Monday, April 27, 2009

On the Khaleej

3/24/09, Abu Dhabi

"Be steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity, and never let the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: (for) that is closest to piety. . .God has promised forgiveness and a great reward to those who believe and do deeds of righteousness." The Noble Quran, 5:8-9

There is so much that you can’t learn from a book or a phone conversation, so much learning and understanding that requires you to just be, be present. Although I have strongly held this belief in the past, it is nice and necessary to be reminded of this axiom in my travels. From Beirut, to Cairo, to Muscat, and finally, to Abu Dhabi; it has been the conversations in Toyota Prados, wondering looks at a coffee shop in downtown Beirut or out of a cab in Cairo, and questions posed walking through Marina Mall that have greatly enhanced my understanding of the cities I have been visiting and the people I have been meeting.

It’s interesting how Abu Dhabi, by virtue of it’s association with the yogurt cup Las Vegas of the Middle East, has garnered an international reputation that regards its accelerated expansion as indication of a diluting of culture and distancing from tradition. Some how culture has died, been cremated and had its ashes spread across the rubble that remains from skyscraper construction. Yesterday morning proved otherwise.

My aunt took me to the Mena first thing in the morning. The intention was to shop for some fresh seafood at the fish market by the bahar. Before we did this, she drove through the adjacent fruit and vegetable market, some imported, and some organically grown on neighboring farms. Next, at the fish market we selected from Sultan ahmar and shrimp, had them cleaned and left them to be grilled while we touring around the plant and flower market. Oversized Tunjaras and stirring spoons were piled on top of each other and varying spices were stuffed into label-less plastic bags on top of each other. Was this the same Emirates much derided for its “plastic-ness,” for a hollowed out soul filled with skyscappers? 

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