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Christmas in the UAE: Blue Santa — عيد الميلاد في الإمارات: بابا نويل ازرق


Merry Christmas!
Happy (fifth night of) Hanukkah!
!*عيد الميلاد مبارك

*(Are we saying this now?)

Even though the Emirates Palace apologized for its last year’s “attempts to overload the tradition” by decking out a 43-foot plastic tree in diamonds and pearls, the UAE is hotter on X-mas than ever before.

According to one very high level administrator at a foreign-run university in the UAE (and I paraphrase), “the government was giving me flak for not putting a Christmas tree on campus.” Apparently, they wouldn’t have been cool with a menorah.

Happy holidays!


Check the Huffington Post today for more holiday stories from INGULFED!


Photos above: lobby of the Jumeirah Hotel
Abu Dhabi, UAE

The Emirates Palace — قصر الامارات

The Emirates Palace Hotel at Night
Abu Dhabi, UAE

أنشوجة — Anchovies


In the waning minutes of Hanukkah, the orchestra bearing the name of its Muslim host country set out to play Christmas music. If there exists an appropriate adage, I don’t know it.

Many citizens of the Jewnited Arab Emirates (as no one calls it) might have noticed local observances of the Festival of Lights — namely the decking out of most of the city’s tall buildings with bright neon, flags, and the number 39. Of course, it was just pre- and post-national day decorations — not an attempt 5732 years off the correct Jewish year. Still, a bit suspicious National Day fell on the first day of Hanukkah, isn’t it? Okay, sure, Emirati National Day is always on the second of December, and Hanukkah is determined by the lunar calendar, but… but — okay. Good point.

At the Emirates Palace Christmas tree lighting, Muslims, Hindus, and Christians (ok fine! and Jews, too) stood around the joyous alter of the Christmas tree as a children’s brass band heralded not the anniversary of the birth of someone’s lord, but the beginning of a season of fun and shopping for everyone.  In the world of Internet and Connectivity and the Global Village, it’s getting too goddam hard to stereotype people.  That people still try is my only regret — for their own sakes.  Time-saving stereotypes had some basis back when West was West and wild, and East was just East. But now, reality is disorienting – there aren’t any shortcuts.  Racism is just racism… and it’s awkward.

The world's most expensive Christmas tree. Ever.

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نهاية الاسبوع — The Weekend

Woke up at 16:00. I needed water and electrical adaptors — the two main items in the UAE food pyramid. The 400+ stores of the Marina Mall extend along the breakwater just off the island of Abu Dhabi. In it, along with a movie theater, grocery stores, and a bunch of English chains (I’ll get back to that), is an IKEA. Just like any other IKEA.

If you didn’t look up at the labels in Arabic, it would have felt like anywhere else in the world — no Scandinavian Persian rugs, no Swedish sandal racks, no ergonomic falafel-ballers. Though I’ve heard IKEA names come from various names of way up north places or other families of words (occupations, kinds of flowers, sizes of umlaut) depending on item category, I started to doubt it. I wondered if oddly familiar-to-English names like the baby crib “Sniglar” would sell as well with Arabophones. Sounds like “snuggle” in English. Means “slug” in Swedish.

The exit to the mall smelled of Krispy Kreme and incense. You want a donut, but you feel strangely calm with the decision.

For tea and wandering, I stopped by the Emirates Palace where the rule is: if it looks like it, it is. The 800 palm trees inside are real (though sometimes petrified). The vaulted golden domes and ceilings are real gold. The tea is not Lipton.

When in Dome: One of the Emirates Palace's 114 domes

Somehow, inside the luxury is not oppressive — the shimmer of Swarovski Crystal and gold-plate feels distinctly elegant. What appeared to be a “Whites Only” section of the parking lot (the cars, that is) — with its unflinching Beamers, Bentleys, Rollses, and a Maybach — seemed a little like the world’s best cake shop with a cupcake stand out front. Make of that what you will.

And pulling a complete about-face, I ordered Indian take out to my apartment doorstep (complete with tip) for 5 dollars.

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