Thursday, March 17, 2005

Desert Nights
[March 16, 2005]

The City of Temptation

Nights are always mysterious, Arabian nights even more so. The dark engulfs the limitless desert all at once. The yellow tinges of the horizon fade away and vanish, opening the way to the Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Sunlight is unnoticeably replaced by the light of streetlamps. In Dubai, the day has just started...

The sky is full of stars, shining brightly. Down below, there are lights shining with nearly as stellar a glow.

The most characteristic thing about Dubai at night is its cafés, where Arabs enjoy a narghile or a cup of coffee. The coffee here is indescribably delicious. Locals say that the bitterness of the coffee is the real taste of the times.

The seven Arab Emirates united in 1971 and, on a piece of land stretching over eighty thousand square kilometers on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula, the United Arab Emirates - the miracle of the East - was established.

This is an old country, however. In the years before Christ, ships would set sail here for different parts of the world. On the shores of the Emirates, in Ras Al Khaima, the ruins of the palace of Queen Savskaya, who captured the heart of King Solomon, are preserved to this day.

Oil, discovered in the 1970s, brought riches to the country.

Each of the Emirs is the absolute ruler of his Emirate. The Sheikh of Abu Dhabi is the President of the UAE. Each Emirate has its own history, traditions, and characteristics. The Emirate of Dubai, however, stands out from the rest because it combines the features of all of the Emirates, becoming a unique melting-pot of sorts.

Dubai is the second largest of the Emirates, and is considered the “gateway to tourism” in the Middle East. It was declared a free economic zone in 1985. Strict Muslim traditions are absent in Dubai. For this reason, Dubai's policies are frowned upon by some other Arab countries. Many locals resent the freedom with which women on the streets express themselves. However, they do not outwardly reveal this displeasure. For centuries, Dubai had been called the City of Merchants. Dubai has always welcomed traders and travelers with open arms. This hospitality has been preserved to this day.

The Al-Maktoum dynasty has ruled over Dubai since 1330.

The city is divided by the 10-km Khor Dubai Strait. Taking a ride on a small boat, you can see both shores, with wooden boats moored to them laden with goods from India, China, and Africa, and merchants with their tents set up right on the shore, just as it was seven centuries ago.

Dubai's streets are clean and safe. You can find anything you want here. Dubai is one of the world's most dynamically developing commercial centers and hosts major international conferences, exhibitions, and festivals. It is considered one of the safest cities in the world, and has been honored with the title "Safest Travel Destination Worldwide" on more than one occasion. The Dubai Shopping Festival is held in the Emirates every year, and has been given the name "Summer Surprises". The latest goods are on offer during the festival, and various events are organized.

Dubai is also a city of contrasts. Every kind of gambling is forbidden. The strictest punishments have been laid out for crimes related to drugs and sex. But this does nothing to stop a booming sex trade.

Edik Baghdasaryan, Ara Manoogian

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