This year began where last year left off; lots of work and lots of travel. Berlin, Abu Dahbi and Dubai weren’t enough to scratch KR’s itch to travel, so she went to Copper Canyon and Cuba without yours truly. Eleven trips, 12 weeks, and 14 cities kind of says it all. I’m on the hunt for new business. And, if truth be told, new experiences.
In the Book of New Experiences, there are few newer experiences than going to the United Arab Emirates for the first time. If I were a good travel writer, I would think up words to describe this place. Honestly, words escape me; I just don’t know how to describe the Other Side of the World adequately. Think the Cantina scene in Star Wars to get an impression. I don’t mean this in a negative way, but things are just so totally different that its hard to draw a comparison.
It’s pretty apparent there are basically two types of people: residents and citizens. Residents are there to work on everything from research institutes to driving taxis. Typical stay for a knowledge worker is about three years. The planes and airports are 90% full of residents from all over the world. Because of the UAE’s location, there are as many people from Asia as Europe. Dubai has just become the world’s busiest airport.
Citizens are a different thing altogether. They dress differently, practice a different religion, and generally live a dual existence trying to integrate Western ways in the Arab culture. Pretty interesting. As with most places we’ve traveled, most people are friendly and happy to help.
People that live in the UAE (and I suppose Saudi Arabia) live in a protective cocoon. There is no sense of the trouble just hundreds of miles away in Syria, or Yemen, or Iraq or.. Pretty amazing really. I don’t know how they do it, but one feels 100% safe.
Our stay in Abu Dhabi and Dubai was just a couple of days, so we weren’t able to sample much of the place beyond my meetings and our hotels. Yet we were able to… see the most outrageous hotel in Abu Dhabi (The Palace Hotel, which also serves as a palace); drive 100 miles through the desert between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, stopping at a roadside McDonalds; go to the old part of Dubai and wander the markets (called Souks) in which we bought a camel; and get a glimpse of how the super rich and hipsters live in their Lambos and rooftop bars.
And the possibilities of doing some business with the Emirates seem reasonable. Lots of opportunity, we just have to figure out how to take advantage of it. I’ve been invited to speak at a conference in Dubai in April, so I’ll be going back and we’ll see.
The whole purpose of this trip was to go to Berlin, not Abu Dhabi or Dubai. We put on an “Expert Work Shop” for 35 GIN members from all of the world. For two days we worked on best practices and learned about how folks from Shanghai or Tokyo or Italy or Germany or Finland did things. Pretty damn interesting.
A not so pleasant experience happened at 4 or 5 in the morning, strapped into my seat, sleeping. Everything is quiet. I’m in a very long, dark, quiet tube of an airplane We’re flying from Abu Dhabi to London and we’re over the Mediterranean. I don’t know where the f___ we are. Never been here before. Then the plane starts bucking. Very significantly. The captain comes on in a clipped manner; “Buckle down!” Didn’t he mean buckle up? And here’s what I’m thinking: this must be exactly what the passengers in the Air France plane from Brazil or the Malaysian Air passengers felt right before it went down. Dark. Quiet. Somewhere over an unfamiliar ocean. We stop bucking and I go back to sleep. But I’ll never forget this feeling and mental image.
As I write this, Karen is in Cuba. I guess the Little Woman couldn’t wait for Her Man, so she and a girl friend flew from Mexico to Cuba. I’m awaiting her report, but this is what she wrote in an email:
From a day trip out of town. tobacco farm, cave, countryside. Pretty good. Free day tomorrow. Looking forward to spending the day in Old Havana!! Had a taste of it yesterday and I can’t wait to go back. No pictures because I used my camera. Will use iPad tomorrow.
This hotel was built in 1930. 19 people were killed in the lobby in the 40’s by Battista’s men during a coup attempt. In the 50s, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky hosted the biggest ever gathering of Mafia men under the guise of a Frank Sinatra concert in the hotel.The Mafia was responsible for bringing gambling and prostitution to Cuba. If the walls could talk.
I can’t get enough of the cars. I’d say 70% are from the 40s and 50s. Some are tied together with rope and are running with Russian, etc. auto and tractor parts. Mechanics are looking forward to US trade so they can get our parts. Or enough of the architecture-magnificent old mansions built by the sugar barons and taken over by Castro and turned into government/social service office- all in disrepair and sad looking. But there are many preservation efforts. Raul has loosened many restrictions and seems interested in change.
Will send photos tomorrow. We are leaving Wednesday am to stay at a famous beach resort. Yuk. I’ve opted for a day trip (6hours on a bus) to visit one of the best preserved colonial cities.
That’s all for now. Here’s what it looked like in pictures.