The past few days have been quite an adventure. I finally got a patch job done on my roof to repair the damage done by Hurricane Ike. After the roofers were done, I had to catch a flight to Dubai on my way to Iraq. The flight was 16 hours long, but it wasn’t too bad because I was able to sleep for a few hours.
When I landed in Dubai, I head straight to the hotel. Dubai is one of the seven emirates and the largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is located along the southern coast of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula. The city of Dubai is sometimes called “Dubai city” to distinguish it from the emirate. It has quickly grown into one of the world’s major financial centers and tourist destinations. If you visit, be prepared for stifling heat and humidity. The city rests in the middle of the Arabian Desert.
I didn’t have much time to tour the city because I had to catch an early flight to Baghdad. Besides, Ramadan was in full effect so nothing was open until sunset. When the sun went down, I took a short walk around the block. People were flocking to the streets to get to their post-fast feasts and parties. I noticed many men dressed elegantly in their pristine Dishdashahs and 3-piece head cover. The bottom piece of this head covering is a white cap that is sometimes filled with holes. This cap, called Thagiyah, is used to hold the hair in place. On top of the Thagiyah is a white, scarf-like head cover called Gutrah. These head covers protect the head from direct sunlight and can be used to cover the mouth and the nose during sand storms or cold weather. On top of the Thagiyah and the Gutrah is the Ogal, which is a black band surrounding the top of the head to hold everything else in place.
As I walked along I also noticed several nicely dressed women. A few of them were checking me out and smiling. I thought that Mocha Dad had it going on until I realized that these women were prostitutes. They were very aggressive and kept propositioning me by asking, “You want a lady?” I politely refused each time and hurried back to my hotel. I was surprised to see so many prostitutes in an Islamic country, but Dubai is just like any other big city with all of the vices.
I tired to sleep at the hotel, but I couldn’t so I watched some of the local TV shows. Of course, I could not understand what the actors were saying but the shows were entertaining. At 3 a.m., the driver came to take me to the airport. The flight to Iraq was two hours long. I stayed wake the whole time because I was a bit anxious about going into a war zone.
I got off the plane and was greeted by more intense heat. The whole city is covered in a film of dust because it is often besieged by fierce sandstorms.
When I got through immigration, I met my driver who escorted me to an armored vehicle and whisked me off down the road. I was a bit nervous as we left the airport and got on the highway. Thoughts of IEDs and car bombs filled my mind. Traffic was light and my driver intimidated the other cars enough that they moved out of his way. We encountered a few checkpoints along the way. Some were manned by Iraqi and others by US forces. I felt much more comfortable at the US checkpoints. Something about the Iraqi soldiers with M-16s unnerved me a bit.
We finally made it to the base where I was assigned my living quarters and work area. My living quarters was furnished with a bed, desk, TV, toiletries, helmet and flak vest. I hoped I wouldn’t have to use the last two items. Attacks have subsided significantly since April – a trend I hoped would continue.
I was exhausted and was yearning for rest since I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours. Before I went to sleep, my colleagues insisted that I see Suddam Hussein’s opulent main palace. Although he was a madman, Saddam knew how to enjoy the finer things in life.
I finally got back to my quarters to get some rest so I could recover from jet lag and get ready for the remainder of my trip. I will post whenever I can, but I will be in some remote locations so my posting will be sporadic.