The first time I got off the plane in this country, so far so good. However by Dubai law, women and men are not supposed to live together. I had a feeling that my Christmas vacation was no exception. I frantically searched for Wifi to ask Tom for an alibi and the address to give to customs. The men working a border control wore long white traditional dresses. I decided not to take push my luck with photos. I stood in front of the offices with the same legal name as always, Shapiro. Two passport control officials spoke in Arabic amongst each other. I was nervous. Were they looking for Israeli stamps? Finally, the let me go and then immediately called me back. Oh god. Here we go. They took my passport one more time and sent me on my way for good. No questions asked.
The second time preparing for a trip in Dubai I handed my mom my star a David. I was nervous to travel to Dubai again especially feeling a sinus infection coming on. When I got off the plane this time my ears were completely clogged. I remembered the back and forth the first I arrived here. The officer at the passport control was alone this time. He asked something. Was he talking to me? I couldn’t hear him. I stayed silent. He asked again. It sounded like he asked, “What is your middle name?” I stayed silent. That was his only question, whatever it was. He let me go.
Tom my boyfriend, but more importantly my best friend moved to Dubai two Septembers ago. After dating Tom for about a year when we studied in Arizona, he went back home to Holland, and we’ve been long distance ever since. On summer breaks I’d spend weeks with him, and vise versa. These past two Christmases I ventured on to a 12 hour plane ride to see him. If that’s not love I don’t know what is.
Although I am always up for an adventure, If I am going to be completely honest, I never imagined myself making it out here. Since his move I have been the victim of countless negative lectures from people who have never been to Dubai. Tom always tried to discredit the unpopular opinions, but I have to admit they sunk in and I became very closed minded as well.
The day before my first trip to Dubai I tried on every long article of clothing I have that might be modest, but appropriate for 80+ degree weather. There was a period of time when my family would judge my outfits based on wether or not they believed they were fit enough for Dubai’s traditional culture. As you can guess there was not a lot that passed their test, so packing was a bit challenging. Tom was eight hours ahead of me, and already asleep. However desperate times call for desperate measures, and a Skype call was made so he could give me his expert opinion.
The day of my flight I was feeling a little anxious, but I always do before I go on a trip to see Tom. My mind goes blank, but my heart races. I am not sure if going so far had anything to do it, but I always wonder, after all these months apart will everything feel the same. I boarded the plane to find out.
I wish I could tell you about Emirate’s first class reclining chairs, but I sat in economy for the next 12 hours of my life. For an economy flight however I had a pretty decent amount of leg room, and they give you these cute little cosmetic bag full of flight essentials. I had snacks and a TV, what more could I ask for? I looked around and noticed, the plane was also filled with western women just like me, traveling to Dubai all on their own.
Tom said it was hard and expensive to by alcohol outside the airport, especially since on my first trip he and his roommates were waiting for their liquor licenses. It is my second time in Dubai it is very easy to forget that Dubai is a muslim country once you exit the airport with your bag full of duty free, and my suitcase was filled with a lot of duty free alcohol. Apparently the legal limit is four bottles. I unknowingly was allowed to walk out with six bottles.
Tom greeted me at the airport with a small kiss, which took me by surprise, but gave me a lot of delight. We stepped out of the terminal and into a “lady cab”. “Lady cabs” use women drives drivers who only drive ladies. They will drive men only if they are with a women. It was Tom’s first time in one since he had never had another female visitor in Dubai yet. Our driver’s car had pink accents on it, and she wore a baby pink hijab to match. Through out the ride she addressed me, although it was clear that Tom was the one with the directions. We finally arrived to his apartment, bottles in hand. I was greeted by his roommates as a hero.