My driver says it’s O.K., he can pray after we arrive. I ask how the whole alcohol thing works here. He explains that if you live in Dubai دبي and aren’t Muslim, you can buy alcohol. But you’re limited to how much as a fixed percentage of your total income. This is really interesting. When I was in Salt Lake City in the ‘90’s, alcohol was simply banned or not available in most places. No exceptions were made for those not of the Mormon faith. You lived by the law of the land.
In Dubai Hospitality Means Making Allowances
Here the Muslim community has created specific exceptions. They are like a good host whose foreign guests have a weird predilection for broccoli. It is an embrace of visitors both more considerate and more segregated than I’ve seen back home. Non-believers are shown more leeway than Islam’s zero tolerance policy. Maybe this is because there are so many more non-Emiratis. In Dubai دبي four out of every five people are from somewhere else. Only twenty percent of the population are legal citizens and naturalization is non-existent. To the fiercely tight knit Arab culture here it would be, well, unnatural. If you are in search of a homeland, go home.
I arrive at the Fairmount hotel, a stranger in a city of strangers. My room is on the 31st floor. In Manhattan surrounded by cement leviathans, you don’t realize just how high up you are. But sit atop a skyscraper between the desert and the sea, and wow! I can see all the way to the coastline. Three white cruise ships float there, bookended between their blue bellies and red smoke stacks.
Below me, Dubai دبي is a rainbow painted in shades of yellow and brown. Only a few tall buildings sprout up from the flat city. One of the smaller big buildings stands out, an underdog by the name of Rove. The sky above is a gun metal blue until it hits the beach. Then a layer of cumulus sheetrock ceils the ocean below. Unlike everything else in this city, the boundary between them is blurred.
Gazing upon the skyline, I count how many mosques there are between the Persian Gulf and me. There are six. I think about the last time I was in any other country, and counted how many churches / temples / shrines there were nearby. The answer is never. My Islamophobia might not be obvious, but it’s no less ugly.
On the flight over I tried to read a bit about this religion to combat my ignorance. Hopefully browsing the “Dummies Guide to Islam” while listening to the “Trainspotting” soundtrack is not sacrilegious. After that book, I moved on to some others with Moroccan Magrebi music playing in the background.
My retention is pretty limited and not P.C. Basically, the Angel of Death Gabriel (I am imagining Christopher Walken from “The Prophecy”– badassery unaffected by the sinful hair dye) visited the Prophet Muhammed. Gabriel recited and Muhammed wrote, word for word, the document that became the Qur’an كوران (Koran). To be a prophet in most religions, you must perform miracles. This book was his first. The future founder of Islam ين الاسلام was illiterate and a bad oral poet to boot. So creating an immortal piece of literature was no small feat. Heck, I’m trying to write this post without God or Christopher Walken’s divine help, and at best it will be a very mortal Christmas e-mail.
In Dubai دبي four out of every five people are from somewhere else. Only twenty percent of the population are legal citizens and naturalization is non-existent. To the fiercely tight knit Arab culture here it would be, well, unnatural. If you are in search of a homeland, go home.
And when I say “immortal”, I’m not exaggerating. The second miracle of the Qur’an كوران is that to this day, it has not changed at all. There is no “King So and So” version. It is exactly the same, word for word, in Arabic as the day Muhammed wrote it. The Qur’an كوران, like the bland wafer during Catholic Mass, is a divine vessel. Unlike the Christian attempt to discourage cannibalism, Mohammed’s writings are the unaltered word of God; a “Living Book.” Like a holy telephone, it provides a direct relationship to Allah اللّٰه. No voicemail or “your hold time is” Wells Fargo purgatory bullshit here, this is live!