We did not mean to visit Dubai

dubai

I must admit that Dubai was never on the long list of places that I hope to visit during my lifetime. It was a place that, without any rational explanation, I felt like avoiding. Benidorm is another of these places, as are, for example, EuroDisney, Ayia Napa, Eilat, the Seychelles, and Sharm El-Sheikh. However, when flying on the excellent Emirate Airways, it is necessary to change ‘planes at Dubai’s fantastic airport.

A few years ago, we flew from London to Bangalore (India) by Emirates, This entailed changing ‘planes at Dubai. After embarking at Heathrow Airport, we were told that our departure would be delayed while a defective aircraft component was changed. Consequently, we departed about two hours later than we should have. As a result, we missed our connection in Dubai.

At Dubai, we were directed to a desk that dealt with connection/transfer problems such as that we faced. An extremely helpful man with an exuberant moustache and beard offered to put us on the next flight to India, which would have taken us to Bombay rather than Bangalore and advised us that from Bombay, we would no longer be in the care of Emirates. This did not sound satisfactory. Then, he said:

“If you are not in a hurry, why don’t you spend a day in Dubai and take the next day’s Emirate flight to Bangalore?”, adding quickly, “Emirates will put you up in a hotel and pay for our meals and accomodation.”

We opted for that, and within a few minutes we were whisked in a limousine to a hotel close to the airport. There, we were settled in two adjoining luxurious rooms.

Next morning, we decided to see Dubai as we had most of the day to do so. We bought day tickets for the city’s superb rapid transit rail service and visited the oldest part of Dubai, on the Creek. At the Creek, we bought day tickets for the small boats that criss-cross the Creek. 

Without going into detail, we had a wonderful day in Dubai, travelling on boats, visiting museims and historic buildings, and eating superb middle-eastern food. Almost everyone we met was friendly and helpful. 

Although I would not choose to visit Dubai again unless we have to because of a missed ‘plane connection, our day in Dubai removed my previous completely unjustifiable prejudice against visiting the place. Our delayed Emirates flight did us and Dubai a great favour!

The pencil and the peas

PENCIL 2

I spent three years working on the experimental aspects of my PhD topic at University College London (‘UCL’) in a laboratory in the Physiology Department. Throughout that time there were always one or two other PhD students working in the same room. ‘Wink’, our supervisor’s wife, was a chemist. She often worked alongside us. Generally, the atmosphere in the laboratory was very congenial.

We were joined by a new PhD student sometime during my second year in the lab. Fortunately, I cannot recall her name, but let’s call her ‘June’.

One morning, June asked me whether she could borrow a pencil from me. As pencils were few and far between in our lab, I said to her: “Make sure you give it back, please.” To which she answered in an unfriendly tone: “Don’t be so Jewish.”

Now, it so happens that I am born Jewish. Although I am the least observant (in religious terms) Jewish person you are ever likely to meet, I am not happy when the word ‘Jewish’ or ‘Jew’ is used pejoratively. Wink must have seen my face flush, because she said to June: “That was unnecessary.”

Although it was almost innocuous, the pencil incident made me wary of June.

Some month’s later, Wink and her husband invited all their PhD students to be their guests at the annual Physiological Society Dinner, which was being held at UCL. I was seated beside Wink and opposite June. When the main course arrived, there were green peas on our plates. I do not like these small round spheres at all.

June noticed me pushing them aside on my plate, and said: “Is your religion also against peas? I must remember that when I invite you around to my place for dinner.” Feeling my face warming, I said to June: “Even if you were to beg me to come to eat at your place, I would have no hesitation in refusing.” Hearing that, June’s face turned bright red. She stood up and without saying anything, left the dining hall. Wink turned to me, and whispered: “Well said, Adam.”

June abandoned her PhD and our lab not long after this dinner.

PENCIL 1

Now, many years later, I am still sensitive about anti-Semitic remarks, but also deeply curious as to why European people make them, often when they have had little or no contact with Jewish people. In India, which I visit often, although there have never been many Jewish people there, there is barely, if any, prejudice against them. Often Indian people extol the virtues of Jewish people.