When Emirates began direct flights from Dallas-Fort Worth to Dubai this past March, I knew a personal trip to this dream destination of mine was bound to take place in the near future. While YouTube videos and stories from family members and friends who’d visited painted a beautiful picture of Dubai, seeing it in person is a totally different ballgame.
On July 9, my dream became a reality as my plane touched down at Dubai International Airport for the beginning of a week-long vacation. I was dizzy with excitement at all the tourist attractions I planned to visit but most important the family reunion I was going to have with my siblings. For some reason, they decided to make Dubai their vacation spot this year--the more the merrier.
As I got out of the airport, I walked to the first car in a row of available taxis. A man called out to me “Pink, pink, pink.” I gave him a puzzled look as I said, “Excuse me?” He pointed to a second row of cabs on the other side and explained that female passengers are driven in pink-colored cabs by female taxi cab drivers. I swallowed my dismay as a very skinny lady dressed smartly in pink overalls came over and hauled one of my bags into the car. When she reached for the other bag, I gestured that I’d do it myself. She pleaded with me that it was her job, but I still wouldn’t let her--how in the world was I going to stand there and let a woman who weighed three times less than me carry my luggage while the men stood by staring like nothing was happening? This didn’t sit well with me, and I began to wonder if there was more to the place than my virtual eyes had seen.
By the time we began driving into town, my mind became preoccupied with all the amazing buildings, the numerous skyscrapers, the wide highways, the number of American franchises, and the overall blanket of opulence that seemed to envelop the city. I knew I was in for unlikely discoveries and lots of exploration.
At the hotel, the first thing I noticed was the excellent customer service. I was received with so much enthusiasm--like a prodigal returning home after many years. Most of the employees were foreigners, primarily from Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and India. They spoiled me rotten and catered to my every need. If I asked for something they unfailingly returned with at least two of that item. I was sure their big paycheck was the reason for the enthusiasm. Little did I know that tipping them made a difference.
When all of my siblings arrived, we lit the fire of nostalgia with the many stories we shared. When we weren’t on memory lane, jokes and outrageous laughter shook the walls of our room. We were so happy to be in each other’s company and away from the stress and bustle of our daily lives. A lot of time was spent touring, and some of the interesting places we visited included the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world; the Burj Al Arab, the most luxurious hotel in the world; the Dubai City Mall, one of the biggest malls in the world; the Gold Souk; and the desert safari, which was the most fun. I also got the opportunity to interview Dr. Dill Kumar, founder of King’s Revival Church, which is the largest Christian church in Dubai. He shared with me that his love for his neighbors was the key to his success in planting a fast-growing church in a predominantly Muslim society.
But in the midst of all the pomp and excitement, it was disturbing to see the way women were treated as second-class citizens, stripped of many rights that women in Western societies take for granted. Also, the salaries of the workers who do menial jobs are pathetic. They’re treated without regard in a city where the wealth from oil enables the Emirati nationals to be catered for generously by their government. These workers don’t have the freedom to complain to any authority, because they need the job to survive. This explained the inward suffering and outward smiling attitude most of them seemed to possess.
Time flew so fast, and soon we were saying our goodbyes. In all, I will say my trip exceeded my expectations, and I thank the Lord from the bottom of my heart for such an opportunity.
By May E. Olusola - Publisher of MannaEXPRESS.