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  • Writer's pictureBlaine Hoppenrath

Same, Same but Different

Dubai was nothing like I expected it to be. Okay, maybe a little, but besides the tall buildings that's pretty much it. I thought it would be a walk-able city, I thought it would be a historical city, and I thought it would be more conservative than what it was. But its pretty much the Las Vegas of the Middle East. And I am lucky enough to have an old friend (Brad) host me for the long weekend.

Brad lives in the area known as JBR

I arrived in Dubai about 7:30 PM on a Thursday, Brad was kind enough to pick me up from the airport because even though he said that everyone speaks English, I didn't believe him. I really thought that I wouldn't be able to get around since I know exactly zero words in Arabic. Turns out I would have easily made it to his place, but he also had a friend (Tomas) also staying with him.

The first night we headed to a bar/club (somewhere in the middle) called Lock, Stock & Barrel (LSB). It was a pretty accurate glimpse into the lifestyle of Dubai, a mix of booze and ex-pats. I felt only slightly out of place as I didn't even blow dry my hair (typical me) and everyone else was dressed to the nines. But it was a great time to get a few drinks, dance a little, and return back to the apartment to smoke some shisha on a 32nd floor balcony overlooking the Palms and the Persian Gulf at night.

The next day was pretty much 100% have a good time. Apparently, I found out that Friday brunch is a really big deal that typically consists of a pool, some bullfrogs (a drink not the actually frog), and a really good time. I made it from 11AM to about 8PM (which considering how much of a non-drinker I am these days was quite a good turnout). It was good to let loose for a day and enjoy the pool and the beach.

On Saturday we chilled in the morning and then went to the Souk in the afternoon. We walked around the markets for a while, took a ride in Dubai Creek and then headed to the Dubai Mall for dinner. We wound up in the Spice Souk and that place was a smell overload. I particularly enjoyed the colors of all the spices but going into one of the shops my nose almost couldn't handle it. I did enjoy the frankincense the most though! Brad also decided that we needed some Snow Cones which I haven't indulged in for years and throughly enjoyed. Tomas wasn't as impressed by the sugar and ice combo, but to each his own.

After we left the market and headed to the mall we walked through the largest mall in the world (sorry MOA fans this mall took it up a notch). It is simply amazing the pure amount of space this mall makes up, its incredible. Not only that but it's part of the same complex as the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world). Most of you know that I think that nature creates the best landscapes, but human engineering is pretty phenomenal from time to time. The Burj Khalifa dwarfs every skyscraper in its vicinity. It would make the skyline of New York seem borderline unimpressive. Much less this building was built on SAND. Its nuts. Pretty impressive sight to see.

The next day we made our way to Abu Dhabi to visit the Grand Mosque. This building was stunningly beautiful. It took 10 years to build and was completed in 2007, making it just over 10 years old. It can hold a little over 40,000 people, and its simply a gorgeous building. The three of us arrived (through separate entrances) and I was require to wear an abaya. And I understand that the culture is different, and I knew that it was probably going to happen, but the fact the guys walked in and I had to cover up (mind you I was wearing jeans and a loose fitting shirt), just put me in a bad mood. I know, I know it shouldn't have but it's one thing to know that parts of the world there are certain expectations of women, and another thing to experience it.

On Monday, Brad had to work but Tomas and I made our way out to the desert to do some four wheeling and dune bashing. Originally, I wanted to ride a camel but then realized that it was sort of like a pony ride at the zoo, great for 8 years olds and not 28 year olds. So I stuck to the motorized sports. The desert in the Middle East is so different than my desert in New Mexico. In New Mexico there is life in the desert, this was just dune after dune after dune giving it more of a wasteland vibe. I had been to Great Sand Dunes in Colorado and White Sands down in Las Cruces and these dunes were nothing like what I was used to. The dunes in the states are more finite where these were just infinite.

The desert was a great reminder that we are all connected. A desert is a desert, the are the same but different. Its amazing to get to experience new landscapes and related them to home to see the similarities and the differences. It's the same with people. At the end of the day we are all people, we have similarities and we have differences and thats perfectly okay, and amazing. The world would suck if we were all the same. We can all coexist and thrive off each other. These days it seems like we forget that sometimes.

That night (and my last night in Dubai) we had dinner at Madinat Jumeriah with an unreal view of the Burj Al Arab. It was a great way to spend the night. A couple of Americans, a couple of Cypriots, and a Swede enjoying some brews and conversation. It was the epitome of Dubai, a modern city filled with people from around the world. It doesn't get much better than that.

I am so fortunate to have been able to take a relatively short trip to the Middle East. It was nothing like I thought it was going to be, but to get to spend time with old and new friends was pretty amazing. A huge shout out to Brad for letting me crash a couple of nights because I never would have gone there if he hadn't lived there and this is a place that you want to visit with friends.

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