Hard to believe that just last week we were in Antarctica.
As I’m nearing the final moments of a Christmas in Buenos Aires...
…I head to Madrid, Spain at which ironically I had spent my Christmas Day 2 years back:
After a few hours there I then head to Dubai of the United Arab Emirates, at which I had also enjoyed an unforgettable 20 hours 2 years prior:
Then after one day in Dubai hopefully meeting with friends, I’m off to Lahore, Pakistan to continue the second half of my trip.
Anyways, to old memories and new ones! Chalchaliye!
- At time of posting in Madrid / Cuatro Vientos, it was 9 °C -
Humidity: 93% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: broken clouds
At the top of the Nuos Bar in Downtown Burj
Our 16 hours in Dubai was no less than magical. It completely reaffirmed my belief in humanity; that there are people in the world who trust in the goodness of others and will help each other in realizing their personal legends.
Our 16 hours here demonstrated that beyond all the sights and places we’ve been, the underlying force that makes any trip special are the connections you create with other people; what is far more fulfilling than the distances you take to get to somewhere, are the distances you take in getting to know a fellow human being.
And from the many individuals I met in Dubai, I’ve already learned so much.
A video of the performance:
After we were overwhelmed by the unmatched hospitality of Mona, my friend from Columbia, Sue Yang, also graciously took us in to sleep over at her place in Downtown Burj. All in all, tonight I felt so blessed to have known so many amazing friends and hosts halfway across the world.
The next morning, we woke up to…
Now that our 16 hours in Dubai are up, it’s hard to fathom in the course of 2-3 hours, we go from this:
Yes, from the over-the-top hospitality and extravagance of Dubai to the surreal and down-to-earth nature of Kathmandu, we have come to appreciate the nature of mankind’s unspoken capability to go from one extreme to the other.
And for now, we are trying to adjust ourselves to traveling from the planet’s lowest dry point in Jordan, to the home of 8 of the 10 highest mountains in the world.
Why I find this place fascinating is that if you stuck me here and didn’t tell me where I was, I would think I was in India. The sights, the chaos, the people, my ability to use my Hindi effectively (Nepalese is very similar to Hindi), and the smell (especially the smell) of a thick undercurrent of incense mixed with the crush of humanity makes me feel nostalgic for last summer.
I’m feeling right as rain here.
- At time of posting in Kathmandu, it was 23 °C -
Humidity: 77% | Wind Speed: 9km/hr | Cloud Cover: cloudy
“If there is one thing I want you take away from this trip”, Calvin’s friend Mona said leaning around the taxi passenger seat, “it is that there are beautiful soulful people here. People who want to create and do good.”
Having spent the hour and a half getting ready for dinner by playing guitar with Mona’s best friend Beyliah in the living room, I was already sold on Mona’s message about Dubai. But by the end of the night, I was stunned by the gracious hospitality of Dubai.
Our night began with a dinner Mona arranged for us at The Meat Company. Wearing a dress Mona lent me, I sat with her, Beyliah, Maliki, Michael and Calvin at a table overlooking the Burj Al Arab. We had an amazing supper filled with 3 courses, great conversation and with a surprise drum and dance performance at the end.
Afterwards, Calvin and I met up with fellow Columbia classmate, Sue Yang, and her McKinsey consultant cohorts at Jam Base for some drinks. The American music felt like home. Its contradicton with our surroundings created some culture shock.
Having a great night already, inertia took us to Neos, a bar overlooking Dubai and the Burj Al Khalifa, where I got a delicious apple strawberry drink.
Too tired to go to a hookah lounge, we resisted Sue’s campaign to take us out all night and retired to her apartment. A real bed, laundry, and a stack of breakfast food for the next day, Sue was a perfect host. She even left us postcards before she left for work to say “Bon Voyage”!
What an amazing 20 hours in Dubai. Thank you, Mona and Sue!
We met two other backpackers on the way to the plane headed to Kathmandu.
“You know Lonely Planet says its going to be miserable”
And we’re on our way.
Syria: Not gonna happen. They’re not gonna let visa-less Americans through the border, and they won’t be issuing any new visas at the embassy for a few weeks. I tried. I failed. Wop Wop. Maybe next time.
I ended up stopping by a protest, however, while on the way to the Amman airport, the only sign of the “Arab Spring” during my trip so far.
This was at the Syrian Embassy, where people were protesting Assad’s recent speech on increased amnesty. Not as wild as what has been presented on Western media, but then again Jordan has not borne the brunt of the Arab Spring as Egypt, Bahrain, or Syria has. But people here are impassioned about reform here just as their brothers and sisters in other regions of the Middle East.
About 2 hours later I had to catch my flight out of Jordan, where I found myself in Dubai. A note about the airport cabs there: DON’T TAKE THE PINK ONES. They are reserved specifically for female passengers, driven by female drivers so that the female passenger feels safer. But for this unique service, you pay THREE TIMES AS MUCH on the meter. And that’s the mistake we made.
We’re now in the care of the wonderful Mona Ibrahim, who I met a few months ago when I trekked up Machu Picchu. Even though we talked for only 2 hours that day, the undeniable spark of a connection has inadvertently led me to Dubai 3 months later, this time as a guest in the comfort of her unmatched hospitality.
If there is anything that motivates me to continue living this life with passion, it is because of people like her and the human connections we are destined to make.
- At time of posting in Dubai, it was 36 °C -
Humidity: 74% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: Clear