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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 56, Friday - RAK

I forgot to include a map yesterday that shows my tour of the UAE so far, so here it is:

We went to the grocery store today. I told you, I love visiting grocery stores in other countries. Here is a product that I don’t think we have in the US, or maybe just not in my Seattle stores:
I think it is like another version of Mr. Clean. I have also seen a "Mr. Proper" product, depending on what country I am in.

In the produce section, the labels tell you where each fruit or vegetable is from. Guess what? They had carrots and pears from the US. They also import peanut butter, syrup, and canned frosting from the States.

It was through this experience at the grocery store that I learned how I am possibly being treated differently here without even knowing it. I was talking to Asma about how I noticed more people here seem to notice me than in the other places I have visited.

She asked if my experiences with respect to this had been good or bad. I told her that I thought it was neutral since I didn’t think I was treated much differently, except maybe people paying me a bit more attention (i.e. more attentive service) because I look different and you can’t help but pay attention when something is different.

Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) countryside
(By the way, this does not include hotels which are full of Europeans, so there I look more like everyone else than Asma does. This does lead me to believe, however, that these people must not leave the hotel area much.)

She told me that I was probably being treated differently and I just didn’t know it. For example, she told me, that at the grocery store you have to take your produce to a specific guy who weighs and prices everything for you before you take all your items to the register.

Asma said that as a local woman, she often has to wait until the produce guy has helped everyone else before he helps her because she is a local woman. When we went to him today, it was rather busy and we had a lot of items, but he helped us with all of our items right away.

I figured it was just because of good timing, but she said that if it had just been her without me, he would have helped the guys who reached the counter about the same time we did. She believed it was because he thought he was helping me and hadn't even noticed that she was with me.

I don’t know because I don’t know what it is like to be her, but after thinking about it, I realized that every time I have bought produce at a grocery store in the Gulf, I hardly had to wait to be helped. I just figured it was a timing thing, maybe not.

In the afternoon, we went to Asma’s mother’s house for lunch where I met a few of Asma’s siblings and their children. By the way, Emirati Arabic is quite a bit different from the other dialects, at least more than I thought it would be.

 After the lunch at her mother's, Asma and I returned to her house where we were quickly followed by most of the rest of the family, including Asma's mom herself. 
The "majlis" or sitting room in Asma's house. This is where we sit and eat and watch tv and chat.

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