Lastly, China is perceived as exporting cheaper and lower quality goods. Even the poorest countries have wealthy people willing to pay for quality. According to a February 2015 article in Arabian Business News Dubai is a city of gold, diamonds and oil that now exports two billion dollars a year in just food to these savvy customers.
A Trip To Iran
By the end of the day I’m tired from my overnight flight and running around the show. But I have one more stop on my way out. IRAN! That’s right, they have an entire pavilion to themselves. And I’m curious about the Persian people and their foods. Not being a complete idiot, I want to avoid embarrassing “death to America” conversations. An Italian exhibitor lends me their badge. I am now Signori Luca Brasi of southern Italy.
You have to walk outside to get to the Iranian pavilion. It is completely isolated from the rest of the show. As I enter the first row of booths, someone looks at my badge and says “Buongiorno!” Damn it! I don’t speak Italian. My mangled reply raises an eyebrow. I quickly move on, feeling like a mentally challenged version of Carrie from the show “Homeland.”
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.
Everyone I meet is very nice. Yet their fare is surprisingly unsurprising. This is reassuring in a way. Iran, the extremist bogeyman of the West, is populated by people who eat and drink like you and me. I walk by the same dried fruits, biscuits and sweetmeats I’d see in most other places. The spices and preparations of Persia may differ, but otherwise the foods and drink on display are familiar. Unrest seems to be sweeping the globe as societies become more polarized. But one of the few common grounds left is food.
And speaking of food, I am running a late for my dinner appointment. I rush out of the exhibition, drop my stuff off at the hotel, and try to grab a cab. There are none. The traffic is an unbelievable nightmare. Literally nothing is moving. The subway station has a line backed up through the turn style and out the building. And that line isn’t moving either. Holy shit the rush hour here is bad. I thought that traffic wouldn’t be so bad on a Sunday. It turns out in Arab countries our Saturday and Sunday is their Thursday and Friday. Who knew? (Well, technically everyone here knew.)
It’s 6:00 pm and still raining. Small ponds of clear water form everywhere. Sandy desert architecture doesn’t seem to take flooding into account. I start walking from my hotel in the downpour and try Uber. Jay Z, the Allah اللّٰه of rap, might’ve had 99 problems. But I have only 1. In the land of the Prophet, not even Uber can predict when I’ll get a cab during rush hour. The software crashes repeatedly. And when Uber works, I keep getting phone calls from different drivers all named Mohammed. I guess Mohammed is the Arab equivalent of Jesus (like in Mexico)? None of them can make it.
I get to the Emirati restaurant Asseelah أصيله an hour late. It is on the Deira creek (weird to see a creek in a desert) by the Radisson hotel. Boats are floating on either side; electric lights giving it a touristy feel. I am meeting Fabio and Venato from a Sicilian tomato company.