A Dad’s Point-of-View
Going from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to various stops in India is about as stark a change as one can imagine. Dubai is a 42-year-new country with unlimited resources and a tiny (indigenous) population of 1 million. India has been around since well before the birth of Christ and its 1.2 billion inhabitants account for 18% of the world’s human beings.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Our first stop on my recent trip was Dubai, where we visited both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, two of the richest and most well-known of the seven Emirates in the UAE. From the moment we arrived in Dubai, it seemed we had entered a futuristic Disneyland for adults. It was Las Vegas on steroids. It was New York as Isaac Asimov may have pictured it. It was over-the-top in a way only Donald Trump would fully appreciate. From four insane water-parks in close proximity to an indoor ski resort in 120-degree heat, it was just jaw dropping.
The vision of their first leader was quite incredible. Unlike so many leaders in the Middle East, he actually wanted a country that prospered and supported its people. While he became extremely rich from their oil deposits, he didn’t feel the need to keep his populace impoverished, as is the norm of most dictators and totalitarian regimes. In fact, while he retained nearly total control, he set up a government that was far less corrupt than any of his neighbors (except Israel, the only democracy in that part of the world).
Eight million people live in the UAE, but only one million are natives. The rest are expatriates. It’s much easier to be generous with your wealth when you have a population you can easily support. That said, I was still impressed by this man’s vision and care for his people. Every citizen of the UAE, including all residents of the five other Emirates who do not have the wealth of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, each receive a free education (through college), healthcare, and even their own brand-new home.
The details of this entitlement program are even more incredible, but suffice it to say, it is beyond a doubt the most supportive government for its people the world has ever seen.
Naturally, this kind of extreme wealth also has produced extreme decadence. Though, I really don’t mean to emphasize the negative connotation that word can elicit. There are more Ferraris and Lamborghinis in this country (I assume) per capita than anywhere in the world. They also have more skyscrapers of awesome size and design than most of the world’s biggest capitals. Take a ride up 124 floors of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Dubai is also home to the Cayan Tower, a residential building that spirals to give every apartment a stunning view of the sea or marina.
Eating on the outside rooftop restaurant of our hotel, we observed the incredible skyline of Dubai, the Egyptian pyramid-style mall adjacent and below us, and enjoyed the finest cuisine and drinks the world has to offer.
The Dubai Mall – one of the largest in the world – and the Burj al Arab Hotel – one of the world’s most expensive and exclusive hotels – were just a couple extravagances. We also experienced the $100 high tea at the 7-star Burj al Arab Hotel and it even seemed worth it.
In India, we visited Mumbai, New Dehli, Agra, Goa, and Cochin. I think we met every resident at our stops in India, since they all seemed to be on the streets in mass.
We arrived in Mumbai, the city immortalized in Slumdog Millionaire. To visit the Taj Mahal, we then flew to New Dehli, where we boarded a bus for a long drive to Agra, home to the Taj Mahal.
The roads were primitive, but mostly paved, and a taxi consisted of a three-wheeled vehicle called a took took. The primary mode of transportation for people who could afford it was a motorcycle. In some cases, motorcycles were used to carry up to four people and almost every imaginable form of small commerce.
Cows and other animals wander the streets. My wife, somewhat prepared for what to expect, was appalled at the filth and piles of trash everywhere.
There are so many more details to share, but what I hope to impart is the gratitude we must feel for how comfortable most of our lives are – especially anyone who is reading this column. Our kids need to know – and perhaps by seeing the rest of the world they can really understand – how truly lucky they are.
Have you taken any trips that make you truly appreciate the comforts of home?