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March 27th 2011
Published: March 27th 2011
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Sunday March 27th, 2011

Strait of Hormuz, South of Iran

Latitude 25 degrees 13 minutes’ north- Longitude 57 degrees 32 minutes’ east

Arabia is behind us in a cloud of dust, literally. We pulled out of Dubai yesterday afternoon and visibility was only about 500 feet. Luckily the dust storm did not roll in until we were on our way out of the harbor. In the morning we were still able to see the world’s tallest building and all of skyscrapers that make up Dubai’s skyline. The day before the weather was good in Oman, just hot. The Port of Mina Qaboos in Oman was clean, organized and completely uncrowded. The sidewalks were paved in marble with statues and fountains all along the waterfront. There was a huge incense burner built for decoration on top of one of the hills surrounding the harbor. The market was filled with merchants selling frankincense and myrrh. Everywhere were pictures of the supreme ruler and his huge yacht was tied up right downtown. After the chaos of India it was nice to walk down the street completely unmolested. But, it felt sort of sterile and the people were not really smiling or very friendly. We were only in Oman for about six hours and then we left for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Oil tankers flanked us all along our path as we cruised north toward the Strait of Hormuz.
Dubai, the Las Vegas of the Middle East, was completely over the top. Man-made islands and luxury high rise Hotels and Office Buildings filled the skyline. We took the hop-on hop-off tour bus all over the city. Our ticket included a one hour cruise on Dubai Creek onboard an authentic Arabian Dhow excursion boat. I found this area surrounding both sides of the creek the most interesting. Ancient markets for spices and gold were a rabbit warren of shops and alleyways. While just as crowded as the streets of India, this area was much cleaner and the people seemed happy, prosperous and content. I did see a lot of halted construction projects in the newer, glitzy parts of the city, but this old town area seemed the most vibrant and alive. It was interesting because this old part did not have all of the grass and trees that are planted all over the new luxury developments. We heard that it takes 250 million gallons of water per day to maintain the city. This is the highest water consumption per capita in the world. I do not see how the economics of Dubai are sustainable. The commentary on the tour bus kept stressing that oil revenues are only 6% of their total GDP, but when that is gone will people still come there? Their electric power consumption must also be enormous. Even the public bus stops along the streets were air conditioned. The huge shopping malls were full of people getting out of the heat, but I saw very few actually buying anything. Economic downturn over? I don’t think so.
So, after weaving our way by radar through all of the dust and oil tankers last night in the Persian Gulf, we once again passed thru the Strait of Hormuz and find ourselves heading southwest back into the Gulf of Oman. Ahead of us lie the western Indian Ocean, Africa and our next destination the Seychelles. The whole Middle East is swirling in turmoil and upheavel these days and so I doubt if I will ever return to Arabia. But, who knows maybe someday the dust will clear.

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