Where English meets the world – Dubai!

The Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world. This picture was taken from our hotel room balcony around sunset.

I have always wished that I learned a second language. To be honest, there is no excuse for not having learned a second language. I was required to take a foreign language in high school and in college, so there is no one to blame but myself. While I know key vocabulary words and a few phrases, my Spanish leaves a lot to be desired. However, I have found it somewhat easy seeing the world speaking the Queen’s language, or a version of the English. But after spending a long weekend in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), I have come to learn that Dubai is the new location where English meets the world.


The views of Dubai from the observation deck located on the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa.

The UAE is a traditional Arabic speaking nation made up of seven Emirates. Because of the oil boom that has turned this once pearl diving community into an adult playground, workers come from all over the world to service hotels, construct mega structures and provide representatives for the tourist industry. The unifying thread that keeps this country thriving is the universal use of English. While nearly everyone speaks English, not all of it is understandable. After I was able to communicate to my taxi driver a rough outline of what I did as a profession, he went on and on about governance in Bangladesh. Sadly, I was only able to understand 50 percent of what he was saying to me…

Because of the Dubai’s desire to invite Westerners and other foreign nationals to work and visit the Emirate of Dubai, the government has developed a very pro-Western society that is littered with super-sized shopping malls, sky high office and apartment buildings and every American restaurant chain you can imagine. During my visit, I indulged in the Cheesecake Factory and McDonalds. Both were able to fill a missing void after living for a year in Nigeria. However, the U.A.E. is a clash of cultures. Emirati men and women dress in traditional attire called a kandoora. Men usually dress in white and women in black. However, as you walk down the corridors of most of the shopping malls, you will see foreign nationals in mini-skirts, jeans and shorts. When you enter the mall, signs instruct you on proper behavior and dress. It’s a fascinating look at how the city has tried to modernize under Sharia law.


The juxtaposition that is Dubai

When I visited Dubai in 2012, I was disappointed because it reminded me of a typical American city with all the name brands and restaurants. However, after living on the African continent for the past two years, it is nice to know that I am a non-stop flight to all the trappings of American society. The chicken Big Mac goes a long way in boosting the spirits and curing home sickness…And after talking with my friend Heather Albertson, who has lived in Dubai for seven years, it is now on my list of future places to live.


The Burj Al Arab – a seven star hotel along the Persian Gulf

I met Heather in 2007 during a Mclean Bible Church mission trip to India. Thanks to social media, we have been able to reconnect twice since 2007. In 2012, when I was in the U.A.E with the United Nations, she took me around town and helped me navigate the gold shops of Dubai. In 2013, thanks to a random posting on Facebook that she was in Frankfurt for Christmas, we were able to spend Christmas Eve together. And the last couple of days, we have been able to reconnect and catch up on the ever-changing lives that we live. It has been such a thrill spending time with her.


Sentell, Heather and Sheila 

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