I've debated writing about some of the negative experiences both my friend and I encountered while in Dubai, but I'm not sure what purpose it would serve. There are good and not-so-good people everywhere. A terrible experience can be had abroad or at home. Besides, the scariest situation I've found myself was in my favorite place in the world, France.
Reading outdoors by my lonesome in Paris, several German men approached and surrounded me. Their harassment escalated from a seemingly innocent "hello, bonjour" to having them repeat the phrase "____ my ____, bitch" over and over again for what seemed like an eternity (but was probably closer to around three minutes). I sat still, my eyes lasered on the book I was then pretending to read, deep in frantic contemplation about what I would do if their words evolved to action. After getting no response, they finally departed (perhaps assuming I was deaf and taking pity on me). I left the scene as quickly as I could.
Men don't really have to deal with this while traveling.
Or in life, in general.
I suppose my surprise with Dubai was that the harassment came from women and not men.
My first day alone, I decided to hit up the beach. From my hotel, there was a free shuttle to Jumeriah which is the public swimming area close to the Burj Al Arab. It was one of THE most spectacular stretches of sand I had ever seen. The water was a stunning aqua-marine and crystal clear, which was great because I have severe paranoia about swimming in open bodies of water where I can't see what's brushing up against me. Surprisingly, there were very few people on it. I had my own vast personal space, the closest beach bum near me was at least 100 yards away. In lieu of this paradise, everyone seemed to congregate at Atlantis Resort.
A few days prior, my friend and I visited the resort which is located on the edge of Palm Island, a modern marvel of marine construction that has added 520 sq.km of private beachfront to the city of Dubai. It's pretty amazing for something constructed by man solely of sand and rock; from the air, I imagine you get a real sense of scale. From ground-level though, all that is visible are endless multi-million dollar residences and hordes of tourists clamouring to cool down at the Atlantis waterpark and/or grab a bite to eat at a restaurant bearing Gordon Ramsay's name.
The two things that stood outmost for me were:
1) This creepy Michael Jackson doll in one of the gift shops:
2) The foreign workers toiling in the heat. Much has been written about the UAE, its lack of basic human rights for migrant workers, and various labour injustices that some characterize as modern day slavery. I cannot, for certain, state that anyone I observed faced this plight. But I was cognizant that much of this future megalopolis was built off the backs of those leaving their loved ones behind to seek greater opportunity, often propelled by blind hope and faith, and often not being allowed to integrate into the place they are serving.
Rumour: you will never see a published picture of the Burj Al Arab from the vantage point of the Persian Gulf because its construction forms the largest crucifix in the Middle East (a detail not realized until near completion).