We're sated, enjoying that little dopey buzz of quasi accomplishment you feel after a surprisingly intense theme-park ride. A disclaimer: It may be that, when you're 46 and pearl white and wearing a new bathing suit at a theme park on your first full day in Arabia, you're especially prone to Big Naive Philosophical Realizations. The old dividers—nation, race, religion—will be overpowered by crossbreeding and by our mass media, our world Culture o' Enjoyment.
One of the Arab kids, the one with the Chico hair, passes a drenched cigarette to me, to pass to his friend, and then a lighter, and suddenly everybody's smiling—me, the Arab Mars, the sunburned German girls, the U. Still bobbing around (three days before the resort bombings in Cairo, two weeks after the London bombings), I think-mumble a little prayer for the great homogenizing effect of pop culture: Same us out, Lord MTV!
" while punching each other lovingly in the tattoos and shooting what I recognize as Rural Smiles of Shyness and Apprehension at all the people staring at them because they're so freaking loud.
This ride involves a series of tremendous water jets that blast you, on your tube, to the top of Wild Wadi, where, your recently purchased swim trunks having been driven up your rear by the jets, you pause, looking out over the entire city—the miles of stone-white villas, the Burj Al Arab (sail-shaped, iconic, the world's only seven-star hotel) out in the green-blue bay—just before you fly down so fast that you momentarily fear the next morning's headline will read MIDDLE-AGED AMERICAN DIES IN FREAK WATERSLIDE MISHAP; BATHING SUIT FOUND FAR UP ASS.
Even if, in the process, we are left a little dumber, please proceed.
Let us, brothers and sisters, leave the intolerant, the ideologues, the religious Islamist Bolsheviks, our own solvers-of-problems-with-troops behind, fully clothed, on the banks of Wild Wadi.
The site is crisscrossed by 2.3 miles of fake creeks, trolled night and day by dozens of fake Arabian water taxis () piloted by what I can only describe as fake Arabs because, though dressed like old-timey Arabs, they are actually young, smiling, sweet-hearted guys from Nepal or Kenya or the Philippines, who speak terrific English as they pilot the soundless electrical through this lush, created Arabia, looking for someone to take back to the lobby, or to the largest outdoor pool in the Middle East, or over to Trader Vic's, which is also themed and looks something like a mysterious ancient Casbah inexplicably filled with beautiful contemporary people.. ), what I found during my stay at the Madinat is that irony is actually my first response to tepid, lame Theming.
In the belly of radical Theming, my first response was to want to stay forever, bring my family over, set up shop in my hut-evoking villa, and never go home again. The air is perfumed, you hear fountains, the tinkling of bells, distant chanted prayers, and when the (real) Arabian moon comes up, yellow and attenuated, over a (fake) Arabian wind tower, you feel you are a resident of some ancient city—or rather, some ancient city if you had dreamed the ancient city, and the ancient city had been purged of all disease, death, and corruption, and you were a Founder/Elder of that city, much beloved by your Citizens, the Staff.Wandering around one night, a little lost, I came to the realization that verisimilitude and pleasure are not causally related. This is real flowing water, the date and palm trees are real, the smell of incense and rose water is real.The staggering effect of the immense scale of one particular crosswalk—which joins two hotels together and is, if you can imagine this, a four-story ornate crosswalk that looks like it should have 10,000 cheering Imperial Troops clustered under it and an enigmatic young Princess waving from one of its arabesquey windows—that effect is . It makes you feel happy and heroic and a little breathless, in love anew with the world and its possibilities.Until three years ago, only nationals were allowed to own property in Dubai, and they still own essentially all of it.Visually identifiable by their dress—the men wear the traditional white dishdashas; the women, long black gowns and abayas—these nationals occupy the top rung of a rigid social hierarchy: Imagine Hollywood, if everyone who'd been wildly successful in the movie business had to wear a distinctive costume.The hotel workers I met at the Madinat, for example, having been handpicked by Jumeirah scouts from the finest hotels in their native countries, are a class, or two, or three, above the scores of South Asian laborers who do the heavy construction work, who live in labor camps on the outskirts of town where they sleep ten to a room, and whose social life, according to one British expat I met, consists of "a thrilling evening once a month of sitting in a circle popping their bulbs out so some bloody Russian chickie can race around hand-jobbing them all in a mob."You see these construction guys all over town: somewhat darker-complexioned, wearing blue jumpsuits, averting their eyes when you try to say hello, squatting outside a work site at three in the morning because Dubai construction crews work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.