On the way to the restaurant, my thoughts drifted back to the past. 2003, Enrique and I were on our way to dinner. Then we were in Washington D.C. and we walked across the bridge into Georgetown. We stopped at an English Pub. Our waiter was Colombian. What a coincidence, right? And then the bus boy was also Colombian. I joked with Enrique: Colombia claims to have a population of 75 million, but I think there are probably 150 million and half of them are spread all over the world. Who would imagine that at an English Pub in Georgetown would have two Colombians working there? The joke precipitated because we encountered a Colombian vendor on the Santa Monica Pier a month earlier and two Colombians on our way from Los Angeles to Washington D.C.
Tonight we were in our way to a restaurant, "La Hambra" at the "Al Qasr" Hotel in Dubai. We were on our way to meet, wait for it, one of Enrique’s Colombian aunts and one of his many Colombian second cousin and family for a birthday dinner. Really? We stopped off in Dubai for a few days on our way to India and not only do we meet a Colombian, we meet up with Enrique’s family of six Colombians. Enrique’s aunt lives 10 minutes away from us in Colombia and we haven’t seen her in six months, but we meet up with her in Dubai. Well, half the population, and now half of Enrique’s Colombian family, are out there scattered all over the world.
After the workshop in Los Angeles, on Monday afternoon, we boarded our flight for Dubai. We arrived Tuesday evening after adding 11 hours to the 16 hour flight. We will be here for three days to sort of "de-jet lag" before arriving in Trivandrum, India on Saturday morning. For the following 21 days we will be traveling up the west coast of India to Mumbai and eventually to Kathmandu, Nepal. We will be trekking for 3 days in Nepal before returning to Kathmandu to fly home to California.
Dubai is a fascinating city that is teeming with construction — I saw at least 30 construction cranes, really I am not exaggerating. It is also a city that is adding new "firsts" to its already long list of firsts: Tallest building in the world, first indoor real snow ski slopes (in Emirates Mall), largest aquarium (in Dubai Mall), largest Mall (again Dubai Mall with over 1000 stores and a construction cost of close to $65 billion USD), largest water park (again in the Dubai Mall). The list goes on. In 2020 Dubai hosts the World Expo and they expect one 200,000 tourists, and the expected revenues are astounding. This city is excited about the future and eager to create its new world.
Dubai was a small fishing village in the 1700s. It was one of seven tribes that eventually became seven Emirates. It was nothing more until after World War II. Oil was discovered in 1962, production began in 1969, and the seven Emirates united. Thus the UAE — United Arab Emirates. Oil and natural gas are still prevalent in Abu Dhabi , but they are all but exhausted in Dubai. I was surprised to learn that oil production is only 4% of GNP in Dubai. Tourism is first, real estate investment is second followed by financial services. In the 2008 economic collapse, UAE and Dubai took that failure as a springboard for massive innovation: Tourism.
We had a really fun dinner at "La Hambra" a Spanish restaurant with Spanish speaking waiters: Tapas and wine and passionate conversation spiced with laughter. Tomorrow we are off to Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE. More to follow.