Opulence on show

The rich smell of oil hits you gently when you alight from Dubai International Airport. Then comes the picture of lean Arab men in their most impeccable traditional thoubs, prancing as if in a beauty contest. They wear these white dresses with a shumagg and ogal head regalia that South African blacks have come to like and even idolise.

The rich smell of oil hits you gently when you alight from Dubai International Airport. Then comes the picture of lean Arab men in their most impeccable traditional thoubs, prancing as if in a beauty contest. They wear these white dresses with a shumagg and ogal head regalia that South African blacks have come to like and even idolise.

Women are a scarce commodity at the airport and most places in town. When you finally see one, she will be in the company of her husband and dressed in the most elegant abayah and covering her head with a hijab. Chances are also high that she'll be drenched in the heaviest jewellery accompanied by a designer handbag. Even little ones are a picture of the chosen ones.

Our Emirates flight to Dubai was an experience on its own. Save for the Turkish woman with a weak bladder and an unquenchable thirst for all drinks alcoholic, the flight was sheer pleasure. After her sixth visit to the toilet, she still had the nerve to decline an aisle seat, opting for her window seat.

The hospitality of cabin attendants and the entertainment screens in front of each passenger made this one of the fastest flights I've ever taken. However, a travel companion almost fainted from being ushered to another room. He was later assured there was nothing wrong with his temporary passport.

With that out of the way, we made way through this display of all that glitters, the duty free at the airport and were whisked away to our hotel in under 20 minutes.

The landscape, which we were later told the government of Dubai spends well over R20 million for, competes for attention with the biggest SUVs and sports cars that hog the road. Opulence surrounds you everywhere you go, but is most vivid in town planning and architecture.

Even though development is fast and furious here, there isn't a hint that someday the population will ever reach the Eloff Street, Joburg, proportions.

It is estimated that the overall population for this country sits at 1,4 million. Dubai is under the rule of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who was elected following the death of his brother, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in 2006.

Although we were warned that because Dubai straddles the Tropic of Cancer, the United Arab Emirates is warm and sunny in winter. I didn't quiet picture holiday makers stripped to the core and splashing their sweat away at the beach.

Do not hope for the most mouth-watering cuisine here - it's not India or Mexico. But for shopping freaks like me, Dubai is a haven for lifestyle shopping if you have a scanner for fakes in your eye.

You also need nerves of steel to turn down shrewd businessmen who will sell a mother of four and call her a virgin.

And even though we spent four days in Dubai and shopped ourselves into a standstill, we still had a few dirhams (Dubai's currency) to help a friend in need on our way back. The value of the dirham is double the rand's. And back at OR Tambo Airport, I wondered if South African men are doing any harm in how they treat us.

The debate had been that Arabs wrote the book in treating women like objects, but after an unfortunate-looking little woman gave me hell for nothing at all, I have to wonder if women aren't architects of their own demise in these shores.

The writer was the guest of Dubai Tourism

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