Arriving In The United Arab Emirates In 1962

From Rome I flew to Beirut.

I met Edith Patterson, a teacher from Toronto, on the plane to Beirut.  We had never seen each other, but somehow we managed to meet up and we flew together to Bahrain, which was the closest international airport to Abu Dhabi.

And that was the end of the joy ride. Reality really hit.

We only stayed in Bahrain for a few hours – we arrived there in the morning and we left in the afternoon, on a small Gulf Aviation plane, to Dubai. We had taken off all our sweaters and cold weather clothing in Bahrain, and put on cotton dresses, because it was hot of course.

I don't remember landing...  Dubai had these small little huts.  Another time, when I went back to Bahrain, we flew from Abu Dhabi and there was nothing there in terms of an airport I mean, it just an open air strip.

But Dubai had the wind towers, and little white houses; it wasn’t quite so deserted. Still, I guess it didn’t make a big impression because I don't remember much about it. Things sure have changed!

Real Luxury

Anyway, they took us to a guesthouse in Sharjah for the night. There was real luxury when we got to the guesthouse: we had a bathtub!

I filled up the tub, got in, and got all soaped up. But when I to wash it off, the soap just stuck to my skin because it was salt water.  The tap water was from the sea, so ordinary Lux soap or whatever I had just stayed glued to me.  Here I was all lathered up, and I felt dirtier after I got out of the bath than when I got in.  I learned very quickly that I had to use certain brands of soap that would wash off with salt water!

The servant at the guesthouse woke us up the next morning by bringing us tea, which was also a surprise because we had never had anyone wait on us like that before. Even more shocking was the fact that we were still in bed, and the servant was a man and in he came and put the tea down all in his stride. It didn't seem to bother him at all, but to me it was so embarrassing.

That morning we went down to the souk in Dubai to shop.  I don't even remember if we bought anything, but we went to take a look at it all – it was so new and amazing to us.

Baksheesh & Bugs
There were vendors sitting all over the place, selling their wares on the streets.  There were lots kids.  They followed us around saying baksheesh, baksheesh, wherever we went these little kids followed.

Somebody told us not to give them anything because if you did, they would just keep following you, but wherever we went they were there, asking for money.  Begging in that way was later outlawed. But when we arrived that was the first thing we noticed – the kids coming and asking for baksheesh.

We must have gone to the grocery store I think. That was a big thing whenever we came from Al Ain to Dubai to pick somebody up who had just arrived – it gave us the chance to buy groceries at Spinney’s.

There weren’t many places to buy things in Al Ain at the time, just a little covered souk.  But you could buy cornflakes at Spinney’s in Dubai, and that was a highlight, even though the cornflakes always had a few bugs in them.  We would pour our milk on the cornflakes, and the bugs would float to the top. It’s funny now that I think of it. We would skim off the stuff that wasn't supposed to be in the cornflakes then dig in!

The other thing I remember was also a photo studio, Rod's photo studio, where we would get our black and white films developed.  The slides had to be sent to England by mail, it would take about a month to get them back..

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Gertrude's story