I Wish I Had a Date

My life currently revolves around dates. I’m in the process of ridding my apartment of its contents and have pickups scheduled for the next two weeks. As part of our clearance process, there are steps that must be taken so we can produce the necessary paperwork to have our resident visas canceled. Yesterday, a representative from the gas company stopped in to check the gas line so I could obtain clearance for the first of several utilities. Mind you, I never had a gas connection since I chose electric appliances, but the tech had to drop by to verify anyway.

Just as I suspected...

Just as I suspected…

Next, I’ll wait for my resignation request to move forward, which I submitted on March 8. Rumor had it that all requests would be processed by June 15, but dates don’t seem to mean all that much here so it’s still in limbo. Inshallah, I will receive an email next week so I can begin the multi-step exit process. If all goes according to plan, I’ll clear out of my apartment on June 30, shack up in a hotel for six days, and fly home on July 6. All of this is tentative right now, so we’ll see. I wish I had a date.

I will, however, tell you what kind of dates do matter to the people of the UAE- these babies:

I would be remiss if I didn’t explain the importance of dates in this country. Bedouins harvested, used, and sold dates long before the United Arab Emirates was formed. Nutritious, abundant, and easy to pack for traveling, dates have sustained Middle Easterners for more than 7000 years. Rarely will we attend a meeting without being offered chocolate and dates. Generally wherever there is coffee or tea, dates are nearby.

150-plus varieties of this fruit, which grow on the date palm, are found in the UAE.

Add to that the dozens of variations in which dates can be doctored up, and it’s borderline mind-blowing. Pass a kiosk in the mall and this is what you’ll see:

Dubai even hosts a Date Festival every year:

One of my students (she doesn’t speak much English but she smiles a lot) brought me a container of dates from her grandfather’s date farm.

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She had an English-speaking friend tell me that they’d last for months on my kitchen counter and I should eat one every day instead of sharing them. Now, if they were wrapped in bacon (so haramadan!) that would’ve been one thing, but I did end up sharing these with anyone and everyone who stopped over.  In the past two years, it’s definitely one of the nicest gifts I’ve received while here.

Now, the third type of date is something I may need help with, so all you Chicagoans need to flip through your Rolodexes and hook me up with your best catch starting July 6. Inshallah. That may be a taller order to fill than getting me out of here. Yet, after meeting so many people and having such a great time, I’m sure when I return I’ll wish I had a date. And I’m a much more tolerant human now. Really.

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And We’ll Never Be Royals…

… but it sure is fun to pretend every now and then.

In true UAE fashion, Emirates Palace is over the top. A seven star luxury hotel, the Palace has delighted visitors for the past ten years. Sadly, its status as the “world’s most expensive hotel” has been lost and its current billing is the “world’s second most expensive hotel,” a title I’m sure the locals despise as the people live to showcase their enormous wealth.

Either way, this hotel oozes glitz and glamour. Emirates Palace boasts 114 domes and over 200 fountains, and is replete with gold, silver, marble, glass mosaics, and more than 1,000 Swarovski crystal chandeliers.
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Jen & me out front

Jen & me out front

Visitors are free to roam many areas (though the top floor of the hotel is reserved for Gulf Arab royalty only), so it’s nice to stop in with guests and take a photo in front of the gold ATM and/or the world’s most expensive Christmas tree.
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My December visitors

My December visitors

My first visit to the Palace was in the evening, so I was able to pop into Étoiles, a nightclub that starts rolling around midnight. Because we went at 10pm it was nearly empty. We bought a drink, but after learning the charge to score a table we decided just to walk around the indoor/outdoor club until we finished.

The second drink I bought in the hotel was last weekend with Kathryn, my fourth visitor (I love guests!). I had walked past Le Café every time I had gone to the Palace, so after hearing numerous rave reviews of the cappuccino with gold flakes, I decided to imbibe.
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Since Kathryn was only in Abu Dhabi for two days, we had to make smart decisions about what to see and do in order to maximize her weekend here, and we both agreed this was a win. When the cappuccino arrived, we took photos and marveled at our trays for at least five full minutes before digging in. The presentation, which included a date and a macaron, justified the cost (58dhs/$16 US) and the taste was wonderful as well.
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Treating myself to a few good things in life on the weekends makes the weekdays bearable. Come see for yourself for a taste of upscale living! Even if the UAE isn’t on your travel radar, you can still get a glimpse of Emirates Palace in the movie Fast and Furious 7, along with many other Abu Dhabi landmarks. But I suggest you just make a point to visit me and I’ll take you on a personal tour, gold-flaked cappuccino and all.
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