Tuesday, February 16, 2016

New cultures within one hotel

Hello everyone! When I left you last it was Monday morning in Dubai and it is now Tuesday evening and I can tell you truthfully that the jet lag has not left and that I also have still yet to leave my hotel. The jet lag part is killer and surprising, but not leaving the hotel is expected when on business travel for meetings that are taking place within the hotel.

My day throughout the day on Monday was a pretty standard work day, and in the evening I stayed out with some colleagues having drinks and exploring the different bars throughout the hotel. It was a really fun evening and I enjoyed getting to know people from around the world.

Despite not really seeing much of Dubai yet, I do feel like I have gotten exposed to quite a bit of interesting culture due to conversations with colleagues around the world.  And the food. Triple thumbs up on the hotel food.

As I mentioned, the meetings cover people who work throughout Africa and the Middle East and just over the past two days have met a number of people from Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Lebanon, Egypt, Angola, South Africa, Jordan, Kuwait, and other places around the world.

The most interesting to me has likely been the people from Saudi that I have met.  Including one woman who works at my company's office there.  I was very intrigued because she was wearing very normal, modern clothing, hair and makeup here. However, she was explaining how it is illegal for her to do that in Saudi and when she flies back after traveling, she will bring her long black robes with her on the plane and get dressed before the plane returns to Saudi. Even in the office, where she feels she is treated equally and with respect by the male colleagues, she still has to wear the dress. It is illegal for her to drive and she said that there are no movie theatres or malls or anything like that in Saudi.  On the weekends, her and her friends travel to Dubai in order to have fun.  Other Saudi colleagues told me stories about living within the strict regulations that were very interesting and eye opening to me.  It is something I don't know much about and was very appreciative of people allowing me to ask open and honest questions.

During the morning run outside I went on on Monday AM, I passed two men who were dressed in traditional Saudi thobes who were in sneakers and out walking.  Normally, I am a very friendly runner and like to say hello to other runners that I pass. However, I was unsure of what was culturally acceptable and did not say anything to the two men that I passed, thinking it might be inappropriate for a solo single female to address two men in public in that culture. I was unsure if I was overthinking it or not and asked some of the coworkers I have based in Saudi and they let me know that it could have been fine, but was definitely the better choice because I was right and in the local culture, that wouldn't be appropriate.

It's been really amazing to learn from all the people around me and meet people with different experiences and backgrounds.  It is one of my favorite things about travel, even if I haven't left the hotel yet.

I will also say, that despite being in a hotel, there has been some great food and some even greater scenery.  The catered meals have included lots of amazing grilled meals, vegetables, salads, white rice, thai chicken curry, falafal, pita and hummus, and lots of other yummy and incredible foods. Desserts have ranged and included puddings and custards and backlava and mini cakes. Maintaining my status as a food blogger who takes really terrible pictures of food, here are a couple quick pictures for you.

This evening I also was able to experience one of the coolest swims of my life, using the break between the end of sessions and dinner to throw on my bathing suit and grab my cap and goggles. The hotel had an outdoor heated pool with a single lane roped off for lap swimming.  Since I will be checking out of the hotel tomorrow, I wanted to be able to take advantage of it and get a swim workout in while I was here.

I didn't swim too hard, I set out to do a 2000 meter swim, same as what I did the other day when it took me ~42 minutes to do it.  I expected the same amount of time and although I didn't time myself super accurately, when I looked at my watch after finishing it said that I had been swimming for about ~36 minutes.  I wondered if I lost count somewhere and did another 200 swim just to ensure that I got the full distance in that I wanted to.  Plus, the water was warm, I was the only one swimming, and every time I turned my head to breathe I got to watch the sun set further into the sky behind the palm trees. Legit most amazing swim ever.

The sunset was phenomenal and I felt so fortunate and blessed to be able to be in this amazing place for work and healthy and fit enough to be able to exercise as I was.

I wandered around a little after my swim, even though it was a little chilly out of the water, but the sky was great.  I also found this little infinity pool hot tub thing that looks pretty incredible.

It's been a pretty incredible few days if only just to be able to see the sun set and meet some amazing people, but definitely looking forward to getting over there across that river to see more of Dubai!

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