There’s nothing to do here on a Saturday (the Islamic Sunday) in the summertime but see a movie or sleep with a prostitute. Now, I only do one of those things, but I'm just as bored after the first 15 minutes.
I’ve already seen the sights—the site: Sheikh Zayed Mosque. It's breath-taking and overblown, as are the massive modern masjids of the Mideast, consecrated to Allah and the autocrats who construct them: Hassan II, Sultan Qaboos, etc.
Thus, after catching the current Bollywood blockbuster on a plush leather recliner while Sri Lankan servants—servers—saunter around with Pepsi and pizza on sterling silver platters, I roam the mind-fucking maze of a mall, home to the national pastime, more popular than camel races or even falconry: (conspicuous) consumption.
American import or modern-day bazaar? Who knows? Who cares? It’s a cosmopolitan capitalist dream-come-true: what only yesterday was nothing but desert, today is an oasis where people from all over the planet, of countless nations and religious persuasions, come together under one roof, to spend money. Is this beautiful? Remember to forget uncomfortable facts—the underlying lack of sincere social cohesion, for one—as you eat your bagel with a side of hummus.
A crackling Call to Prayer streams through the surround sound as Lady Gaga rages out from La Senza where veiled vixens browse through bras beside Romanians in mini-skirts. Do they buy the same lingerie?
Sexuality in Abu Dhabi simmers just beneath the surface, despite all the paranoia for public decency (and proposals for a unified federal dress code: http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/health/federal-national-council-member...). Emirati adolescents post up at the opposite ends of cafés, and flirt through their cell phones. Persians guess the perfume that escapes from abayas passing by—sometimes it’s intoxicating; most of the time, it’s just toxic. Egyptians eye Ethiopians. Filipinos sneak furtive peeks at big-boned British girls. Pakistanis gawk at everyone. Everyone looks out for a Lebanese. And I? I’ve the Belarusians—but so does anybody else, if he's got a few thousand darahim in his pocket.
Maybe I’ll start smoking again. I’m in the Middle East, after all. And it does kill the time, even if it also kills me.