Thursday Tidbits

Posted on December 22, 2016 under Thursday Tidbits with 2 comments

The building behind me is twisted…I’m not!

Most of you back home are in the home stretch for Christmas. I can visualize it. Most of the decorating has been done and other than last minute shopping for stocking stuffers, groceries and a liquor store run, “ all is calm, all is bright.” Oh, and there’s a good chance that you are completely exhausted, especially if you are the mother of small children.

I have to admit that if I wasn’t on Facebook or Skyping with friends back home, I wouldn’t know that it was Christmas. I don’t have a radio and I haven’t watched television for two months so I have completely missed the hype in the lead up to December 25th. It’s not “ beginning to look a lot like Christmas” in the desert. Now many of you will think I’m an old Scrooge, but I haven’t missed hearing “ The Little Drummer Boy” played about 250 times. Of course, I will miss the family get togethers and singing at midnight mass but , by and large, I am “over” the commercial aspect of the festive season.

And let’s not forget, there are a lot of people who are not joyous at this time of the year for a variety of reasons.

Please don’t hate me but what I am about to write next is NOT meant to incite your inner rage. It is contextual. I swam in the Persian Gulf earlier in the week. I wasn’t sure what the body of water was so I went back to the apartment and brought up a map of the Middle East. I am not much of a scholar nor are my geography skills very impressive. If a teacher laid out a map of this region and asked me to write the names of the countries, I would fail dismally. I see many of you shaking your heads in agreement. Most of us in Canada know that “ it’s over there somewhere.”

Through my work with the Syrian refugees, I have come to know where Syria and Lebanon are located. I have heard of the Persian Gulf before but did not realize that I am only a few hours by air from countries like Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. Many of these places continue to be in the news for all the wrong reasons. Did you see the piece on FB the other day trying to explain the impossibly complex situation in Syria? I am so grateful that Antigonish was able to help the Almasshouds find a new home while, at the same time, lamenting the tragedy that continues to unfold in their home town of Aleppo.

Matt Macdonald has been an unbelievable tour guide. We drove to Dubai earlier in the week. I have never seen so many construction cranes in my life. It is a sprawling city of 3 million or so people combining the ultra modern with the ancient.  The number one tourist attraction is no doubt the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 829.8 m ( 2722 feet ). No. I did not pay in excess of $100 Canadian to go to the top. There are many other spectacular things to see and do and if you’re weary at the end of the day, you can get a room ( the penthouse… you deserve it! ) at the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah Hotel for as little as $19,000 U.S. a night.

For someone who is not a mall person, you can imagine my consternation entering the Dubai Mall. The first challenge is just getting there. There is a very efficient rapid transit train that stops near the mall. The pedway to the mall is exactly one kilometer long. I remarked to Matt that this was by far the biggest mall that I had ever been in and wondered where it ranked worldwide. In total area, it is the largest mall in the world  at 3.77 million square feet and 1200 shops. I realize all these statistics are completely useless. You Albertans will be pleased to know that the West Edmonton Mall has the same amount of leasable space as the Dubai Mall.

We also travelled to the old part of the city to spend some time in the “souks” or markets. Dubai is famous for the gold souk, the spice souk, the textile souk and the fresh fish souk. All of these shops are housed in small alleyways and have all kinds of twists and turns. Everyone goes to the gold souk to see the world’s largest gold ring. ( 68.2 kilograms )  If you don’t care for pushy sales people, then you might want to stay clear of the souks. These men are absolutely in your face trying to sell you gold , frankincense and myrrh… and everything else imaginable. Even for a non shopper, it is quite an experience.

Any F1 fans out there? If you’re not into car racing, you won’t know what I’m talking about here. F1 or Formula 1 is the highest class of open wheel auto racing. These cars can travel to speeds exceeding 300 KPH.  The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is held every year in November. One circuit of the track covers 5.5 kilometers. Two nights a week throughout the year, the track is open to cyclists ( thousands of them ) along with joggers and walkers. We did the walk and it was an amazing spectacle to be on a world class race track.

Off to Varanasi,  India tomorrow for Christmas. It will be a sizeable culture shock going back to India and to one of the oldest cities in the world  after  experiencing the affluence of the UAE.

Thanks for reading my rants. I know I’m all over the map ( literally and figuratively ) but hopefully my travels are giving you a glimpse into the lives and cultures of other people.

Merry Christmas to one and all.                

P.S. A huge thank you to Danny, Pat and Jenna Berry for having me over for a barbeque. Friends from home… the best gift of all!


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