A Gift from Dubai

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When I saw that J called, my first thought was, “Oh God. What’s wrong?”

She’s the mother of my friend, D, who has been living in Dubai with her husband, G and their darling daughter L for a few years now. The call was so out of the blue, it made me nervous.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. J had received a package from D that was supposed to come to me. “This thing has been around the world,” she told me.

Its travels make for a funny little story that speaks to the size of Las Vegas and dedication of their postal workers (Chicago’s could learn a thing or two from them). D had sent the package to me, C/O her mom. But her had never received it. It remained at the post office for who-knows-how-long, when someone there said they knew someone with a similar last name. The last name turned out to be spelled completely different, but pronounced the same. So they called that person, and that person somehow knew of J and sent the post office her way. She was able to get the package and then called me to see if we could meet up and she’d give it to me. To complicate matters, I moved to Chicago two years ago.

J and I had a lovely phone conversation, and she was kind enough to send the package to me. “I just ask one thing of you,” she said sweetly. “Call me, email me, whatever, and let me know what was in that package!”

The package, which does look a bit better traveled than I, contained the following contents:

1. Blue t-shirt with a black cat and neon eyes that I purchased in London and accidentally left in Dubai when I visited G and D. It is my favorite t-shirt in the world.

2. A post card from fabulous Las Vegas.

3. A lovely knit handbag

4. The best childrens book I’ve ever encountered in my life: “Humpy Grumpy Saves the Day” by Julia Johnson, illustrated by Emily Styles. The book is about a camel named Humpy Grumpy who saves a small Arab boy from drowning in a Wadi.

But the best thing about the package is the memories it brought back. I can’t believe it’s been nearly three years since my trip to Dubai. It was one of the best trips of my life. G and D are the most gracious hosts, it was wonderful to get to know them even better. Thinking about it, I miss them terribly.

Here are some of the highlights from my trip (other highlights are pictured above):

1. Flying Emirates Air was incredible. The flight attendants were in 1960s-style fancy flight attendant dress, complete with matching lipstick, and changed outfits, I believe, four times throughout the 23-hour flight.

2. Brunch at the Burj Dubai, the ship-shaped hotel. There was a caviar bar, hummus galore and a roving popover cart (oh and $40 for the cheapest glass of wine…I abstained).

3. Learning fun secret facts about The Palm, where D and G live. Facts that I cannot disclose. But they have to do with both rats and sharks.

4. A priceless moment/photo of G with a middle-sexed dancer at an extreme cultural dining/dancing experience. That photo is forever preserved in a snow globe.

5. Dinner at an Indian restaurant with unsmiling dancing entertainment who were most likely victims of human trafficking.

6. Fashionable sheikh billboards.

7. Sheesha at the Wadi, along the best hummus, grilled halloumi and schwarma ever made. We ate there three times during my stay.

8. Molecular gastronomy at Tang.

9. Surviving the decrepit river taxi.

10. Gold souks, textile souks and spice souks.

11. “Mall culture.”

12. Visiting a secret liquor store.

13. Covering my ankles in Sharjah so as to not get spat on.

14. Learning about the sliding scale of blood money.

15. Enjoying a glass of wine while watching indoor skiers … at a mall.

16. Purchasing every kitschy Middle Eastern trinket I could find–camel stuffed animals, Arab nesting dolls, camel trays and more.

17. Hidden pork vestibules at the supermarkets.

18. Not-so-hidden prayer stalls at the malls.

19. Thai massages are rough.

20. Jumeirah Janes and Jumeirah Johns.

21. Endless laughs with D and G, two of my favorite people in the entire world. I can’t wait to return some day and meet the small one, who is no doubt be brilliant and hysterical, just like her parents.

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