Habibi (Arabic for darling / dear), The Middle East Monger
It was 2003 when I got a phone call from my boss in Dubai to leave my present location of work, which was Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, which was the little heard of backwater area held by the US in Cuba. And which would a few years later become infamous and known worldwide!
Anyway, the conversation was short and I was told to get my arse to Dubai as soon as possible to take over the logistics and security roles coming up over there. I had to look on a map, and there it was, a little Emirate, part of seven that made up the UAE, United Arab Emirates, oil rich and quite cosmopolitan…at least you can get a beer there!
So off I go back to Miami first, then to Schipol and finally Dubai, landing late afternoon and walking out into a hot humid atmosphere, to be collected and dumped at the office, housed in a prestigious building alongside the creek complete with Arab Dhows ready to ply their way to Africa or India with an array of cheap crap and second-hand cars which in any other place would have been destined to the scrap heap.
The first thing you will notice in Dubai is the lack of local people around. It looks just like a scene from India or Pakistan as the locals only make up 10% of the population with Indians and Pakistanis the predominant races there, as with Filipinos, and the dregs of the Middle East, Lebanese, Egyptian etc. (in fact there are over 120 nationalities here as of today).
So I get to the office and the boss is waiting for me, hands me the keys to a car and tells me that there is a villa ready for me where I will be staying, and tells me where it is…so I duly laugh and say how the fxxk am I supposed to find that I have only just arrived? Point taken, he tells the driver to hang around and then proposes we go to dinner and have a chat over a few beers. Great stuff, food and beer always a welcome sight, so off I go with the driver to shower and change and to get my bearings and arrange to meet my boss in a couple of hours, somewhere the driver obviously knows well from the smile on his face.
So the driver drops me of outside the Regal Plaza in Bur Dubai, a quite large hotel with a sports bar downstairs just off the reception. Boss is there, so we order food and beers. Now my boss is infamous for his hospitality so I knew this was going to be a long night as drinking beer and telling stories is something he excels at. So at 10 PM I am thinking that nice as it is about time I made a move. No way was he having that and suggested we move upstairs to the nightclub. Who am I to argue as he’s paying?
So we duly move upstairs, straight past the two huge African security guys who are busy demanding entrance fees from everyone else and in to this darkened room with a live group singing some Russian crap. When my eyes adjust it is full of Russian girls, and girls from all the Stans (Kurdistan, Uzbekistan etc). So we have a couple of beers and a chat with a couple of girls, but I have never been in to Russian hookers as they are a bit brusque for my taste and so full of their own self-importance! So I tell my boss who just nods and off we go down the stairs, and out into the night where the driver is duly awaiting us.
Next stop is the now legendary Cyclone. Any of you guys out there who had been to Dubai in those days will know this place. We pull up outside and again straight in we go. Now this is better, apart from the obligatory Russians there are now Filipinos, Lebanese, Africans and Chinese (at last, some oriental delight). Up to the bar, order beers and I smile at one of the Chinese girls and in a flash she has me by the arm with the “Hello, where you from” line. Idle chit-chat for 10 minutes, I look over my shoulder and my boss is busy with a girl from the Stans.
My girl eventually tells me she will go with me all night and the price, which was quite high for those days but she was gorgeous so I was going to treat myself big time! So I turn to my boss who leans over and shoves the equivalent of USD500 in my pocket and tells me to take the driver! Needless to say, I had a great night.
What I had not known until the next day that this was a test my boss put guys through to see if they liked to play and generally have a good time. The second part of the test was that I was at my desk at 0800. If I had not have been it would have been a one-way ticket back to Gitmo. As it was, I was kept in Dubai to run logistics and security in Iraq which meant I actually split 50:50 between the two for the next 10 years!
Dubai is a strange place though, strictly Muslim, where even the shopping malls have signs up about code of dress, and you will see the women with full black covering, just the eyes showing and that can be incredibly erotic as some have the most fantastic eyes all khol`d up. They say that you are never more than half a mile away from a mosque here as well and I can vouch for that having lived in several different parts of the city, and the morning call to prayer has woken me on more than one occasion.
But in amongst all this is the dark side of Dubai, not even hidden away. When the lights go down, the city comes alive and people want to play. The York International Hotel prides itself on having the biggest night club in the Middle East. Yep, true, but it is also rammed with on average a couple of hundred girls of all nationalities plying the oldest trade in history. If that is not to your taste, head on down to The Astoria to TGI Thursdays (not a typo) full of African, Indian and Pakistani girls, or the Karama Hotels Ratskys Bar packed with Filipino girls, then a quick tour to Panorama Hotel, Jockeys Bar overflowing with African, Chinese, Vietnamese, Stans and few Lebanese, or even the Imperial Hotel again with every flavour you can imagine and a couple of belly dancers thrown in!
Now that was just one small area I frequent called Bur Dubai. I have not even touched Deira or the Marina or any of the 5 star hotel bars! So as you see, Dubai really is the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Middle East, born out of the Gulf wars and also because it was a party town before, much like Bahrain caters for drink and sex hungry Saudis (where, funny as it seems, the predominant race of girls is Thai).
So if you ever get sent to the Middle East, make sure it is either the UAE or Bahrain and you will be ok and well catered for whilst earning you daily crust!
The author cannot be contacted.