Big Bear Lake California
Las Vegas Nevada
Abu Dhabi UAE
Kuwait Persian Gulf
Bahrain Persian Gulf
Qatar Persian Gulf
Bangkok again 2/2011
Reference map of the region to be explored... if I live long enough. I've been to Saudi Arabia many years ago and Yemen seems to have tourist barriers so I'll probably have to skip those. Iran is still a possibility, but visa requirements could be a problem.
Hello from the capital city of the United Arab Emirates,
After an early breakfast in the Dubai Hotel I hopped a water taxi to reach the inter-city bus terminal on the other side of the creek, paid my 15 Dirham ($4) fare and embarked on the two hour ride southwest toward the Abu Dhabi Emirate.
The bus terminal is about five kilometers south-east of the city center. However, the Grand Millennium Hotel is right next door to the terminal and I had discovered information on the Internet about special weekend rates at the Millennium. Thinking this must be the one, I eagerly trotted over expecting an astoundingly low rate at this five star grand hotel… in your dreams – the special promotional rate would be $180, "an exceptional bargain" I soon learned from the overly solicitous reception and concierge staff.
However, they did provide me with a map of the city and information about another Millennium hotel five or six kilometers away; “too far to walk!”… and offered to hail me a cab. Pointing at my feet and making walking gestures with my fingers I pointed out that if Allah had wanted me rolling around on this earth, he would have provided me with wheels instead of feet. That always gets a knowing/sympathetic/pitiful/incredulous smile.
The posted 540 Dirham rack rate initially convinced me it would be pointless to engage in any conversation with the polite reception staff. As I pleaded for suggestions of more budget friendly nearby hotels, the serious negotiations started in earnest and they immediately offered a "very special promotional" 450 rate. As I declined each new modestly lower reduced rate the young Filipina receptionist finally asked: “What rate could you pay?” When I said 300 Dirham she promptly began a feverish series of maneuvers with her calculator, punctuated by a phone call to management and then the announcement: “We can do that… without breakfast.”
“But, I want breakfast!”
“We can include breakfast for a total of 350 she replied and I accepted, finally agreeing to the $96 rate including breakfast in this four year old, three star Millennium Hotels property. I feel truly pampered and will hang out here while figuring out how to proceed on around the Persian Gulf hugging the coastline.
One of my maps of the UAE shows a coastal highway continuing on westward out of Abu Dhabi toward Qatar, but that is a figment of some cartographer’s imagination, as it would appear a more authoritative map clearly shows the UAE ending at a Saudi Arabian border. After a good deal of inquiry the rumored direct bus to Doha Qatar appears to be incorrect and rental cars for crossing the borders are not legal, several rental companies have told me as well. So, my planned surface exploration of the region has come to an end, at least from this direction. Once in Kuwait new information sources could alter perceptions of what is and is not possible. Time will tell; serendipity will decide.
Rectilinearly obsessed architects have dominated the design of buildings in this modern city. Almost none of the curved surfaces seen in Dubai have found their way to this Emirate. The forest of towers reminds me of New York City; lots of dark canyons with numerous sprawling, gaudy shopping malls scattered around and throughout the city.
It has now been almost two decades since I forced myself to read an English translation of the entire Qur'an. At the time curiosity propelled the effort as previous academic studies had pretty much explored the more contentious ideas developed in the book. Even then, I clearly understood much of the material carried symbolic meaning hidden in the poetic phraseology and could only be fully understood by long collateral study including a working knowledge of Arabic. From time to time I would search the Internet for commentary on various specific ideas being discussed in the press or in SBCC adult education college classes I continued to enjoy. This reminiscing has been prompted by a remarkable TED talk I recently watched (several times) and recommended to your attention:
Until the next postcard, probably from somewhere in Iran,
Fred L Bellomy