Cycling into a normal side of the exorbitant Emirates
Coming back to Dubai in the middle of the night, it surprises me the immigration has great difficulty handling the streams of few tourists and the many workers. Jokingly I think the Emirati’s are not used to do a lot of work.
I am being told that only 10% of Dubai’s total are working Emirati and when I am taking the metro to Ibn Batutta mall where I will meet Pappy again, I am in a ‘woman only’ wagon full with foreign workers only. Most women are from the Philippines, and look utterly unhappy. Some might have high responsible jobs, some might be scolded to all day through, some could be maids, but all are dressed poor. What ever job they are in, they can not afford smart looking clothes and what they wear is too big, too small, too much a bunch of disorganized grunge. I feel hopelessly sorry for them, not for their clothes as mine are equal to theirs, but knowing they all have a family back home, perhaps depended on this woman only. Some seem to be extremely busy even before reaching their office, handling two mobile phones at once. I wonder what they get paid. I know the expats from Western countries get paid so high that they live in private walled area’s reminding them at their own rainy countries. These girls and women, however, are the backbone of Dubai, together with the men who built the city, the Indians, Bangladeshi and Pakistani. People who work themselves to death in the unbearable heat of the Emirates. Human rights don’t really exist here.
Dreams and goals of the escapees
Women take care for other children, while their own are back home in their native country. Having children but not be able to take care for, because of making money. I start to ask myself whether wanting to succeed financially is such a good ideal in life? What is financially succeeded? Living in Dubai? Why would one want that? To make money, obviously, and then to raise your ideals because otherwise you won’t be able to succeed in high speed Dubai. Where has happiness and satisfaction gone to so many people in the Emirates? Is happiness and satisfaction to be found here anyway? People have dreams, but no time to realize them. People have been taken into a strong current and can’t get out.
I meet up with Pappy’s and Dany again, where I have left my bicycle with.
The only thing I can do back for the enormous hospitality Pappy and Dany are giving me, is to stay 3 days extra. I get to see the same family members as when I was there with Christmas and together with Shiva we eat a delicious South Indian all veg thali. Just after we tried to find a map of Oman, alas, there’s none to be found. Mostly because, as the Filipino sales boy tells us: ‘Oman is too big, the country has too many roads, that is why maps can not be made,’ Shiva and I glance at each other and our look is exactly the same ‘is this boy making a joke or is he truly trying to explain something to us’, then he continues: ‘Many new roads are being built and maps do not exist.’ Shiva hold onto the boy his arm, at a very fatherly manner, and says the exact right thing, in a way only an educated oversees Indian friendly person could, ‘your explanation is very beautiful but I am not sure it’s correct?’
I admire him right there, at that spot. It must not be easy for any oversees person to do where you come for: making money. The Indian culture is fast developing but at a pace we have gone past years ago, and so in India it is still the norm to show what you are capable of. It has to be shown in gold and property. When I think about the bachelor-workingcamps where many men building an ever growing Dubai, then I ask myself: do they work to get better, or just to be able to feed themselves? Can they not find a job in India? Did they had dreams by going to Dubai? Do they work to be able to pay for a wedding and all the requirements for their cultural needs, are they any better than a slave? Their average monthly income is about €220, better than in India, but Dubai not being cheaper than India.
On the road again
Packing up the bicycle at Pappy’s workplace feels like liberation. The chain is cleaned, turned and oiled. The broken screw in the stand is removed, and the thread perfectly damaged. I fill all my water bottles, press the camping food (stash of quality noodles, kilo of local porridge) into the kitchen pannier and answer ‘yes’ when Pappy asks me whether I need more food. I am hungry again, and Pappy takes me out for yet another breakfast. With a half full thermos of chai I am waved goodbye by this pure welcoming person. People truly like angels.
Freedom! Finally. I longed for it. First thing I do is rolling in the sand, like a dog happy to be home. Just to be able to park the bicycle next to the road, kick my shoes out and drink chai in the soft sand of the Earth where in the far distance, covered in smog, the Burj Kalifa is based. Where Jumeira leaves a gap between Dubai and where the well known hotel is rocking lonely in between. The thing I longed for most is camping in the desert.
Normality in Emirates exists
Cycling the main road between Dubai and Hatta is nothing special. I pass the huge sand dunes which I can not enter, seeing tourists taken for ‘jeep safari’s’ by luxury buses. Most are not aware of where they are, dressed in mini skirts and kissing their boyfriends.
