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POV: What is this place called Arabia?

“It’s like China on steroids!” remarked one traveler, “not as huge or extensive, but not to be outdone for the biggest or the best.”

To western hemisphere dwellers, as we are, the cultural and religious differences to which we are exposed in an Arab nation are huge. All visitors and ex-pats are expected to be respectful of one another in public. Public displays of affection are not encouraged and things such as public drunkenness are not allowed. But there is a double standard in that ex-pats and tourists are held to a different, more lenient, standard than are the Muslim Arab natives. Unlike Saudi Arabia, a neighbor, the UAE is moderate in its view of religion and the punishment for perceived infractions is done by courts and not with Ayatollah-like fierceness.

Our trip perhaps is the beginning, for us, in releasing the cultural biases which separate us and which make understanding difficult. Tourism in the Emirates is now bringing in well over 20 million visitors yearly. Dubai alone has more than 70,000 hotel rooms. Mutual knowledge will grow and our differences will shrink. In 2020, Dubai is planning to host the World Expo. Perhaps you should sign on now. Just pick your hotel carefully; don’t get caught in a place called The Address in downtown Dubai, purportedly the world’s most expensive hotel, with over 100 floors of rooms and suites, all occupied and all costing upwards of a few thousand per night!

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