"Not all those who wander are lost"

“it’s like viagra, you go from Burj Al Arab to Burj Khalifa”

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

– Mark Twain

 

12/9

Souks!

Andy, Steve, Nina, Kristin, and I set out to find the famed souks of Dubai.  Since only one line of the metro is finished we got off with a few km to go and began wandering through the streets of merchants, tiny stores, and hoards of Indian guys hawking “copy Rolex, Guicci, Armani…”  After several random stores and many small allies we found the Gold Souk.

It was filled with gold jewelry from wall to wall.  Nina had visited it before and lead us to a smoothie store.  The smoothies were delicious and tasted even better than they looked.  I got a Jazeera which was some combination of mango and some other fruit with walnuts, raisins, and a kiwi on top.

As we left our empty glasses behind we didn’t get ten feet before a man threw a gitra on my head.  Before we knew what was happening we were dressed as Emiratis and having our pictures taken.

After a few he had dressed us all up he started trying to convince us to buy the clothes or some scarves.  Everything he did was “the new trend” but somehow I don’t think this would be good beach or club attire which is what he said I should wear it for.  I actually think I would have some angry Emiratis if I wore this around in public.  We considered the scarves but he was asking for over AED100.  Steve bartered down to 80 but that was still more than the rest of us wanted to pay so we moved on.

We wandered through more winding alleys.  We walked passed another scarf shop and the shop keeper ran over and stopped Nina.  He remembered her from a year and a half ago when she and her friends visited his store.  Wen went into the store and looked at scarves while he made one ridiculous and hilarious remark after another.  After 10 minutes he insisted Nina should be his wife and we were all his best friends.  He brought us upstairs to look at more scarves while he instructed Andy and Steve stay downstairs and watch the store (and sell to anyone if they came in).  A few minutes later he ran back downstairs and reappeared with a belly dancer outfit hi insisted Nina try on.  The whole shebang was good natured and quite comical so we spent the better part of an hour trying to get our breath back between his comments.

Eventually we made it back downstairs and the bartering began.  Since we were “friends” he said he would sell for AED170 instead of his usual 200-230.  We bartered back and forth for a long while and despite all his protests we managed to get him to 260 for 3 scarves.  I decided not to get any to his great disappointment.  Nina needed to pay with a credit card so we followed him through some winding streets to another random shop that had a card machine.  The entire way there and back he hounded me for being in love with my money.  Once we got back to his store Kristin looked at postcards while he brought Nina back in and gave her a free scarf for bringing the rest of us there.  Then he came back for me.  “Your friends all buy my scarf, why you no buy?  I’m not happy.”  He grabbed me by the wrist and pulled my back into his shop.  Me genuinely not wanting to get a scarf was actually great bartering because he offered me three for 150 or two for 100 (earlier he insisted anything less than 120 each was a loss for him and that the only ones he can sell for less are his cheap silk ones from china instead of these cashmere ones).  For future reference when bartering:  don’t want it and you can get it cheaper.

On our initial walk we had overshot the spice souk so we headed back to find it.  First we found lots of stores selling bulk nuts, grains, and spices.  From the nice suits and desks in each store these were clearly for massive amounts of goods not for small scale sales.  The smell hit is first.  It came wafting toward us just before we found the souk itself.  Cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, cloves, coriander, ginger, rosemary, thyme, dried lemon.  Bin, buckets, and baskets of all kinds of spices resided in front of stores with even more inside.

Compared to the wider street of the gold souk this was a narrow alleys.  It was a picture straight out of a movie and it was awesome.  I even found a set of stairs leading up and the shop keeper let us go look at the roofs.  Clearly it was not a wealthy area:  the roof was full of blankets, pads, and other signs that this was the primary residents for many people.

The clear favorite goods were vanilla and saffron.  Whole vanilla beans could be found at every shop.  Saffron was being hawked by everyone and apparently it does more than taste good.  Many toted it’s powers, but one put it best:  “it’s like viagra, you go from Burj Al Arab to Burj Khalifa.”

After getting back from our (Andy, Allie, and I) first Skype meeting the other half of our Senior Design team in NY I headed out to play soccer.  It was truly amazing.  Armed (or should I say footed?) with my new cleats I could actually change direction again.  I came out hot scoring a hat trick (3) playing 4v4 before tons more people came and the game got pretty messy.  New cleats and 3 goals was more than enough to make my night, despite the foot pain.

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