03 May 2004

Three Surprising Occurrences

Fiver gets wolf-whistled for the first time, meets her first beggar and discovers a mysterious dead goat...

What makes the wolf-whistle so surprising is that it is the first time it has happened even though we have been in Dubai for three months now. People here are rather respectful (unless they are driving and you are in their way), and personal space is very important to everyone here, to the point where some people are reluctant to shake hands. It is quite a paradox for us Westerners, that some women would be very private, staying at home or in cars with tinted windows or covered by black cloaks and headscarves, and at the same time there is such a respect for women that it makes an insult noteworthy.

Yesterday Fiver left a shopping centre when she was called over to a car. A man, accompanied by a woman and a few small children told her that he had come from Abu Dhabi, but had run out of petrol for the return journey and had no money to feed his family. While there are poorer areas in Dubai, sometimes right next to large villas, and labourers are often housed in very cramped conditions (there is an article in today's Gulf News describing complaints that factory workers are housed in containers with no air conditioning - an unimaginable environment in temperatures of 40C and over) there are no true slums and no beggars roaming the streets. This is mostly due to the fact that there is little unemployment. Most inhabitants are ex-pat workers who by definition can only be resident here as long as they have work. The locals are well supported by the government with free health cover, cheap housing and generous subsidies on marriage and child birth.

The dead goat was lying on the central reservation of a dual carriageway, obviously run over. But where had it appeared from, a goat in the middle of town? Today's newspaper explained. It was a stray, run over by a car, who, in swerving, forced another 4-four wheel drive off the road and caused it to flip over. There was a very impressive picture of the goat that had caused the mayhem in front of the upside-down car. Nobody but the goat seemed to have been seriously hurt.

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