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16 May, 2005

Doobious warfare

Despite endless attempts by new hotels to emulate its exquisite Arabian elegance, the Royal Madge remains architecturally and decor-wise the most beautiful hotel in Dubai if not the entire world. The cool splendour of its tearoom, a soy latte and steaming pot of overpriced Assam set before, provides the ideal setting for a frazzled American associate to calm his nerves.

The associate has spent the last few months seeking sponsorship and speakers for a major world-first international conference in Dubai (no easy task, there are at least three such events every week). During one presentation to a group of senior business execs in the US, he was interrupted by the Vice President for International Sales of a well-known, Fortune100 blue chip.

"What's Doobai?" the VP demanded. "Aren't we at war with those guys?"

"Which guys do you mean?" the associate asked. "Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates, it's..."

"The ay-rabs," the VP interrupted. "All of those guys. We're at war with the ay-rabs."

Continued diplomacy was impossible, as the VP continued to punctuate the presentation with anti-ayrab remarks. In the end, the associate decided to hell with it - or to "heck" with it, this being America - and tore a strip off the ignorant bigot in front of his astonished colleagues.

"Not that it will have any effect," laments the associate, now sipping his latte in a far more enlightened country. "You know as few as seven per cent of us Americans own passports?"

We nod, in a mixture of sympathy and relief.

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