Thursday, November 29, 2012

Der Besuch der Alten Dame

There is a radio show about keeping cars in good repair that I listen to for the opening joke by Click or Clack (I can't remember which one tells the jokes and which one just laughs). They told the story of a man who saw another, very elderly man, wearing a tie that indicated that they had gone to the same grammar school, so the first man approached the elderly man.

'Did you go to Richard Cœur de Lion grammar school?' he asked.

'Yes, I did,' answered the elderly man.

'So did I,' said the first man, 'when were you there?'

'I was a student there back in the '60s', answered the elderly man.

'That's amazing,' said the first man, 'I was there back in the '60s.'

'Oh,' said the elderly man, 'were you one of the teachers?'

I mention this because I met a woman my age here in Dubai about six years ago. One of the problems with the UAE is that much of the world believes that the streets are paved with gold and are convinced that the constabulary will not object to people poking potholes in the sheikh's highway.

These people come to the UAE, take out a business license, hire a bunch of people, and discover that the business doesn't earn enough money to pay them. The UAE law states that employers must pay for the employees' visas and round trip airfare, and so, having quit her job to come to Dubai, after about six months, she was laid off and sent back to her country where she no longer had a job.

Six years later, she got a job in another Gulf country and said she wanted to visit Dubai and see the Burj Khalifa, and I found that, though we're the same age, when she looked at me she saw her father, rather like the two men in the Click and Clack story, both of whom saw a much older man.

So I took her see the Burj Khalifa, which was just in the nick of time, because China is planning to put up a taller building before then end of next year, but when we went in October, the Burj Khalifa was still the world's tallest building.

I found it strange that the taxi dropped us at Dubai Mall, and, when we walked over to the Burj, there was no entrance.

I didn't know when we got there, but the entrance for non-VIPs is from the basement of Dubai Mall. After queuing for an hour, one gets taken on the fastest lift I've ever been on to the 124th floor where there is no place to sit (and the lady with me has a hard time standing for very long) so we stayed a short time and went back down. But at least we can now say we were in the tallest building in the world.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What to see at Dragon Mart

Sheikh Mohammed got the idea that Europe and China will be engaging in more and more commerce, so he set up the Dragon Mart, where hundreds of Chinese factories could set up display booths to show their industrial products to European buyers. They have representatives from motor manufacturers, computer case manufacturers, etc., etc., selling to industries who need parts. The idea is that European and MENA businesses, rather than flying to China and then going to all the different places with factories, can make a single stop in Dubai.

But Dragon Mart had more space than willing factories who wanted to sell directly to other factories, and so a lot of the Chinese stores sell both retail and wholesale. Plus some sell retail only, to provide Chinese consumer items to the Chinese working in Dubai.

Among these retail shops are lots of Chinese herbal medicine stores, mostly tiny stands in the middle of the aisle.

Farook asked me to join him as he went to seek Chinese herbal medicine. On a previous visit to Dragon Mart, he found one stand with a Chinese Muslim from Western China who speaks good Arabic, but Farook couldn't remember where his stand was. I remembered where it was, but Farook kept asking everyone we saw, 'Where Musa shop?' Since the proprietor's name is Dawood, he wasn't having much luck, but we kept wandering down the main aisle until we spotted Dawood, and then Farook spoke Arabic and obtained two bottles of Chinese herbal medicine. (I have no idea what they were, or what they were for.)

I, however, was more impressed when, there at the Chinese herbalist shops, I saw something I've heard about all my life, but never believed it existed: genuine, authentic, 100% pure snake oil.

Seeing that made the trip to Dragon Mart worthwhile, as far as I was concerned.

And for those who say that Dubai is all about selling snake oil, there's a lot more than just snake oil at Dragon Mart, but there is certainly some snake oil.