Oblivious in Dubai: Part 3

The first thing to note is that this story happens prior to Oblivious in Dubai: Parts One and Two.

The order in which you read the stories is irrelevant.

Those two stories happened to me as a direct result of the day recounted below.

First flight home from the sand, ever. Only three and a half long months ago did I land there for the first time.

It seemed like the hub of Asia. The hub of the world.

I’d booked a moderately adequate hotel room on Expedia for the layover.

I was fortunate to have a colleague on the same flight to Dubai. We landed at the Dubai International Airport in the early morning.

The first thing in sight was Duty-Free.

  • Scotch
  • Marlboros
  • Two bottles of water
  • Lighter
  • 6 Corona for good measure

I pay; wait for my luggage, then walk outside to hail a cab.

[SKIP 45 MINUTES in lieu of cab-ride]

Arrive at hotel; check in; 1/2 bottle of scotch; shower; fellow-Canadian comes over; scotch gone.

There’s a bar across the street; lets go play pool and drink heavily.


The Bar

We were the only white folks in the place. It was cool to be a minority for a little while.

We eat and begin drinking Budweisers.

To my right; a family eating. To my left; a table of jolly fellows utilizing a hookah – sometimes called a “water-pipe”. The white clouds of smoke smelled like licorice. I made that face where one tilts their head to the side and does sort of an an upside down smile with eyebrows raised.

A positive, friendly, “fuck-it that-looks-neat” type of smile.

He handed me the mouthpiece; I inhaled. BRILLIANT! This is spectacular!

I continue the positive-neat-nod-smile thing.

I exhale.

Then I tip my finger to the waiter; point at the huge water pipe; and continue the “fuck that looks neat” smile as I nod and point at myself. He brings over a fresh water pipe; places a hot coal on top of the tinfoil covered bowl.

I wasn’t sure why he did that.

As I later came to understand – damp flavoured tobacco; or perhaps molasses; was packed tightly beneath the tinfoil – vaporizing under the coals.

We continued to order beer as we smoked and drank. Ultimately we did make it to the pool table.

He smoked me; I’m terrible at billiards.

We drank a lot of beer while I got my ass handed to me at pool. Soon enough its 7:30; he flies out at 10:30. Time to start getting his shit together.


I fly out at 7AM the following morning. What to do for the rest of the evening?


We cross the street into the lobby of my hotel. What’s that over there? I see two neon lights and two doors.

In the bright neon lettering above each door; Belly Dancers read one; Thai Dancers read the other.

Really? No way.

Shit like this doesn’t exist in the world; does it?

We make a quick trip upstairs so he can grab his things.


We go back downstairs and he leaves in his cab.

I approach, open, and enter the door marked Belly Dancers. It was exactly what it said on the door – about 7 or 8 Indian women shaking their bellies on a little stage.

There is a really large and middle-aged Middle Eastern man sitting on one side of the room; and a really large additional Middle Eastern man on the other. A few folks tending the bar.

Nobody else.

This is greasy.

Fuck it – I’m nineteen years old and hammered and Canadian. What could possibly go wrong?

As long as I’m polite; shit will be all right. I sit down; the music is loud; too loud. But there are peanuts on every table – so I had that going for me.

I wave frantically at the people by the bar. A lady comes over and I just mime like I’m drinking a beer.

She gets it.

I sit in this dingy shit-hole drinking what seemed like an unending supply of Budweiser cans. I truly have no idea how many I drank.

At some point; I got up, stumbled to the bathroom and vomited profusely for a little while. Once I’d found my bearings; and with puke all over my shirt; I walked past the bar employees and stuck up that just-a-minute finger that people do.

  1. Elevator
  2. Hotel Room
  3. One bottle of water
  4. Vomit
  5. Change shirt
  6. Vomit more accurately
  7. Second bottle of water
  8. Elevator
  9. Bar

I continue with the Budweiser and salted peanut combination for quite a while.

Eventually when I get up to leave:

  • I have no idea how many beers I owed them for
  • I have no idea how many salted peanuts I had eaten
  • Nor do I have any idea how much money I have


I’m fully aware that I’m about to be financially taken advantage of.

Fuck it, as long as I’m polite.

I asked how much I owed, but the music was loud as hell – perhaps that was their strategy.

They ended up with some number on a calculator; it was a HUGE number.

Now, I know the basic equation to translate how many US green-backs make up which amount of Dirhams. Unfortunately they priced it in Dirhams.

Couldn’t do it backwards and all I had was American – never was good at division.

I opened my wallet and gave them most of the cash.

It was kind of like a mugging but very formal and polite.

They were clearly also from a polite country; though one with an obscure culture in which polite and gentle mugging is commonplace.


[I Leave]


Oh right… the other neon sign.

I open the bar door marked Thai and it was exactly what it said on the door; except there were hundreds of people in a kind of mini-auditorium.

Fifteen… twenty?

Perhaps twenty-five Thai women on stage.

This has got to be illegal. How can things like this exist in the world?

Baffled and hammered; I take a seat beside the door with my back in a chair against the wall – safe mode.

As long as I’m polite.

More peanuts – PRO TIP: They’re there to make you thirsty. It’s a marketing decision.

Somehow I’m holding a beer.






How did I get here?

  • Clothes – check
  • Wallet – check
  • Keys – check
  • Passport – check
  • Smokes – check
  • Face-in-pillow…
  • Boots on…
  • Hotel-room door wide-open
  • Aw fuck…


Picked up the phone – hit “0” for the front desk:

“Call me a cab now!

Please and thank you.

And I ate some Skittles and a Mars bar…

I think it comes to 27 Dirhams?

Tell you what; I’ll bring down a twenty (USD)


Thanks, eh!”



I barrel across the hall and into the elevator; hit the button for the lobby.

Run to the front desk.

I glance; sort of ashamed and sort of amazed; at the unlit neon signs from the night before.

I drop the twenty and run for the door.

“Taxi will be 5 minutes, sir.” from behind the front-desk.


Fuck! What a twist. This should be interesting.


Dubai in the morning sun; a testament to manufactured beauty. Built from an empty desert.

The hub of the world.

Traffic is bad; I accept the fact I’ve missed my flight. I ask if I can smoke – driver says no.

It’s at this point I can taste the scotch in my throat and the Marlboro tar in my lungs. Absolutely delicious – the midnight snack of champions and scholars.

We get to the airport terminal and there are thousands of people everywhere. I’m from rural Canada – I’ve never even fathomed this much… stuff… in one place.

I get out; load my bags on the airport-cart. You know? That cart you use at the airport.

I run in to the airport and try to check in for my flight as the attendants embraced my smoky-Scottish aroma.

Flight’s boarded; door shut.

HER: You’re going to have to go talk to that man over there, sir.

ME: Thank you very kindly for your help, ma’am.


Now I’ve never been a good negotiator; but the kind elderly gentleman at the desk helped me after I explained my predicament – politely.

As long as I’m polite; things will be all right.

A lot can be gleaned from simply being polite to strangers.

After half-an-hour of this man going-to-bat for my poor, stupid-ass self – he had my three flights “changed” to three other flights.

Beginning at 2AM the next night/morning – for $90.

I was now the very lucky owner of an entire day in Dubai; all to myself.

All I needed was a shower.

To Be Continued…

Part Four


2 responses to “Oblivious in Dubai: Part 3

  1. Pingback: Oblivious in Dubai: Part 4 | Nukes of Knowledge

  2. Pingback: Oblivious in Dubai: Part 2 | Nukes of Knowledge

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