Wednesday, February 01, 2006

An afternoon in the Global Village, Dubai

An afternoon in the Global Village, Dubai


Robert Leslie Fielding

The Global Village opens its doors at 4 in the afternoon.  Getting there at that time is easy - the sun is still too high in the sky for most people.  Still, a little crowd of people wait for the green uniformed security guards to nod and let them through.

The little crowd at the gate soon disappears in the morass of pavilions inside. The Pakistan pavilion is nearest the gate.  We walk in but a lot of the stalls aren't ready for us - men are busy unpacking crates and setting out their stalls.

Next to the Pakistan pavilion is the Yemeni one - full of jewelry - most stalls displaying more or less identical stuff.  Luckily, there are benches just outside the doors of each pavilion.  I sit and wait for my wife and her friend - jewelry and women go together, don't they?

With time to look around, I watch the punters - two children facing each other in a wire shopping trolley - a worker with a pile of crates so high that he can't see where he's going - a man's hat blows off in the wind that has suddenly got up.  The Global Village is located in the middle of the desert, and deserts are windy places - sometimes.

The pavilions have distinctive, very different styles - Doric columns for the façade of the Greek pavilion, a fortress for the Palestinian one, and a pagoda for Cambodia - painted polystyrene, I discover upon touching the brown wall of the Yemeni pavilion.

Each country proudly parades something of itself - dazzling photos of Iranian walled cities and holy shrines - elephant tusks twenty feet high for Kenya - a yurt (nomads tent) for the  republic of Kyrgystan - Big Ben and Buck House for the UK - a giant maple leaf for Canada.  

Music fills the air, and punctuates the call to prayer - the hum of conversation reminds us that the place is filling up as the sun starts to set - the temperature is dropping too - another reminder that evening has come.

Still the stallholders shout their wares in a panoply of colours and a hum of noise - the din that is the Global Village's last few days until next year.

Australia's pavilion without a "G'day, mate" to be heard anywhere.  Languages mix in the heat that is slowly evaporating into night.  Guttural sounds of Arabic, high pitched Thai, Chinese people talking naturally but sounding annoyed with everything in their frenetic sounding, furiously paced language.  

Above our heads green flags flap, wishbone street lamps waver, ubiquitous Pepsi signs rumble as the wind blows in off the dunes that stretch out to the sea shore.

There are occasional glimpses of the world we have left.  Between the stalls and the tents, over the heads of locals trailing whites and blacks, I see the highway that brought us here - still busy - bumper to bumper, fire hydrants, containers stacked two high, bins full of the  rubbish of buying and selling - eating and drinking, the mayhem that is the Global Village a minute after the sun has finally set.

At 7, slightly hungry, the signs direct us to the restaurant area. International cuisine for an international event.
  "I don't fancy noodles tonight."
  "What about chicken tikka?"
  "Sounds OK to me."

We go that way but the smells: kebabs, humus and mint tea tempt us into an Iranian place on the left

We ask for the menu from a waiter who appears as if he's never been asked for such a thing in his life - people know what they want without having to read about it, maybe, where he normally waits on tables.  

Mint tea is a refreshing start to dinner that comes with a fresh lettuce stood up on end in the middle of  whole green peppers, spring onions, mint, parsley and slices of carrot.  The kebabs arrive, not half as appetizing to look at as they appear on the hoardings opposite.  Everything is fresh and delicious though.

Making our way back to the Gate we think we used to enter, the pavilions that we missed tempt us.
   "Shall we just…?"
  "Why not!"

And all too soon the car is moving and we are out of here - for another year, when we'll
return to see some  of what the world has to offer us in the Global Village.
Robert L. Fielding


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