I’m writing this on my flight to Dubai. (Side note: I’M SO EXCITED I AM GOING TO DUBAI!) I’m happy, without a doubt. But I’m also aware of a tangle of emotions.
Sample reactions to my destination choice for my vacation:
- Will you have to wear a hijab? Are you comfortable being veiled?
- Why go to a place where you can’t drink?
- Aren’t you gonna starve? What will you eat if it is all whatsitcalledagain… Halal food?
- Who wants to bet Vanilla won’t come back, bc they’ll stone her to death over one of her crazier stories?
- Oh you DO know ppl over there. Good. They’ll tell you what you can/cannot do, to avoid you getting arrested. Reaaaaaaally. They’re Syrian? How unusual. How…?
- Dubai? Neat! I went there with my girlfriend last year, and we had a blast. It’s completely different. Beautiful. Make sure you visit the souks – though it’d be best if you had a local show you around those. You do? An Arab! Even better, you’ll avoid language barriers- our friend was a French expat. And the food! You’ll love it. What area will you be staying in? You should definitely do xyz. Btw, the sun is really strong. They have sunscreen dispensers on the beach, kinda like vending machines, it’s funny. Still, consider covering up when around town, otherwise you’ll be reapplying sunscreen all day, and even then, you’ll probably burn like we did.
That last comment was made by a (white male) French coworker. Notice how he assumes I am capable of regulating my behaviour to avoid putting myself in danger and MORE IMPORTANTLY to avoid offending the ppl living in the country I am travelling to (#manners101). He doesn’t find it weird that I have Arab friends. Not a single misplaced, ignorant comment about Muslims’ attitudes towards women.
In case y’all are wondering: halal food can be delicious or not, depending on the cook – just like non-halal food. Dubai has the world’s highest % of expats: the city is tolerant towards all cultures and behaviours. Alcohol is permitted, as long as the restaurant/hotel is licensed- not all restaurants are, depending on their target market. No limitations on women’s dress, though obviously, immodest/vulgar dress is frowned upon. Which really is no loss for humanity – we all benefit when ppl exhibit style and good taste. Covering up is a good idea, not because they hate women, but because of practical considerations like avoiding skin cancer and preventing heat stroke.
Funny story. Yesterday I walked from the Louvre up to Sacré-Cœur after work. I was wearing high heels (very comfortable booties – I walked for 1.5 hours on cobblestone streets with no problem, and would have continued walking if it hadn’t been for my starvation levels), opaque black tights, a short skirt, sensible spring coat and a big scarf. During my walk up and down la Bute, I discovered that Parisian women don’t wear mini-skirts. The women stared contemptuously at me, and the men undressed me with their eyes. I was seriously uncomfortable. It felt close to the discomfort levels I experienced in Beirut. But experiencing that in Beirut is reasonable bc #Arab and #Muslim and #totalmisogynyobvi. Paris, however is the ville de l’amour, lieu de naissance de la démocratie, right? #jesuisCharlie, and all that. Yet Paris is the only city where I’ve been manhandled by a guy against my will. Could it be that #totalmisogynyobvi is not something that should be exclusively associated with Arabs and Muslims?! Gasp! White men do that too??!?!?! Say it isn’t so!!!!
If the Dynamo trip to Beirut last year taught me anything, it’s that friendship and happiness transcend nationality and religion. I’m so excited to see Dynamo’s bro (BossMan) & his wife (IronSweetie). “Vanilla, of COURSE you will stay with us, you are family. Don’t insult us by staying anywhere else.” Yes, how unusual that I’d be friends with people so loving and kind when they don’t share my faith or my birth country! What am I thinking? Oh right. I’m thinking they’ll prevent me from being arrested or stoned to death. #usefulfriendsonly