I had lost sweat and (metaphorical) tears to settle in Abu Dhabi. Today, I gave the blood.
Every visa-carrying visitor/resident of the UAE must get a relatively unintrusive medical check-up in order to stay in the country. A positive AIDS or TB test will send you back where you came from.
Trying not to concentrate on the needle, I stared at my Arabic entry permit and tried to think of puns using the word “Sheikh”. Sheikh down. Sheikhspeare.
Afterwards, I was called into an x-ray room to have my chest examined. She asked me to fold my collar upwards, she said to get it out of the way. I still think they take pictures at the same time — every American with a popped collar — as a bargaining chip in case of strained relations. “We have pictures of all of your citizens looking like guidos. Now let’s negotiate.”
On the digital screen above the machine I saw my name, and beneath it “W CHEST PA”. I’m sure that means something to a doctor, but to me it was eerie. My small hometown in Pennsylvania neighbored the town West Chester — W. Chest., PA. How much can they tell from my ribs?
Driving back, we passed something I’d never seen anywhere else, The Embassy of the State of Palestine.
The rest of the day had me researching addresses all over the Emirates, which, as it turns out, are as landmark-based as your grandmother’s directions. You don’t live at 1500 Rashid bin Sa‘iid Al Maktoum Street, you live at “Airport Road (its former name) behind Domino’s Pizza”.
To anyone who says the Emirates have nothing but ultramodern culture and have lost touch with their heritage, I say listen to any cab driver — they not only speak of the past, they drive you right through it.