Somewhat accidentally I discovered the Executive Lounge of this hotel. For an extra charge one can use the facilities of the lounge, which are superlative. It is high in the sky, on the 37th floor. There are many rooms with great views. The very best place to place oneself is in a room with tables and surrounding chairs, that overlooks the massive stables of the Ruler of Dubai. There are stables, a racing track, acres and acres of property with spotless, well constructed bars and everything needed to keep horses healthy, wealthy and wise. (Now that is a joke, horses are kept healthy – the Ruler of Dubai is wealthy and wise (and apparently healthy) I discovered the stables and race track on the morning of my first breakfast there. A man was sitting at a corner table enjoying his breakfast and the view. The following conversation took place, initiated by myself (as usual).
Me: My face mask is much more attractive than yours.
He: It is, it is sparsely, just like your eyes.
Me: Thank you what a great compliment, and from a Brit – I can tell by your accent. I lived in London for two and a half years.
He: I live neat Surrey.
Me: I certainly know where that is. What do you do for a living if I may ask. I used to be a lawyer.
He: I am a pilot. I ‘drive; private jets.
Me: Interesting! I know people with private jets but they have never availed me of their services.
He: That is too bad.
Me: I guess so. Perhaps there might be hope in the future, but I doubt it.
I later spoke to two black men from Senegal and they asked me to join them at their table. They only spoke French – I had to retrieve my pre -high school French. It was not pretty, but the elder brother (51), a Muslim proposed saying he would be most happy to be my husband. He was being serious and most charming. He kissed my hand and was very courtly. They live in Dubai and promised to show me around when I come to live here. We exchanged telephone numbers,
Another very handsome young (28) year old staff member from India said he was jealous – that he wanted to marry me. So two proposals before noon – not bad for an old broad.
Then back at tea time with a chat with the chef in between. Tea scones were delicious as were the small sandwiches but for some strange reason they served tea in a cup with a tea bag. That is an American (lack of) custom – not the British way. Met a delightful couple, also from the UK who have been coming to Dubai for years – he can remember when there was nothing here at all – no hotels, only sand. They always stay at this hotel (well, since its construction). Hahaha There was a little boy running about and screaming (unknown in these parts but not in the USA)
Me: Dear, use your inside voice.
The mother looked a little surprised but I was most good natured and said:
Me: I was a Granny once, Children occasionally need the loving discipline of a Granny, it makes it easier for a mother.
The little boy did quiet down somewhat. In my usual fashion I laughed with the staf, asking them about their life in Dubai. One man from India showed me a picture of his young son who lives in India with his wife, the mother of his young son.
He: I am separated from them at the moment. But with both of use working we look forward to a good future and I am glad that I can provide for them from here.
Me: And your wife, as you said, lives in an extended family which makes it liable and companionable for her.
Then along came happy hour – 6:30 but an extremely helpful staff member told me to come fifteen minutes early and she would show me to a good table. She did, escorted me, both of us laughing all the time. At first it was boring, people caught up in intense conversations intended to impress each other. At another table there was one man on his computer.
I stood to retrieve food – there was a man dressed in white.
Me: Oh you must be a Emerati.
He: No I am not. I am from Saudi. I am an engineer, here on business. I would be honored if you sat at my table so that we can talk.
Me: No. I would be honored if you sat at my table. Then we will both be honored.
So we sat and talked and it was one of the most fascinating discussions ever had. We talked about the faith, my introduction to the Muslim religion, my views on women’s role in the faith particularly in countries where there is a Muslim majority. We disagreed about some aspects but, largely, found agreement about the faith and many other aspects of life. He came from a small city in the mountains of Saudi Arabia, his mother lives there being cared for by a brother. He commended life in that setting where there are extended families and a sense of caring and support throughout – not like Dubai, for example, he said. Some misconceptions about Saudi life were corrected – began to see life in that country differently. We found, believe it or not, that we had much in common. We are most competitive, with ourselves, not others. He spoke of hid dedication to master English – he would endlessly watch English cartoons and movies, somewhat in secret, amazing teachers with his aptitude.
We are both on the same floor of this hotel. I wanted to give him my book on the Tate Britain, He respectfully stood at the doorway as I retrieved it. He is here for the next five days, we hope to talk to one another again. We spoke of the dehumanization of peoples.
He: It is like they have become robots.
Me: I totally agree. There is a table of them to our right.
He: Yes, I see that. They are so wrapped up in one another.
Me: Yes! They have lost all curiosity about their surroundings. They have not even noticed us, much less wonder what a Saudi man in a dress and head scarf is doing laughing and talking with an American woman in a silk head scarf that keeps slipping off her head.
He: They do not! Curiosity is so important.
Me: I agree fully. I am still in the process of writing a biography of my Uncle Dave, a sports writer. He and I are totally different from the rest of the vast family (8 sons) . I finally pinpointed the difference – he and I both very curious – well he has been dead since 1948 so it WAS his curiosity. But it does live on through me, in a strange way.
There was some precedent for this conversation, as earlier in the day, I found, in an old notebook penned in 2017, words from a book Constructing Immortality. “Chapter 1 begins with this guide. Human beings are resourceful and every culture has attractive ways of imagining a world in which the dead are really still alive.” Then more written about the book: “It is sufficiently interesting that we attribute feelings, desires, and emotions to the deceased, that we continue dialogues with them, that the material possessions they leave behind become imbued with meaning and that we carry on public fights and pursue causes on their behalf.” Then this simple but most meaningful sentence: “The dead person is incorporated into their sense of self. “ When those words were written I was knee deep in a heavy relationship with my dead uncle. I constantly was talking ‘with’ the dead, in conversation with Uncle Dave. He became larger than life. I had to stop – and did. The book is unfinished and probably will never see completion. I need to look ahead to my new life. Wise Man advises not to look back – I am not, instead looking forward to a new life in Dubai.
The Saudi Engineer and I took photographs of one another, He laughingly said he was sending one to his wife, telling her that he was in the Executive Lounge with this woman. Attached is a selfie, taken by him as he has longer arms than I have.