If you ever needed evidence that insects have a far greater intelligence than humans, a trip to Dubai will provide it. I saw no insects at all. No flies, no mosquitos, no beetles, no spiders either. Not even an ant! They don’t want to attempt to survive in the intense heat of this desert land. So why do we?
I did not travel there in the heat of summer; I was there at the beginning of May. It was 40 degrees every day and the lowest night temperature was 32. The friend with whom I stayed told me that it gets hot in summer! Temperatures of 48 degrees are not unusual.
The consequence of this is that the people who live in this city, live in air-conditioned conditions year round. The metro stations are all covered and air-conditioned. The bus stops are air-conditioned. The walk from the metro to the shopping centers is covered and air-conditioned. This is very unhealthy living of course.
My visit was primarily to visit a friend who has been living there for almost two years. Needless to say, she is ready to leave. The dedication and stamina required to remain in a place like this for two years is beyond my comprehension.
As I was only there for 3 days, I decided that I should try to see as much as possible. Specifically I wanted to find the old historic part.
On day one I decided to start by touring the Jumeirah Mosque. Most mosques are not open to non-Muslims, but this one is on the list of top things to do in Dubai. I was welcomed as I paid my very small entry fee and invited to have a snack. This snack was wonderful, dates, crepes and delicious tea.
Then, at the appointed hour, the “tour” began. A woman from the east end of London introduced herself:
“Good morning everybody, my name is Vicky and me uvver name is Leila. I’ve been living here for 12 years and I’m a Muslim and it’s great!”
We walked over to the mosque, which was quite small and not at all interesting or beautiful. It was built about 30 years ago as part of the Sheikh’s wish to have a mosque every 500 meters so the people don’t have to walk very far in the heat! Consequently there are more than 500 mosques in Dubai, a city of about 2 million people, the majority of whom are not Muslims! In fact 90% of the population are ex-pats from many different countries. The largest single community is from India, and none of them are Muslims!
So, the mosque tour continued with us sitting on the floor listening to Vicky tell us all about the pillars of Islam, the history of Islam, the peacefulness of the religion blah blah blah.
I can’t really say that I felt cheated, as the cost was very low. However, the description was misleading and, as I already know most of the things she was talking about and as the mosque was very normal, I was a bit disappointed.
The one thing I did learn from this Muslim scholar was that, apparently, god has told Muslims that they must contribute 2.5% of their savings each year to people less fortunate than themselves. Not sure if this is in the Quran or if it is a more modern interpretation. One of the audience members asked some searching questions concerning this point, such as “does this 2.5% include property and assets?” Vicky explained, with a perfectly straight face, that it only applied to actual cash savings in the bank. This was very informative. She was also able to very comprehensively dispel any thoughts we may have had that women are repressed in Islam, or that they have no rights or freedom. There was even a rational explanation for why men are permitted multiple wives while women are stoned to death for committing adultery in some Muslim countries.
Still, I felt damn good in my flowing white caftan!
You might also enjoy my travel writing in Lanzarote – Buying Cheese.