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Defending Dubai

"Being human is itself difficult, and therefore all kinds of settlements (except dream cities) have problems." - Jane Jacobs

Dubai is not an easy place to live, nor is it an easy place to defend. But at this time, it warrants such. "The Soulless City", the "city without a soul," gets a big, bad rep because of a small number of people. The country, the United Arab Emirates, and those who are here—who live here—are marred verbally and in spirit due to the excesses of the exceptionally rich. The Burj Khalifa—the tallest building in the world. The Burj al Arab—one of only three seven-star hotels in the world. The Dubai Mall—the largest shopping mall in the world. A ski slope in the Mall of the Emirates. The second largest carbon footprint in the world.

Excess. Soulless. These are the words people think of when they think of Dubai, and since November a third word is conjured up about our pretty little city. Debt. That word has also induced many-a-smug smile f…
Recent posts

Marching in Gaza - Partying in Beirut

"The mere possession of a vision is not the same as living it, nor can we encourage others with it if we do not, ourselves, understand and follow its truths. The pattern of the Great Spirit is over us all, but if we follow our own spirits from within, our pattern becomes clearer. For centuries, others have sought their visions. They prepare themselves, so that if the Creator desires them to know their life's purpose, then a vision would be revealed. To be blessed with visions is not enough...we must live them!" - High Eagle

I received three important emails today. The first was from a former colleague—a teacher, an organizer—asking for support on an upcoming trip; the second was from a close family friend introducing me to someone who will occasionally be in the area; and the third was from a close friend asking me to review his latest creative endeavor. All three emails managed to elicit in me some measure of guilt.

None precipitated as much guilt as the first. My form…

That's the Way it Was

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. — The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

I remember almost every room in Carroll Hall, the home of the  School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I remember nearly every professor who taught us about "good", ethical journalism. Chuck Stone, with his slow and steady speech, his warm and jovial manner, transferred his wisdom while simultaneously questioning censorship; Rich Beckman, with the simplest of instructions, gifted us with the minimalist approach to photojournalism and photo editing, ensuring all we did with our cameras and our computers as journalists was honest; Jay Anthony transmitted to us the rules of design and the tools with which…

Coming Home

"Home is a place not only of strong affections, but of entire unreserve; it is life's undress rehearsal, its backroom, its dressing room." ~Harriet Beecher Stowe

I don't know where home is anymore. Supposedly, I am here now. But I occasionally think, with absurd ambivalence, that I want to go home. And when I think I want to go home - for that tumultuous, turgid fifteen or thirty minutes or sixty minutes- I mean my latest home, and that is in Dubai.

It's hard for me to say where "home" is. Now, it is in Dubai - or at least I have referred to Dubai as home since December, when I felt it was time to make an exit from the cacophonous subcontinent back to the desert. Yet, as summer holiday approached I began to think about coming home - to the United States and more specifically North Carolina. I lived in North Carolina for ten years, my entire adult life until I left for Dubai, and prior to that Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, respectively. While I usual…

The Ladies' Car on the Red Line

The Metro

47 different Khimar
1 sun hat
1 pair sunglasses
1 banana clip

The girls' club.
All in Hijab.
Yellow and Indigo and Blue and Purple and Violet and Green and Pink and Aqua.
Brown and black and white and lavender and turquoise and olive.

It's packed.
Door-to-door-and-side-to-side
Babies, girls, women, ladies.
The ladies' car.
Beautiful eyes everywhere -
each telling a different story.
Uninhibited laughter.

A baby
eating bread from her mother's hands.
An IPod -
in bubble wrap?

Fierce competition to get into the Ladies' car
elbows out and hips ready to bump.
If you don't get in immediately, the train will leave you
But you won't get left behind again.

A Heady Mix

I have an affection for a great city. I feel safe in the neighbourhood of man, and enjoy the sweet security of the streets. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

For the first time since I was in India, I just heard sirens from my abode. This is a wonderful, homey sound – the sound of sirens rushing down the road amid the honking and yelling and barking. I can hear it all - a heady mix of city and life and living – right from the street below to my balcony and into my hotel room at the Conrad Cairo.

I need not even turn on the television for background noise since I have this symphony of spontaneous song serendipitously floating into my space. In fact, today I even turned down the volume on the television so I could enjoy the din of the city below me.

I have the window open to air out the stale smoke smell of my room on the “Non-smoking” floor of the hotel. The curtains billow, flirtatiously – as if to say “catch me if you can” with their come-hither gauze. I find it a bit ironic, after tr…

Everyone's Son

"It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get to where we are today, but we have just begun. Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today." - Barack Obama

“Barack Obama?”

These words are just as often posed as a question as they are formed as a statement.

At home, in Dubai, people often ask me where I am from. Prior to the election, after I said the United States, I often received a perplexed look, mainly because I do not look like what they expect from someone who gives that answer to that question. Then if the person somewhat knew me or we had an extended conversation, they would beat around the bush (no pun intended) to politics to figure out who I was voting for.

The parents of my students, for instance, would get around to the election, and hint at the possibility of change – almost as if it were a code word. A f…