I've been busy exploring and getting ready for the Dubai Yoga Festival, so I thought I'd share some photos as well as what I've learned so far.
Yesterday I talked a little about cultural difference - especially in terms of the conservative dress code that applies almost everywhere. The above posts were at each entrance of the mall, so I chose a maxi skirt, tank top, and long, loose wrap. I felt completely comfortable, and I didn't stick out at all.
Today I "bundled up" because it was raining, which hasn't happened once in three months, according to my friend who lives here and teaches at a school nearby. To clarify, it was barely a rain. More like a drizzle. And they sent the kids home early from school because of it. My friend and I are both from Connecticut, where a foot of snow wouldn't get us out of school unless there was black ice as well, and even then it'd probably just be a delayed opening. We had a good laugh about it, but apparently the drainage system isn't great here, and roads had already flooded just from the drizzle. Interesting.
The first errand of the day was to go to my friend's school to make copies of a YogaByCandace handout for the yoga festival goodie bags. The school was beautiful, the kids were adorable, and the teachers were friendly. I'm planning to do a kids' yoga class there next week, and I am really looking forward to that.
My next stop was a convention center across town. I had a bite to eat, and saw these people nearby. I was wondering what the significance of the red and white checkered headscarf was, because I noticed that some men wore them and some wore white. I've seen a few black and white checkered ones, too. The most concise answer I found was that men who wear the plain white headscarf means they haven't completed Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). Men who wear the black and white headscarf mean they have completed Hajj and are from a country with a president (like Egypt), while men wearing red and white have also completed Hajj and are from a country with a monarch (like Saudi Arabia). The headscarf is called a keffiyeh, and it's held in place by the black circular ropes called agal. The headscarf provides protection from the sun, and can be wrapped around the nose and mouth during sand storms. The long white robe is called a taub, and it's made of lightweight cotton, though during the winter it can be made of a darker, heavier material. (If anyone out there knows differently, please correct me!)
Women wear the abaya, a long black robe. Some fashionistas will have it tailored so you can see the bottoms of their soles when they walk (hello, Louboutin). Yesterday, I saw a woman wearing one that was tailored so you could see her pink skinny jeans up to her knees as she walked. I've also seen some with beautiful black beadwork on the shoulders and down the arms that shimmers when it catches the light. The hijab is the headscarf, and some women cover their nose and mouth with the niqab.
Anyway, from there I went to a small grocery store nearby to pick up some lemons, and loved checking out the foods I don't normally see. I saw quail eggs, purple eggs from the Philippines, and karela from Pakistan (a bitter gourd, apparently).
What strikes me most about being here is how safe I feel. While running errands alone I felt so safe, and when I mentioned it to my friend, she confirmed my observation. No one cat calls. No one stares. No one even looks! Even the construction workers I walked by today - sorry, I know that's stereotypical, but I'd be amazed if you're a female in the US who has walked by a construction site and not heard a cat call- even they didn't say a thing. So many people looked at me in horror when I said I was coming here, but I'm happy to report that so far it is the opposite of what they had heard. I think we get brain washed by how media depicts the Middle East. Or maybe the UAE is just very different from the rest of the Middle East? Either way, I think it's important to do your own research, and not just listen to what the news says or what you hear through word of mouth.