel building supposedly designed to evoke hands pressed together at the palms in the Namaste pose.
Dusit Thani- Namaste

Right around the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa, the skyline spreads out. The Burj Khalifa has some space around it as the mall and fountain pool are quite low. A few hotel towers reach 50 and 60 stories but they seem tiny in comparison.  Business Bay, where I live, has towers following the line of the canal into the "bay" area. Highlights in this area include the Swiss Cheese building and the Ubora Tower which is narrower at the bottom and swoops up and out in a curve.

have to find my much better pic of the swiss cheese tower (white on right)

Business Bay
Heading south, this skyline area peters out right around the Marriott Marquis twin hotel towers. The Marriott towers have "knobs" on top that twinkle, I always thought of them as being like Marquise cut diamonds but I've learned that the towers structure is inspired by the date palm so maybe they are supposed to be clustered fronds or dates? Either way, it's the worlds tallest hotel.

World's tallest hotel

Also in my area, they are completing one of the last buildings designed by Dame Zaha Hadid, the famous British- Iraqi architect. It's got a very cool cut out design and curved glass walls....

As you head south a bit further you come to other clusters of skyscrapers. The most notable grouping in the Marina area. In the Marina they have the twisty building which was designed by the same architectural firm who did the Burj Khalifa and the Trump Tower in Chicago.

twisty tower
Marina skyline at night