Perhaps cycling in the U.A.E. is more weird than in Iran. The distance between worker and tourist was never so huge. I find myself between Pakistani truck drivers who seem to have never seen a tourist up close, this one being a woman on a bicycle. Blunt like that. Their culture is way more detached towards lone females, though not less friendly. I pass camel encampments, where simple farmers go to little shops selling veterinary items to keep their flock healthy. Soft sounds of azan, the call to prayer, cars passing soundlessly, sun’s shining. I eat huge fish and biryani. Suddenly the full holiday feeling flares up…
What an achievement: camping made difficult in the desert
Unfortunately, I did not know the entire road laying between golden hills of sand, is fenced. To keep the camels off the road, and me on it. Damn. Then I see an opening in the fence, a barrack in the distance where I head to. Wading through the golden orange sand is heavy and I am happy the man watching over the rolling rises walks towards me. Coming close I see he is a Pakistani. ‘Peshawar,’ is what he answers when I ask him where he is from. I ask whether I can put my tent here, but have strong doubts when he is acting nervous and steal glances at my body. I do as if I go get my tent and think what is best to do, but when I walk off and he asks me if I am alone, I know I have to carry on. Next are four Indians, renting out squats, and very negative about the Arabs: ‘you can not camp in the desert, too dangerous for you, stay in our compound.’ They are negative about the imam of the nearby mosque too: ‘Bangladeshi, is bad.’ The imam seems rather mentally disturbed than bad, I get refused to use the women room to sleep the night. The four Indians too eager to get me at their compound, so again, I carry on. The second mosque refuses me too, but a man tells me I should ask the police.
And that’s where I end up. In Madam, a much more natural city, actually, a rather poor city compared with Ajman or Sharjah. I ask the police station crew where I can put up my tent and after they have placed me behind their fences, they come back and replace me to their parking lot. Right in front of heavy traffic trying to maneuver the roundabout as fast as possible. My try for a place in the desert has somewhat failed…
Hospitality of the Emirati
‘There are no road accidents, only accidents happened in the desert,’ says one of the man I get to meet the following morning. It’s obviously he’s gay and what astonish me most is that he talks openly about it. He has seen Madam changing in the twenty years he works here, from hardly anything to a sprawling town. He like the Arabs, but doesn’t like the life-style and manners of the rich, crossing their jeeps through the desert, capsizing and in desperate need for help scolding at the nurse who’s too fat to be quick at their help. Later on my blood pressure is taken, ‘Oh, too low, it’s only 140! Are you tired? (no, I just had a holiday of 8 weeks) and forcefull reject a stash of free medicines. I am given food and 2 Bounty bars (good for blood pressure I suppose) and together with a few police men and the general, who’s 38 years and has 8 children, I have my first pleasant experience with an Emirate local.
A windy day, average speed less than 10 km/hour
Before you enter the mainland of Oman and get a stamp, you’ll be in Oman for about 40 kilometer before, without getting a stamp. On this little stretch of road I get to meet Hamad from Bahrein, who’s a keen cyclist after he was becoming big in football but got into a serious accident. He shows huge respect for me, seeing me struggling against the strong headwind, and as he is a professional photographer, I am lucky to be shot through his lens. A little later I meet an Italian cycle group, undoubtedly cycling the Tour Oman, as I find out later. Their average speed is about 20, while mine is less than half of that. And because so, I decide to stop early. The strong headwind pushed me into a wonderful, secret camp spot, behind an oasis of green and thus, a tiny village, so I discovered the next morning. I sleep early after a hard day on the bicycle.
The next morning I praise myself, at long last; chai, camping, quietness, Nature! I have desired so enormously much to this moment. This simple quietness, the lack of every so called luxury, no electricity, no light. Sure, I also love wifi and with the phone given to me by Gora I have noticed how freakishly handy those devices are, now I have to do only one thing and that’s hiding myself for the goat shepherd who’s coming my direction. I want to soak in silence just a little longer.
There are woman, really. See, on the window, there’s one!
Things catching my attention are not the most attractive: Pakistani along the road sells utmost ugly synthetic carpets, and so many I am afraid their sons have to continue their father’s business. Large embroidery machines in small stuffy cubicles are operated by Indians, and to add to the believe that there must be women out here, I pass many beauty salons. The windows of these salons obscured with larger than life images of thick juicy lips and dramatic seductive eyes. Ah, women are delicious morsels indeed! And to my surprise, seeing a woman I even watch her in an unusual way, the movement of her hips, the curves of her bottom, the shape of her legs. Every woman becomes sexy here.
And I decide to roll one more time in the sand. Becoming a little more dirty each day without shower.