Well, I had my first day of work today, and it’s clear that my time here is going to be hectic. I don’t think the dream of doing World Cup-style live blogging in going to work. Probably for the best. I’m still processing this place, so better not burden this blog with all sorts of banal observations…

And with that, I’d like to shift the focus of the theme of today’s blog – Brendan’s banal observations on Middle Eastern life!

1. When placed in next to each other, Arabic lettering invariably humiliates English

This being my first time surrounded by Arabic typography, I must say it’s really breathtaking. Even generic messages like this seem somehow layered. By contrast English looks up tight and utilitarian. The calligraphic tradition is still alive and well here, and I think you can see that even in the fonts. Of course English fonts are also somehow based on handwriting, but the focus seems to be much more on precision than on emotion. When English fonts do try for feeling a lot of time it ends up over ornamental and corny or just straight up horrible like comic sans or whatever.

2. If I could I would dress like an Arab

It’s a pity you can’t wear the attire of another culture without looking like a clown. Because if I could I would probably trash my entire wardrobe tomorrow and rock a dishdasha everyday. It’s stylish, convenient, weather protective, economical, comfortable. The only problem is that they tend to be white and I’m a messy eater. Other than that, they get a Dubai-style 7 star rating.

3. Dubai is hotbed of Muslim mildism

With great trepidation, I’m going to get serious for a second. For me as a card-carrying American, visiting the Persian Gulf is an almost constant confrontation with the hostility and stinginess of our perception of Arabic culture. Everywhere words, images, sounds that are considered notorious in in the US pop up, but in benign, family-friendly forms. (I told you these would be banal observations). It’s not that I’m surprised to find that, for example, Iran isn’t considered a menace here; it’s more the reminder of how almost all symbols of Arab life have been stripped of a third dimension (maybe even a second) in “the American mind”. It’s as if there simply isn’t enough mental space to allow for the fact that Iran may be pursuing nukes while simultaneously harboring a love for cake and ice cream. Or that Osama is indeed the name of Public Enemy #1, but also the name of thousands of little boys who are mostly interested in football and PSPs. Particularly as we head into the general election where Obama’s Muslim middle name will be used to pollute his image and stir some vague fear in the hearts of voters, I think it’s a tragedy that the American view of the Arab world is dictated by our politicians.

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