*This is going to be a pretty heavy picture post (so not me!! YOU’RE WELCOME!!) because there is actually a lot of stuff I did that I did not talk about because this post takes a very sharp left turn into the ethical aspects of tours.. sorry in advance for my rant)
This trip to Dubai has been incredibly unexpected in a lot of different ways. I booked it on a whim, knowing that my friend Megan was still going to be working the whole week I was there. I (somewhat) prepared myself mentally that this was going to be a solo-trip for me, and I made sure to pack a lot of books. Which, the first one I was reading I finished the second day — I tried to slow down since the beginning of the trip, so that I would still have at least one book for the airport! But anyways, that’s kind of besides the point because again, this trip ended up being very unexpected, for a couple reasons:
- The Pope came to the UAE for the first time in history and so schools closed for TWO DAYS. That meant that Meg and I had two days to hang out!! It was very exciting.
- I also did a lot of things that are not very “me” during holidays — I went on this insane 50km bike trip and low key got stranded 30 mins out from Dubai, but don’t worry it all worked out! Except my legs still felt like jelly days after. I also went to Abu Dhabi and took a yoga class. Shout out to Alex for still being the best yoga teacher ever hehe.
- Megan has a puppy named Meredith and I got to become somewhat of a puppy aunt and kind of co-parent!! I have never had a puppy or dog before and I have realized that it is a lot more work than a cat — I mean, I always knew that but to actually live it made it more real to me. But it also really makes me want to get a dog. It also made me miss Meeseeks haha, as I always do when I’m on trips! Meredith is still a puppy so she pees a little when she gets excited (Like, come on, who hasn’t done that?) and one time she peed in my suitcase but honestly, I wasn’t mad at all because she is so freaking adorable with her legitimate puppy dog eyes and she is a Dachshund dog so she is just extra cute. I can’t handle it, her cuteness is unfathomable!!
- I also spent so much money. Like, I knew I was going to. But I don’t think I actually really properly prepared myself. Oops. Sorry bank accounts!
The last time I saw Megan was when we graduated Teacher’s College. I was off to Vietnam and she was off to Kuwait. Her and I are the type of friends that are incredibly like-minded and often have the best conversations about education, society, things going on in the world, etc. But of course these kind of conversations just aren’t the same when you live across the world from one another, so I was so so SO happy to be reconnected with her and be able to have our wonderful conversations again. It was interesting I think for both of us, to hear our takes on our old schools and our new schools and how education is (or is not) changing, and even though she teaches Secondary and I teach Primary, we can still find many connections between the two. Needless to say, I really missed talking to her about all of that stuff and I am so happy that we got to spend so much time together doing so.
Dubai reminds me a lot of Singapore, but this city definitely cares about showing off and wanting to be the best at everything more so than Singapore does. Actually, this could be said for all of the UAE, not just Dubai. It houses the highest tower in the world, the mosque in Abu Dhabi has the biggest marble carvings/sculptures, the Dubai metro is the longest driverless metro in the world, and Dubai has the most cranes in the world. The aesthetic of Dubai is “Hello, let me show you how much money I have.” I could not believe that every Uber and Careem (similar to Grab in Asia) that picked us up was a LEXUS. I saw Lamborghinis and Ferraris driving around too.
It’s really interesting to reflect on this trip and then think about the other countless trips I’ve taken in the past while living in SE Asia. I know how lucky I am, but I have also noticed how much more critical I’ve become of myself as a traveller and the world around me. When I went to Abu Dhabi, we went to the mosque, and obviously it was beautiful and a very wonderful experience, but it also felt like other tourists were not necessarily appreciating where they were and instead were just trying to get the perfect picture of themselves (not even of the mosque, of themselves. Eye roll). The mosque is currently free, but Alex was telling me that she has been so many times and each time there is something new about how it is run and she suspects that they are going to start charging visitors for it soon.
This is the struggle I have been starting to have the more critical I’ve become as I’ve been exposed to more places. I went on a desert safari because that’s a “must-see” thing when you go to the UAE. Is it really okay for me to pay money to go on a tour in the desert? Is the money going back into the well-being of the tour guides and the animals? Are we making places worse by building up tourism economy? I’ve always wanted to ride on a camel in the desert, which is something I did during the desert safari I was on, and I’m not going to lie it was incredibly peaceful and spectacular. But I can’t help but wonder if that was a good ethical choice? I can ask the guides if the camels are treated kindly, and the guides can decide to tell me the truth or what they think I want to hear, or maybe the answer is the same in both cases, who knows. I suppose all we can do is hope for the best and hope that those negative things that we may suspect are not actually the truth. But I think that’s a big issue when it comes to tourism is that they show tourists what they want to see, and then tourists don’t necessarily understand what happens behind the scenes.
WOW, anyways now that I have you feeling guilty for any tours you’ve ever done in your life (if you can’t tell, I’m not really a big fan of going on tours anymore) I just want to reiterate that Dubai was truly, spectacularly, over the top. But it was awesome. I tried Shake Shack for the first time (delivered right to Megan’s apartment AND the app is way better than delivery apps here in Vietnam!) and we indulged in Ladies Nights and reminisced about weird times in University and Teacher’s College. It was honestly a blast. It felt like no time had passed between Meg and I seeing each other, and aren’t those just the best kinds of friendships? The answer is yes, and also the answer is those are real friendships.
So here’s to spending all of my money in Dubai!! But don’t worry, the one thing I actually bought for myself is this beautiful pyjama top and I then proceeded to wear it out that night because it looks like a top you could wear out. I’m wearing it right now. To bed. I’ll probably wear it to work someday soon and will probably tell everyone it’s a PJ top. I’m all about multipurpose use of things, okay!!