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Welcome To Dubai

Welcome To Dubai

So this is what I see when I glance up from my laptop right now:

Not too shabby. And I’m sure once this jetlag wears off and I re-discover a sense of feeling alive, I’ll start to enjoy it. But for now, Dubai is a very strange place to feel out-of-it in. Half desolate desert, half insane skyscrapers… I feel like I’m living inside an overambitious game of Sim City 3000.

It’s been 36 hours since I left for Dubai, and I’ve felt few joyous moments. I got to Toronto airport around 7pm on Monday expecting a somewhat minimal crowd, ignorantly believing that not many people would fly Toronto->Dubai on a Monday night. I was wrong. After waiting in line for well over an hour to check my bag, I found myself in a waiting area with mostly dozens and dozens of families, all with screaming children. Together we filled the economy section of the double decker Emirates airplane without a problem, and thus began my 12 hour flight from hell. No amount of pills or high-tech backseat entertainment system (which I must admit was very impressive – 100s of movies, camera-views of various places outside the plane, plugs for laptop) was enough to fully drown out the screams. So I just caught up on 2009 releases I’d yet to see (“The Private Lives of Pippa Lee” and “Funny People” were unsurprisingly both greatly overshadowed by a third viewing of “Up”) and stared at the stairs to the upper classes, picturing people lying down in their pods as I continued to smell nothing but corn nuts and diapers.

I got to Dubai at 8pm local time Tuesday, meaning I didn’t see any of the daylight December 8, 2009 had to offer. Intensely hospitable folks from the Dubai Film Festival met me and another, not-so-economy-classed Canadian, and led us to a swanky lounge to wait while they went through customs for us. I smoked a good 10 cigarettes in 20 minutes, and then was escorted to a car that would take me to the hotel I now am sitting in (not without a stop at Duty Free, where a carton of Marlboros costs the equivalent of 10 dollars!). After a reception clerk overeagerly tried to get me to upgrade my room past what the film festival was paying for, I went to my room and, at 10pm, went to sleep.

Four hours later, I woke up, and couldn’t fall back asleep again. Watching the sun rise was a definite bonus from the insomnia, but running around getting accredited and covering opening festivities has not been. Worse is that it’s somewhat high security and on my way into festival headquarters to get my badge, I was nearly turned away because they didn’t believe I was a journalist:

Security guard: “You can not be journalist. You could be volunteer?”
Me: “No. I am a journalist.”
Security guard: “Can you call someone at the festival who can come and get you?”
Me: “No. I have no phone. I didn’t bring it because of long distance charges.”
Security guard: “Sorry, you can not be journalist. You look like teenager.”

I ran back to my hotel and got a business card and a print out of the e-mail from the festival, and all was well. Say what you want about how lucky I am to look childlike, but it’s situations like this that I want to look like anything but.

Anyway… so now I’m going to down a can of what looks like an Arabic version of Red Bull and attend the opening night festivities, which could be quite something: The festival is screening Rob Marshall’s “Nine” for its opening night film, quite possibly the gayest public event the city of Dubai has ever seen. Afterwards, I hope to spent at least 8 hours unconscious in the fetal position, with optimism that tomorrow I’ll be in more adventurous spirits.

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