“What’s wrong with being American?” I asked.
They have the illusion of freedom and a population educated enough to push buttons without drooling on them. But how does any of that matter to this Egyptian man in Dubai?
“There is nothing wrong with American people. People are just people, everywhere in the world. But, American foreign policy and meddling in the affairs of sovereign nations causes a lot of grief to those that see themselves as oppressed. As that grief, frustration and anger builds; those suffering and those standing in solidarity with those that are suffering – get angrier and angrier.”
The sight of a seemingly privileged American – drunk and lost in a country that frowns upon such predicaments – was just another assumption made true about the indifference of American society to anything outside of its own bubble.
Once we cleared up the fact that I was not American; the taxi driver looked at me and said, “You don’t want to go to that hotel. Too expensive. I’m going to take you to a hotel that is near to it; if you do not like it, I will take you back to your other hotel instead.”
Now in hindsight; nineteen, naive and with no bearings whatsoever – agreeing to have a man I’d just met drive me to an unknown location was probably not what I should have done.
But, I did it. And it was one of the most fruitful of drunken judgement calls to date.
This kind Egyptian man took me to a hotel; near to a bank and across a parking lot and some buildings from Burger King. He gets out and talks to the doorman; and then they hail the bellhop, Salazar.
The taxi driver tells me he will wait while I check out the room. If I don’t like it – he will take me to the other hotel.
In hindsight – I probably should have taken my bags with me.
Salazar and I go up to the sixth floor; he shows me a room with a balcony – facing Burger King.
We head back downstairs to the front desk.
“Looks great – how much for the day and most of the evening?” I ask.
“Eighty five US, sir.” says the man behind the counter.
I accept; thank the taxi driver; and Salazar helps me with my things.
On the way to my room, while in the elevator, Salazar asks me if I want a woman to visit.
“What you like? Nubian girl?”
After my experience the night before; I knew not to ask if he was serious.
I laughed, thanked him for the offer, and reassured him that I was ‘okay’.
“Okay sir, if you change your mind just call front desk and ask for Salazar.”
I showered and then decided to go for a walk. On my way out; I stopped to chat with the door-man who greeted the taxis and tenants. He offered me the opportunity to go on a ‘Desert Safari’. At this moment I was still very sick and hungover – so I decided to continue my exploration of the neighbourhood.
Nothing exciting near by; I visited a local corner store that was a few hundred metres from the hotel – purchasing some shisha and a power-bar-converter so that I could charge my laptop.
I made it back to the hotel; went inside; and tried to nap. No such luck. The anguish of a hangover mixed with the euphoria of opportunity kept me primed and ready.
I think it’s time I go on that safari.
Down the elevator and outside to the reception area; I approach the door-man and ask him to book me for the desert safari.
I pay him, which was odd for me. I later came to understand that this is how some transactions are conducted in some parts of the world. He arranges it; takes payment; takes a cut – and later on that day an SUV would come pick me up.
I trusted him; hell, I trusted the cab driver. This was an extension of the trust paid to my driver.
Why not get into an SUV with strangers and let them drive me out into the middle of the Arabian desert?