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  • April 2008
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Mountain Dew, a Cigarette, and World Peace

The Tallest Building in the World

It had been a busy morning.  First a drive-by of the Burj Dubai, the world’s new tallest skyscraper going up in Dubai and the symbol of the economic crossroads that the Emirates hope to become.  Then jumping out of the van on a somewhat busy highway to walk over to the Mall of the Emirates, where I went skiing at Ski Dubai – a huge indoor ski slope.  Then a stop by the foodcourt where I bypassed McDonalds in favor of a Turkish Chicken Doner sandwhich for half the price.  I was the only one at that counter.  Then I wandered around the souq and down to the Dubai Creek, which is lined with shipping boats from Pakistan and other countries that ply the waters of the Persian Gulf.

So I had this “brilliant” idea before I left the States of doing “man on the street” interviews (I always wondered am I the man on the street or is the person I am interviewing the man on the street – if that’s the case, let’s say person on the street).  So there I was on a sunny Friday afternoon (read prime weekend day a la Sunday afternoon in the States) in downtown Dubai with plenty of passers-by and absolutely no nerve to approach anyone with a question.  It was really pretty hilarious.  I just kept walking along Dubai creek, looking at boats, and thinking about who I would approach and how.

I finally took the plunge and approached a couple of men sitting under a shady tree in a park across from the Dubai Municipality office. 


They were Muslims from India.  They weren’t very talkative and looked at me kind of funny.  I can’t say that I blame them. 

Then I found a group of three Pakistanis in the same park who were more than happy to talk.  I asked them if they could tell Americans one thing what would it be and they said that they believed that all people could live in peace.  They asked if I were a Muslim, and I told them that I was a Christian.  To this they replied that Christians are the closest to Muslims in belief.  And they asked, “Would you like to get a drink with us?”  Now, where I’m from getting a drink means something else, but here it means coffee or tea or in this case Mountain Dew from a nearby grocery.

My new found Pakistani friends asked if I had anything to do as they were meeting another friean about 5-minutes away.  As with many things in this part of the world, 5-minutes turned into 20-minutes where we found no friend, but another park.  Where we took off our sandals and joined a score of other men sitting around on the grass enjoying the bright sun and warm Friday afternoon sun.  (Friday is the main day off from work).  Our conversation ranged from cellphones to crime in American cities to medical care in Pakistan vs. UAE vs. the USA. 

They asked if I smoked and I said, “only sometimes.”  (I confess that I enjoy an occasional cigar or pipe).  They laughed and enjoyed a smoke.  We talked some more about peace in the world.  They spoke at length about the fact that people in the street want peace but governments do not.  I asked them about this disconnect and the oldest of the group shared a parable about a man and his wife.  Although they love each other, they sometimes fight and disagree.  And even though sometimes they think of leaving for a new lover, they do not because they love their wife too much.  This was like people and governments.  Even though they disagree they love each other too much to cut each other off.  I thought this was fascinating.  Especially coming from a man with 2 wives.

I have a video clip of them, but it is too large for this Internet connection I have today.  Will post it later.

After an hour or so at the park the pack of cigarettes passed around the circle again.  I refused.  They laughed and said, “It is sometime!”  I’ll let you guess whether I accepted their simple guesture of hospitality.




One Response

  1. Thanks for sharing. It is good to read stories of friendliness and wishes for peace.


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