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Playground of Glitter and Gold

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LAP OF LUXURY The unapologetic opulence seemed endless: 24-carat gold leaf interiors 17 different types of pillows embroidered silk wallpaper jewel encrusted headboards and indulgent personal service that spoils you rotten (Photos: )

D ubai. A land of unimaginable riches and unbridled arrogance of Arab oil sheikhs in flowing robes and bulging pockets where everything has to be the best and where pomp and affluence has reached its peak. And while Dubai is a member state of the United Arab Emirates and at least officially has a nonexistent relationship with the State of Israel there are ongoing reports of clandestine cooperation between the two countries. Israeli businessmen politicians medical-conference attendees and sports players have over the past few years been entering Dubai with prior arrangements.

The policy for visitors to the emirate of Dubai and the entire UAE is explicit: they have nothing against Jews they just don’t recognize Israel. For years the common wisdom was that Jewish visitors to the UAE made sure not to have an Israeli stamp in their passports (tensions escalated in 2010 when Mossad agents allegedly killed a Hamas operative in a Dubai hotel) but today at least officially that’s supposedly no longer a problem — at least when entering Dubai which is considered the most tolerant of all the emirates. (Even Israeli passport holders who cannot legally enter the UAE can today transit through the Dubai airport or any other UAE airport if not actually entering the country.)

I didn’t take the chance though. Together with my traveling partner — my brother — we entered the UAE on our American passports (credit to our American-born parents) even though mine was issued in Tel Aviv and listed that city as the place of my birth. That fact didn’t seem to bother the immigration officials though: US passports are treated with great honor in the UAE — no additional visa necessary.

Together we made our way into the City of Gold — a fairy-tale land created purely for man’s pleasure. The sheer wealth; hotels the likes of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world the luxury cars and the services — one week was more than enough of this fantasy playground so dissonant to us simple folk who haven’t yet been afflicted by the materialistic madness common among Arab princes.

Watching You

Due to the immense wealth all round there are of course security cameras at every street corner and many security guards at every shopping area. But we were surprised to discover that security cameras are literally everywhere.

On one excursion after getting out of the cab I realized that I’d forgotten a camera lens worth thousands of shekels in the car. We reported the loss to the tourist police — who maintain a strong presence in the city — and were pleasantly surprised by the quick and courteous service they gave us.

 They took down all the details — when and where we took the taxi — and our hotel information. Less than two hours later they called to let us know that the lens had been found. When asked how they managed to do it so quickly they responded with amusement. “Everything here is filmed.” When we went to retrieve the lens they even took out a laptop and showed us the video of our entire cab ride. Talk about protection.

Road Rage

We landed at Dubai International Airport which is still a work in progress; the emirate hopes to make it the largest airport in the world and it’s already the world’s busiest airport for international passenger traffic. In 2016 alone the airport handled over 83 million passengers.

Arriving passengers are met by security personnel dressed in traditional Arab garb — white flowing jalabiyehs and kaffiyehs on their heads.

People joke that in Dubai money does grow on trees — and on the roads where almost every cab is a Lexus. Even a novice tourist knows that to really get to know a place you need to strike up a conversation with a local taxi driver. As we settled into the luxurious interior on the way into town (I’ve been to a lot of places but nowhere else do people drive luxury cars down the street as nonchalantly as they do in Dubai) we told the driver a Pakistani that we were Israeli. “It can’t be ” he said. “How can Israelis come here?” (Excerpted from Mishpacha Issue 661)

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