Did I oversleep on the plane and wake up in the Phillipines? I thought to myself as I walked through the Abu Dhabi airport and noticed there were very few Arabs and hundreds of Filipinos. It was odd. I also found it interesting that there were people from all over the world dressed in a variety of different styles: fully covered, semi-covered, and not covered at all — not at all like I was expecting. Where are the swordsmen ready to behead me if I show my shoulders?
Having only experienced the Middle East through American news channels, I was thinking to myself on the way to the hotel that this isn’t at all like I have seen on TV. I was worried about roadside check points and potential car bombs, and mobs of protesting men throwing rocks. I wasn’t really thinking about huge malls, amusement parks and swanky resort hotels but as we drove away from the airport advertisements of smiling blonde models were everywhere. To my surprise all of the road signs were in both English and Arabic and the entire city appeared to be under construction. Due to this, the hot humid air was filled with concrete dust which created a paste that was stuck to all the palm trees giving the entire place a dirty look. Being accustom to the beauty of the Arizona desert I remember thinking the landscaping here needs serious help.
We arrived at one of the many luxury hotels that sit along the beach in Abu Dhabi via our Filipino driver. The lobby of the hotel was filled with marble from top to bottom along with photographs of the current Rulers and other important Arabs hanged prominently on the walls. It looked extremely official. The first thing I noticed in the hotel room was the arrow beside the bed instructing me of the direction to pray and the neatly rolled up prayer rug laying on the divan for my use. But even these items, which are totally foreign to someone raised as a Southern Baptist, didn’t hold a candle to the oddity in the bathroom which was the lack of electrical outlets near the sink. For some reason, of all the things the Arabs could be concerned about, their greatest fear appears to be that someone will electrocute themselves in the toilet. Electricity here is a highly regulated — in a highly unusual way. For example, there doesn’t appear to be a requirement for junction boxes and things of that nature but there are different plugs for different things such as; toasters, hair dryers and appliances etc. But the crazy things is if you stick a fork into the outlet, and this is common practice here, you can pry the plug of your appliance into any outlet. To this day, I have not stuck a fork in the electrical outlet. I prefer to buy adapters. Oh, hey, it was about the time that I heard my first Call to Prayer. At first, I heard it faintly over the hum of the traffic and thought to myself, what is that? Take a listen.