Friday, February 13, 2009

Salaam Alakium from Dubai

Salaam Alakium is "hello" in Arabic but most of the people in Dubai speak English. Dubai is one of the seven United Arab Emirates located on the Persian Gulf. It is extremely modern because everything is quite new. The people were fishermen, traders, or nomads until oil was discovered in the 1960s. Oil made Dubai very rich. Everywhere we look we see new roads and buildings being constructed. People come from all over the world to work in Dubai. There are many amazing things in Dubai. They are building the tallest building in the world. They are running out of land to build on so they are creating new land in the ocean. The new lands are very imaginative. Three are groups of islands in the shape of huge palm trees but the biggest land-creating project is in the shape of a map of the world. Each individual island will have many homes, hotels, and be like a village. The have built the world's most expensive hotel.

Even though Dubai is in a desert it is possible to go snow skiing. One of their shopping malls has an area called Ski Dubai. It is very big with ski slopes so long skiers have to take a chair lift to get to the top. They also have two toboggan runs and places to slide on tubes. Because most of the people do not have cold weather clothes they provide coats, boots, mittens, ski outfits, and even the skis and snowboards.

Many people come to the United Arab Emirates to enjoy the beaches. We went to the beach in Furjairah, one of the other emirates. It was only two hours from Dubai where there is less tourism. There was a huge rock in the water not too far from shore called "Snoopy" because it looked like a sleeping "Snoopy." We enjoyed our relaxing stay at Sandy Beach. It was a great place to go snorkeling.

Another fun thing to do in Dubai is to go on a desert safari. It is exciting as the vehicles go dashing over the sand dunes. We went to the top of one of the largest dunes to watch the sunset, then went on a very short camel ride, followed by a BBQ in a traditonal nomad desert setting. There were many other people there.

Islam is the religion of Dubai and their house of worship is called a mosque. We visited Jumeirah Mosque where they explained many things about the Islamic religion. There are five main duties for Moslems: They should believe in one God, pray five times a day, give to the poor, fast (that means to go without eating from sunrise to sunset) during their holy month, and visit Mecca, their holy city, once during their lifetime. The lady explained how and why it is important to wash before praying and entering the mosque. When entering a mosque people remove their shoes.
Moslem females in the Dubai wear a long black, lightweight coat called an abaya over their regular clothes and a black scarf called a sheyla. Today many females have decorated their abayas and shelya with lace and sparkling sequins and crystals. Some of the women also wear a covering on their face. It is their choice. The men wear long white coats and a red checked scarf with a black band. The style of dress is traditional from the days when they were nomads in the desert. In fact, the men’s clothing looks like what the shepherds wear in our manger scenes at Christmastime.

Even though Dubai is very modern the Shiekhs (which means "leader" or "elder") want people to remember their history so their museums are very good and only cost $2 to visit. We learned many interesting things like how they were able to keep cool in the hot desert by creating wind towers on their houses. A wind tower is like a chimney with material inside designed to catch the wind. If the material is damp the wind blowing over it will cause evaporation creating cool air in their house.

One evening we went to a Heritage Village where ladies were cooking traditonal treats and making handicrafts. There were camel rides and a beautiful white Arab horse. They love their horses. We enjoyed watching the school girld doing traditional dances. There were many families there enjoying the cool evening.

With all the building going on we wonder what Dubai and the other emirates will look like in 20 years. We are sure it will be amazing.