Aunt Alice in Arabia – Leaving the UAE

June 19, 1990

Leaving a country is traumatic. What’s worse is being back home and thinking, “I should have bought that when I was there!”  What stops me? I have this silly feeling that anything that costs more than 100 of any denomination is too expensive.

Before I left Saudi Arabia, I went on a jewelry binge. This is not healthy shopping. It’s less painful to take a few weeks and buy a souvenir (French for “to remember”) here and there, carefully and selectively.

I love rugs, however, I’m not a doctor or an oil executive.  I’ll invest in fake Chinese rugs and a few small Turkish or other non-silk rugs.

My biggest investment is a piece of furniture:  the Pakistani an rosewood hand-carved coffee tables with matching side tables are gorgeous.  My more worldly shopping friends tell me, yes, they are a bargain in the local souk.

There’s table lamps made with multi-colored papers that when lit, display a soft mixture of light which is artsy. Brass lanterns for candles which exude a 1001 Nights atmosphere.  Frankincense at 25 dirhams for two kilos is wonderful!  It’s almost impossible to find in the States, at any price.

Cassette tapes.  A local flag. The Eid holidays are the best time to purchase beaded cloth, handbags and belts. Those things cost a fortune in America.

I’ll take more sand dune photographs! Buy more copies of Shirley Kay’s and Motivate Publishers books of the Emirates; the Seven Sands” moving sculpture;  wooden-carved toys for children; Iranian bedspreads; Egyptian papyrus with hieroglyphics…. Some people will think this is crazy, but I have a collection of Pepsi and Coca Cola cans with their beautiful Arabic labels.

Then there’s the most impossible memories to collect: the bittersweet farewells to students, friends, colleagues, the workers at the little corner store, the men who cleaned my car, the street newspaper seller and all the other daily acquaintances who have made me feel special and good about myself and being here.

And, most importantly, addresses of friends I have learned to love these two years in the UAE with assurances that they will write.