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Friday, April 27, 2012

How Did I Wind Up In Oman pt.2: Abu Dhabi

When asking for directions on how to get to the Emirati Heritage Village in Abu Dhabi people will tell you under at the right of the big flag. This picture, taken from Marina Mall by Boxie (as all these pictures are her's), is the BIG FLAG they actually mean.
There are ALOT of big flags in Abu Dhabi. Emiratis are a Nationalistic bunch. But when they mean the big flag they mean the REALLY tall one made iconic by Khaleeji music videos on 'Hawas' channel and dubious Emirati news sources public affairs announcements.

We walked to the Heritage Village in Abu Dhabi from Marina mall at night. Not something I'd recommend AT ALL, but I'll save that story for after I've written about something I ACTUALLY DID enjoy beyond shopping in Abu Dhabi.
The Heritage village is an interesting museum and worth at least one go. In the day in early morning is best for photographers but night is better weather.
Pictured above are the souvenir stores inside filled with a few things made by Emiratis (and things made in China). That cat was super sweet and cute and the women that worked there were nice.
Inside of a traditional Mosque (ladies side). To be honest, I've been to Sheikh Zayed Masjid and think it looks tacky gilded and bulbous {at the same time, I am appreciative non-Muslims can go there to see what a Mosque is}. This little space was much more peaceful and conductive to the message of Islam though I feel.
Us girls posing at a model well used in many---obviously low budget as entrance to the AD Heritage village is free---Emirati music videos.
This was Boxie's first time up close and personal with a camel. So we had to take lots of pics. Me---not so much, as I've ridden camels before in Oman and known some real Bedu. Turns out, I am really, really good with camels, mashaallah [where or when I will use this talent I DON'T KNOW] and some tourists seeing us girls in niqabs thought we were locals and asked how long camels live. I told them 25 years. Which may or may not be true but their fault for asking a Canadian who grew up in a temperate rainforest about a breed of desert camel right?
Obviously this area was set up to be, like the Bedouin area, fire pit, camels, black goat hair tent and all:
We moved on to the area for Emirati village life (not Bedu---most Arabs in the Khaleej were not Bedu but strangely the images of Bedouin culture dominate--- probably because they like to cherish their culture the most, I don't know???).

Below, a food cook and prep area. If you watch a lot of Kuwaiti period dramas, you'll recognize this as where all the women gather for lunchtime gossip in the good 'ole days:
A swing in the village:
Weaving this type of sitting room out of date palm fronds is quite common on the Musandam pennisula of Oman as well as the Emirates since the water-rich part of Northern Oman was taken over by the Emirates in the last century so alot of the cultural things overlap and families still commonly marry between countries since they have cousins on either side of the border:
Inside the "areesh" fine palm frond woven home that would have been the abode of people of modest means pre-oil Emirates:

The musada 'cushions' are a bit different in set up to an Omani room but other than that I could explain the common features pretty well, very at home in this kind of traditional set-up:

Below: This is the palm-frond holder for clothes we use also in Oman to scent our freshly landered clothes with frankincense and oud buckhoor (incense). [Tip: use a plastic laundry basket turned upside down for the same purpose back in the west and put clothes over top----but don't leave unattended over long period of time just in case the heat of the incense coals melt the plastic].
Traditionaly, the baby baskets were netted and hung securely so that snakes and inscects couldn't hurt the babies. That's what the black thing below is.
A wind tower, typical of UAE architecture (a pre electricity air conditioner) and the beautiful moon that was out that night. Of course, the photo doesn't do it justice:
hehehhehee. This is the temper tantrum photo. Some of the gardeners had kindly let my friend's son ride on one of the golf carts they use to maintain the Heritage Village grounds but when it was time to get off, the REAL FUN BEGAN.
Examples of coffee pots traditional to Emirates at different periods of history:
Some examples of kitchen utensils used by Emirati women and their palm frond weaving:
Traditional Emirati jewelry (gold wasn't traditional in UAE---like Oman silver is the traditional jewelry):
The dress Emirati women (and Omani women from Buraimi and Musandam) traditionally wear under their abaya ras and gashwa veils, with silver Gulf-style ribbed row embroideries:
An Emirati woman's traditional outer garment (same as Kuwaiti, Qatari, and Baharaini womens'):
And the Emirati man's kandoora robe (distinguished from other Gulf varients by the long rope-like trailing tassel falling from the collar):
Some antique rifles, a prized pocession for men with traditional tastes these days:
The axes which are distinct to Emirati and Musandam-Omani culture + sheild:
Anitque arrows & quiver + javelin:
The art of falconeering, still practiced by wealthy Emiratis and Saudis:
The old Abu Dhabi Muslim men:
Me in the antigue Qu'ran and religious texts gallery:
Outside, the Museum building was built like a traditional Emirati house (totally different from the traditional houses in Oman but very similiar to Kuwaiti styles) housing models of dhows and other marine craft:
There was a tiny replica souq where the arts of metal and woodworking+leather tanning were on display. This photo is so cute because my friend's son is telling me to be careful and not touch the coffee pot because it is "hot". Sooooooooooo cute mashaAllah tabarakAllah, when I tried to sit him close to it to pose for a picture he kept scooting away because he was afraid he'd get burnt:
All in all, the Heritage Village itself is something I will remember fondly, even though this part of culture in Abu Dhabi seems reserved for its museums. What happened next though was the final straw for me and being tolerant with UAE beyond a visit with an Emirati family who mocked my niqab and made fun of the girls in France who take hijab serriously and didn't show the proper Khaleeji hospitality {what hospitality was there was for show and I guess in order to gain gossip}:
Walking back from the Heritage Village I sort of got arrested. Yes. For what, you might wonder. Indeed, to this day, I know I DO.

