As we all know, the people in the UAE are very different than the people in find in, say, America. This weekend Stu and I went to the Carrefour (a French shopping center) specifically for caulk (we finally got tired of the flooding bathroom with each and every shower). We’re in the checkout line and an Emirati man and his daughter in front of us start ogling Kaden (we’re all used to this by now). She is showing a completely disinterested (and seemingly RUDE) 11-month-old her new bike and blow-up pool and the Dad is asking questions about the baby. After getting the basics out of the way (“11 months”, “we have a pool we take to our roof too”, “yeah, anything to beat the heat”), the guy starts asking Stu about where “Stateside” we’re from, and what we’re doing in the UAE.
About this time I am reminded of my checkout line conversations from Wal-Mart back home. You smile and nod politely. If the fellow liner has kids you make a cutesy comment about them then sneakily turn and stare in an arbitrary direction to avoid further obligatory conversation. Here, if you engage someone in line, you’re immediately their new found friend and you WILL receive and invite to continue the shenanigans at a later date, often in a seemingly shady meeting location.
So this Emirati guy (obviously Emirati based on the traditional dress he was wearing with the checkered head dress and white dishdasha, and the PERFECT English he spoke that puts my English to shame (not to mention the obvious wealth he exuded not only by the trivial things he was buying for his daughter, but the nice Mercedes-Benz-emblemed key hanging from his key ring).
After a long conversation with Stu about his service for 15 years (for the UAE Air Force) working on C130s, he invites us, if we “ever get out to Al Ain” to give him a call and come visit him. He then gives vague mention of his OTHER villa just off the island of Abu Dhabi, if we’d rather hang out there.
So on the walk back to the car Stu and I are equally baffled as to what to do. Obviously, we’d like a wealthy-local-ly-directed tour of Al Ain, but we also value our own lives (and that of our kid’s) and with the abundance of caution we’ve received regarding being diligent about our safety since we’ve been here. “Sure, we’ll come over and eat your fabulous Arabic food (cooked by a Filipina) with our right hands, in your exquisite home, but please don’t sell our beautiful blonde, blue-eyed baby on the black market.”
Anyway, just another vast difference in cultures. If I met someone in line at Wal-Mart with another kid who invited my family over for dinner I wouldn’t think twice about taking them up on the offer… here, who knows…