It's nearly 1pm here in Dubai but it feels like 6am. I didn't think the time change would affect me much since it's only a three hour difference, but it has. I'm staying at my friend's apartment, which is wonderful because it's just like home. We bought a bunch of groceries yesterday, and I made a big soup. I'm still sticking to the GAPS diet and feel pretty good! This morning I did a little yoga by the rooftop pool, and then used some of the essential oils I picked up at the organic store yesterday and relaxed in a bath with a book. (Reading this memoir in preparation for our trip to India next week.)
In a way, Dubai feels a lot like Las Vegas. The weather is gorgeous right now - dry heat with temps hovering around 80 degrees. The biggest mall in the world is here, and the smaller mall (which is still bigger than any mall I've ever been to) right next door to me has an indoor ski facility. I've seen every kind of food you could ever dream up - Indian, Mexican, French, even the typical American restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen and Chilis.
But in other ways, Dubai feels nothing like anywhere I've ever been. There are reminders everywhere that you're in a Muslim country. While you can wear whatever you want at the pool of the apartment building I'm in, there are designated times for men and women. (Women can be there from 7-10am and 4-7pm and men can go at any other time.) At the mall, there are signs to cover up, though to be honest it doesn't seem too enforced. Yesterday I saw a woman in her fifties wearing a tank top with a lace back that exposed the clasp of her bra. Most people were dressed very conservatively and she did stick out a bit. I've seen reminders posted on the walls that overt signs of affection in public are not tolerated. By the beach or around the nightclubs however, anything goes. I saw everything from burqas to cleavage and thighs.
One of my absolute favorite things about this city is how it smells. I couldn't figure out what it was, but when I mentioned it to my friend she said it was oud- a scent derived from the Agarwood tree. It's like a light scent of oud floats through the air of the streets, the supermarkets, and the beaches. I hope to pick some up while I'm here.
My other favorite thing is the constant reminders of my grandmother. My grandmother was the most amazing woman. She was Lebanese and used to call certain things by their Arabic name. I grew up knowing that laban (a type of yogurt) goes over yebret (stuffed grape leaves). Whenever I travel to a new place, I love to visit their local grocery store. You can learn so much about a culture by visiting a grocery store, and I think it's the best place to pick up little gifts for people. Anyway, yesterday I stumbled into an entire aisle dedicated to laban and it made me smile, remembering my sweet grandmother with her pots of yebret.
People used to call my grandmother Ukhti. As a kid, I always thought it was a made up word, a little term of endearment, because it just sounded so funny to me. (In order to say it correctly, you have to kind of gargle the first syllable in the back of your throat.) Anyway, since being here, I learned that ukhti means sister in Arabic. How funny.
Tonight I'm looking forward to meeting up with the other presenters at this year's Dubai Yoga Festival.