There was a local guy who kept circling us and rolling down his window as he drove past (white Mustang with crystalized interior---I didn't see the interior of his car---my friend G did at a later time but that's a story for another telling). We, of course, ignored him.

He wouldn't stop. 5 times around. Honestly, he was pushing us off of the road by being UBER creepy.

I was drinking a pop at the time. I was tired of having to "hide" from men as if bad behaviour could be excused because a woman put in a public appearence. The aluminum can was empty. So when he rolled down his window to say something sick to us girls like "mashallah, inti jamilah" using Allah's name for what purpose... I tossed the empty can right through that window.

He ran away.

Next thing we knew he'd come back with the abu dhabi police to arrest me.

What the charge would be, defending yourself from a stalker by way of empty pepsi, I don't know, but apparently it was VERRRRRY serrious and I was going to be booked ASAP. Aalia and Boxie did their best to try and talk the creep pressing charges out of doing so but I---the foreigner had hurt his pride so he was having none of it. The police talked to G& me, totally believing our story of being harassed, but had to take THE EMIRATI LOCAL'S word over ours. They told me if I just apologized to him, he wouldn't press the charges.

No way was I doing that, since HE CLAIMED he HAD just been driving peacefully unaware of our presence when I assaulted his car (with a can of drained pepsi). And told me to, and I quote "go learn your religion." Says the creepy perv.

"Arrest me then, I'd rather that then apologize to such a liar," I told the police, and apparently that made things worse since I made the local TOOL even more hard up on himself.

In the end, this is the exact apology I gave to meet the cops criteria but without backing down from my own: "IF YOU REALLY WERE NOT FOLLOWING US and I made some mistake, I AM SORRY. If not, then I'm not."

Mustang loser got my drift and was still SUPER angry but the police rushed us out of there, even paying for a cab for us girls ;) since we were obviously Muslimah modestly dressed tourists and still hadn't managed to escape being harassed.

The inequality of even the LAW of Emirates having a caste system makes me dislike the place more than I should for the sake of all decent Emiratis who reside there.
Above pictured, walking to Abu Dhabi Mall to make some purchases at Abu Haleeqa and Arabesque. Below: we basically had a day to find a new place to live in AE and thankfully our American non-Muslim friend G hooked us up with her pre-paid group flat. Which was indeed infested by cockroaches (so much so that we had to hand our bread and rice on the wall to keep them clean) and inhabited by a dozen amazingly quiet Chinese children, five beyond nice Filipino bike tour guides, and an Algerian couple. They all found Boxie and I to be so off, with our suitcases containing ballgowns and water colour paints dressed in niqabs for cooking in the cramped shared kitchen quarters, but we made some amazing friends there and their generousity of spirit was endearing:
Our building's elevator was SCAAAAAAAAAAARy. Sometimes it got stuck. It also had a hole in the floor where you could see what seemed a hundred flights down.
A nearby Masjid.
We had finally lined up jobs courtesy of K where we could afford our own flat but my stepfather was sick in Oman and my mother needed help packing up for a move back to USA so we were going to make a stop over there before beginning our lives in UAE. On one of our last days before that could happen we decided to make a go of Emirates Palace hotel. Us girls met up in Marina Mall parking lot and walked up the Corniche from there.
weird oyster/pearl "art" I guess to denote the pearl-diving heritage of the UAE???

 "G" and me [with Boxie, not pictured] walking up the Corniche to Emirates Palace hotel.
a common sight in UAE is the face of this man
 We reached the entrance of the Palace Hotel that is for royals alone:
 G, a student and compiler of Arabic women's poetry:
 Unfinished construction was a common sight in the Emirates:
The greenest part I saw of Abu Dhabi was walking up to the hotel (BTW girls, sorry I bored you with my story of Jane and the snake ALLLLLLLLLLL the way there lol):
 Coming up to the hotel:
 Fountains:
 Stairway of fountain:
 hehehe, me and the news guy above me whose take Boxie ruined;p
There's some more pics of the fountain I want to add but didn't find them yet. Hotel valet parking:
 Gardens of coconut trees:
 And date palm lined lawns:
One of my favourite photos of Boxie & me together from our whole trip:)
Wearing Boxie's Abu Haleeqa abaya AS abaya ras with my Betsey
 Walking inside:
the ceiling---reminds me of Al Bustan Palace hotel in Oman
Us girls kind of making fun of our surroundings since there was a harp player playing "can you feel the love tonight" from the Lion King as if it were Mozart:
 Extravagence overload or what?
 Leaving Abu Dhabi at sunset:
End pt 2. Thank you for all the photos G and Boxie. "Getting to Oman and Life in MQ" coming soon in the 3 part saga;)