Some thoughts on the Middle East
October 5, 2010 7 Comments
Well friends, it is looking like our compatriot KC might be going to the Mid East sometime in the near future and has asked that I find some way to get out there as well. Seeing as how, due to my current location, would only take about five hours by aeroplane-age there is a distinct possibility that this is going to happen… and I am really looking forward to joining her out there, as I want to honestly gauge her response to such a foreign environment. This also got me to thinking about the times that I have spent out there, and I would like to provide a brief overview of my impressions of the locale, impressions that I have collected since about 1997, the first time I stepped off of the USS Tarawa (LHA1 baby!) onto the shores of Dubai.
1. The first impression that I ever had, and one that has prevailed to the last time I was out there (2007) is that there is a merging of old and new, but not like our concepts of such. Our old world and new world contrasts stretch a few hundred years and are pretty visible, but theirs is at more of a disparage as it stretches THOUSANDS of years of cultural evolution and provides some pretty wild opposites to have merged. I’ve seen an ultra-modern boutique hotel with amenities that I haven’t even HEARD of (case in point: chrome bidet. Dude.) placed next to a mosque that was 1200 years old, and a son wearing the latest in hip-hop fashion (i.e. his fucking pants could have been used as a doormat as they were already on the floor) walking side by side with his father, who was wearing the customary Dishdasha and counting his worry beads as if to beg Allah forgiveness for how retarded his man child looked. In all honesty it was really cool to see when I was younger and never fails to fill me with interest at how the two extreme opposite points in linear time have merged.
2. My first actual run-in with a Mid Easterner on a personal level was on a Tuesday. It was Bahrain, a tiny little peninsula spiked from the coast of Saudi Arabia, and there was this microscopic sheesha (arabic water pipe) bar that served beer… and we were thirsty. Cue the loud, drunken, hilarious Bahrainian that was in a jovial mood, but spoke REALLY broken English. Short story shorter: we ended up singing friggin Bedouin songs with the idiot and had to stop him every 5 minutes from throwing his shoe at the guy that was serving us. The people are actually a really passionate lot, but JEEBUS can the not hold their liquor. Needless to say fun was had.
3. Took me awhile, but eventually I stopped thinking that every man that was holding hands with another man was a full-blown homo. It is just something that they do, sort of like a more intimate version of the arm over the shoulder thing that you see between mates. Kinda weird at first, but you eventually get used to it. YOU DON’T EMULATE IT, but the “queer” factor eases somewhat after time. That’s not to say that there aren’t any gays in the Mid East…
4. It is a harsh place that seems devoid of life, but there really is true beauty in the area if you look close enough and allow your perceptions of the society that you are from fall to the side for just the briefest of moments. I have seen the desert after the Monsoons blow through explode with life, and have rode out some pretty epic sand storms that turn the world into a windy brown fog… and loved every minute of it. It really is nature at its wildest, rawest form, and is pretty awe-inspiring if you allow it to be.
The Mid East is unlike any other place that I have ever visited, as it is more alien than Asia, harsher than any landscape that I have known (dude, 147 degrees in the friggin shade up in Mosul, Iraq when I was there) and has a people that look like they stepped out of the second century B.C. … but if you look hard enough and open up just enough it can be one of the most amazing and spectacular regions you will ever know.
(Almost forgot: there are Ethiopian hookers in Dubai. Pure awesomesauce if you ask me.)