Holy crap, Dubai.
I only spent a few hours in Dubai, but it made a hell of an impression. It's rich, it's modern, it's clean. Big new buildings. Huge wide roads. (Crazy drivers, but that bugs me a lot less than it used to.) No visa hassles -- you show your passport, you go in.
First impressions: hot and sticky. Apparently Dubai has three seasons: dry and warm, dry and hot, and hot and intolerably humid. We're just at the beginning of the humid season, so: dog breath. And it will get worse before it gets better.
It's flat as a pancake. The combination of flatness, heat, and humidity reminds me faintly of central Florida... Orlando on the Persian Gulf, I guess.
But it's the Middle East. I saw my first woman in a, what do you call it, burqa? The one with just an eyeslit. That's not the norm --most women were just wearing headscarves -- but wow.
The woman at the visa desk had henna patterns all over her hands and wrists. I think of henna as something bored teenage girls do, not something people take seriously. But someone had obviously spent hours on this.
The airport was full of South Asians with a sprinkling of Central Asians and Filipinos. Dubai is one of those places where the locals have desk jobs and guest workers do everything manual. How well this works I can't say based on a few hours, but they've certainly managed to build a lot.
The air conditioning in my hotel room was turned to deep freeze.
Hotel: modern business culture has a tremendous homeogenizing effect. The hotel had a British pub, an Italian restaurant, and a Mexican place. There was also a bar with a little dance floor and a band. Which was of course Filipino, and which of course played the most awful hits of the last 40 years. ("Loooovving you... is easy 'cause you're beautiful...")
I had to try the Mexican place. It was decent basic Mexican, maybe half a cut north of Denny's. It had one of those annoying TV screens that announces the specials. They all were about 50%-100% more expensive than in the US. "Barbecue ribs! (may contain pork)" said one screen. "Thursday is Karaoke night!" warned another. I ate nachos and read my book until they turned the lights down for dancing. They weren't great nachos but they weren't bad either, and you'd be surprised how good even mediocre Mexican tastes after six or eight months without.
Walked around for a few minutes after, but the hotel was not in a good neighborhood for walking -- by which I mean it seemed to sit at the intersection of two large highways, with no neighbors but other hotels -- and anyway I was tired. And my flight was at 7:00 so I had to be early to bed.
Internet was $30 for a card good for 10 hours, so none of that. Read a few pages, crashed, got five hours of sleep.
And that was Dubai.