Travels of a fashionista – Abu Dhabi
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) for me are synonymous with ‘the promised land’ or ‘paradise’ since I spent the happiest 2.5 of my growing up years there. It’s a wonderfully exciting, modern place that still is only moving at a comfortable leisurely pace, clean, liberal, multicultural and most importantly for me: all year round really warm place which gives it’s landscape all those nice subdued, peaceful colours ;o)
My husband and I got on a plane of Etihad Airlines (the official airline of the UAE) at Milano Malpensa to go to Abu Dhabi for a one day stop-over on our way to Australia. As soon as you get on board you’re already charmed by the Arabian flair & hospitality. The stewardesses’ uniform is a very elegant charcoal grey skirt suit, topped by a little hat with scarf-like veil, giving it a 1950s touch, finished off by red leather gloves, which complete the outfit – very chic, I have to say (the gloves you will find out once airborne are not just a fashion accessory but a necessity once the A/C is working at its full blast so you would even freeze in an ankle length mink coat!). The crew is very hospitable and of a colourful multicultural mix – the same mix you will find residing in the UAE!
As soon as you take your seat you’re greeted by the pre-recorded security announcement in Arabic – the male voice is nothing short of 1001 nights – deep, low, husky, mysterious, soothing, hypnotic – in other words, you never want it to stop talking, EVER, even if it’s just telling you that smoking is forbidden and you should keep your seatbelt fastened at all times while seated!
When we reached our hotel we were greeted by friendly staff in a sleek marble lobby adorned with huge crystal chandeliers and a faint smell of rose water which is added to the central air-conditioning – hmmmm, one could get used to that!
On the huge leather couches I saw men sitting in typical Arabian outfits of long pristinely, white tunics (thawb) and headdresses. One wonders how they manage to look so immaculate, unwrinkled and clean in hot end-June-climate. They are busy with their blackberries (by now a much bigger nuisance to women then the old-fashioned mistress could have ever been!), some holding on to a prayer bead chains in one hand, similar looking to our rosary.
The United Arab Emirates has the world's seventh largest oil reserves, possesses one of the most developed economies in the Middle East and surely is one of the most liberal Arabic countries. It has the fourteenth largest purchasing power per capita – so girls, brace yourself for the best shopping experience of your life – because what you don’t find there, simply doesn’t exist ;o) I advise every fashionista on the loose who is in a relationship to absolutely split individual bills onto several credit cards so the amount spent doesn’t jump out quite so aggressively on the card statement – not that we want to hide anything, oh no ... now, what shall we call it? Well ... let’s just say, we want to be diplomatic, don’t we, Girls? ;o)
Since we only had slightly less than 24 hrs in Abu Dhabi I claimed it to be too hot (although for me that term doesn’t really exist) for conventional sightseeing and proposed to go shopping instead at one of the luxurious, temperature controlled shopping malls ;o) After sufficient damage was done, we finally took a rest around 4.30 p.m. at one of the restaurants overlooking an indoor ice rink – how fascinating is that, considering outside it’s 45°C?! This gave me a good opportunity to study the people around me in more detail – an activity I absolutely looooove!!!<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Even though one can of course observe families or couples, mostly men & women move around in their own gender groups.
One does see many Arabs in western clothing but I’m mostly intrigued by the many in traditional attire: Man look dashing, fresh & well groomed as if they just got dressed after a nice relaxing shower even in the late afternoon, wearing their white tunic-like shirtdresses (without a trace of wrinkles!) with white or red & white checked headgear, beards nicely trimmed, big dark eyes...
Women look mysterious & very graceful in their black chadors, cloak like floor length, long sleeved dresses, heads wrapped in ḥijābs – artfully draped big scarves. Although they are covered head to toe in black, you can still make out their figure since the fabric is soft falling. Baring no other skin, attention gets drawn to their beautiful faces of light skin, dark eyes – some amber with a hint of green, usually strongly kohl-ed and perfectly shaped eyebrows – I have never, ever seen so many perfect eyebrows in one place!!! They sport big designer bags & sunglasses, hands well manicured and bejewelled. Only when they sit down for a round of girls talk you can catch a glimpse of what might we hidden underneath the chador when it slips up ever so slightly: jeans and bejewelled neck-brakingly high heeled sandals ;o)
Since less than 24 hrs in this wonderful country obviously can only be counted as a preview, I wiggled the promise of a trip to Dubai (note how Du-bai already sounds like to-buy!) out of my husband – so please, Girls, cross your fingers for me, that it will materialize – will keep you updated :o))