Besides the heat, the very first thing I noticed was the locals and their national dress. The men wear a long pristine white robe called, I believe, a kandura and then white head gear. The women wear a long black robe called an abaya and black head dress.
You see many women wearing a veil over their face, I'm not sure if they're Emiratis or another nationality, I'm still very new to all this. In the mall you will even see women with a black cloth completely covering their face, no eye hole or anything. Just a black figure that glides through the shops, not a single hint that they may be a person underneath. I have no idea how they navigate their way around.
It's the first way you know you're in the Middle East, seeing people in their national dress, so different to home. I have to admit though, as a foreigner it can be a little intimidating.
My weapon of choice has been a smile. I give a big cheesy smile to everyone I meet as I try and work out how this place works. Most people will smile and nod back or wave, but when you smile to a woman with a veil on you have no idea what reaction they're having. You don't know if they're smiling happily or thinking 'look at the lady with those wild kids'. It makes me a little uneasy as the last thing you want to do is offend someone.
Then you step into the bathrooms and you see these ladies take off their veils. Underneath they are perfectly made up, make-up and hair like I would do on a very special occasion. I smile even wider and they kind of look at me like I'm a weirdo, which is understandable as who goes around smiling like a loon in a public bathroom? I'm intrigued though in a genuine way, I would love to know about their lives.
Then you see the young, glamorous Emirati women. Dressed all in black, their faces revealed but their eyes covered by large designer sunglasses. They walk in groups, texting away and clutching bags that cost more than my car. Skip said they could be Kardashians in head scarfs and that is a perfect description. They exude an air of complete confidence, almost arrogance.
Then I see them sitting next to the hotel pool, in 40-something degree heat watching their families swim. I feel practically naked in my one-piece, but at least I'm cool. They discreetly put their hands under their veil to wipe away sweat. I don't know how they stand it.