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The Best of the Best

burj al arab

We have trekked half way around the world to attend a tournament that is designed to challenge the best scholastic chess players in the world, and award one of them in each section as the champion for their age group — the best of the best. And we are hosted by a country that seems to be striving to be the best of the best — at least in the travel and tourism industry.

We took today to see the sights in Dubai.

Ganmama and Zoe taking in the sights on the double decker bus.
Ganmama and Zoe taking in the sights on the double decker bus.

If challenged with one of those interview type questions, “Pick three adjectives to describe what you saw today . . . ” I might choose opulent, ostentatious, even outlandish. Dubai boasts the tallest tower in the world, standing at almost twice the height of the Sears Tower in Chicago (and yes, I know it is no longer called the Sears Tower, but how many of you would know what I was talking about if I referred to it as the Willis Tower?) More impressive to me are the Palm Islands.  You really have to see these to understand why.  Check out this National Geographic on their creation:

You will see what I mean by outlandish!  And as we observed from the top of the double decker bus, I kept thinking, “Can all of this really be built on a foundation of sand?”

Dubai skyline

Though I have no desire to judge a city based on a one day experience, there is something lacking:  authenticity.  In fact, other than the passport and customs officers at the airport, I do not know that I have even met an Emerati.  There is a confluence of cultures here, the Popeye’s stands next to the Iranian bakery.  And the Burj Al Arab is completely decked out in Nutcrackers and Christmas Trees.

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The culmination of our excursion today was dinner at the “best” hotel in town, this Burj Al Arab.  Not allowed to enter the hotel unless you are a guest, we wisely made reservations for lunch rather than staying the night. It turns out the “best” is also often quite expensive.  As we feasted on the most beautifully plated dishes I’ve ever seen (except maybe on Masterchef): salmon, venison, lamb, ribeye, pasta with butter (yep, Zoe), our server let us know that we were literally sharing seats with the best of the best.  It seems that Zoe was in the seat recently occupied by the the most beautiful woman in the world (okay, that is truly debatable, but at least according to the million or so who voted on IMDb):  Angelina Jolie.  And an indisputable best had just two days before warmed the cushion of Drew’s chair:  Messi (he is so good that he only needs one name).

Lunch at the Burj Al Arab. Notice the Palm Island in the background.
Lunch at the Burj Al Arab. Notice the Palm Island in the background.

So, hopefully some of all this “bestness” will rub off on Drew and bring him success in his tournament games.  But actually, I believe his practice over the last seven months is what will really benefit him.  My hope, however, is that he will remain authentic, true to his sometimes crazy, always lovable, zesty, compassionate, and fiery little self.   May his Pursuit of the King bring honor to the One who is True.  And may his foundation be firm.

Arab Sunrise

Arab Sunrise

The day dawns slowly over Dubai. I am watching the color through the sand covered window of our hotel room. After what seemed to be the longest night of my life, it is wonderful to see the light!

We left for the airport after nightfall and boarded our almost 14 hour flight right on schedule. The flight path took us up the east coast, over DC, New York and Boston. Veering east across the Atlantic, we then flew over Dublin, London, Nuremburg, Baghdad, Kuwait City, the Persian Gulf, and landed finally, here in Dubai. Zoe, Drew, and I watched the arc of the plane’s path on a seat back monitor. As we crossed the globe, the sun passed overhead, but we missed out on the day as the flight attendants were insistent that all the windows remain tightly shuttered to maintain the darkness of our simulated night. Zoe and I did steal quick peaks of the snow capped mountains as we crossed the Alps. Actual night soon fell again and we raised the window to see the lights of cities in Iran and the welcoming twinkle of city lights along Dubai’s shore.

Interspersed among the geography and history lessons as we discussed what was passing 37,000 feet below, we catnapped, ate Moroccon chicken and quinoa with veggies (okay, I ate it – Zoe complained and Drew chose the shrimp), and wrestled with finding a comfortable position in seats not soft enough. Drew switched seats with Ganmama who was across the aisle so that he could advise the man from Oman who is returning home from LSU for the holidays as he took on his seat mate in a game of chess on their iPad. The LSU freshman was a self-proclaimed beginner, and Drew reported that he did not value his pawns and made matters worse by trading to a lost endgame.

After much needed horizontal rest in the Holiday Inn Express, we are ready to see what today’s adventures will be. (Okay, I am ready, Zoe is still sleeping 🙂