sitting at the table, puffing on the hookah, i looked around at my friends and i told them that i felt we were just on the surface of a giant rubik’s cube that someone had shifted.  everything around us looked different, but it was still just us, sharing a meal, laughing like hyenas, and feeling the breeze.

yesterday was that kind of day.  easy.  breezy.  beautiful.  (cover girl.)  i had on my black eyeliner and green scarf.  (here’s the thing about the desert: that scarf is essential.  once noon hits, it goes around my head so my head doesn’t spontaneously combust.  we went to the bank as one more link in the long chain of things that need to get done to settle my hosting friend in the country.  it was like any bank anywhere except clearly R I C H.  over in one corner was the company player flirting with two women in slinky abaya and one in western garb with an elaborate headscarf.

after that, we went to the mall to change some money.  i loathe the mall in the united states.  overweight teenagers squeeze themselves into band-aid sized shorts and waddle around, rednecks slither through, thugs duck-walk to keep their pants on, young parents glare at each other over their screaming toddlers, and there is always some horrible muzack being piped into the air so that there is no escape.  here, i LOVE the mall.  it is quiet.  everybody glides.  couples lean in to each other in discreet whispers.  and things in the shops are beautiful.

we walked across the street (no small feat, by the way!  pedestrians, who when tallied up were the four of us, do not have the right of way.) and went to a cafe overlooking the bay.  stuffed grape leaves, fried kibbeh, minty/lemon drinks were all washed down with turkish coffee and flan.  of course, there was the hookah.  it just forces one to slow down.  we sat for hours waiting out the heat of the day.  as we smoked, sharing the same pipe, our thoughts melded and we were able to finish each other’s sentences.  the light changed on the buildings.

off to the corniche we walked.  the corniche lines the very edge of the entire Abu Dhabi coastline on the bay.  we walked (and walked) until we got to the bike rental place.  it’s not a shop, just lines of bikes on either side of the sidewalk.  the (very, very good looking!) man who was renting them out picked out a red tricycle with a big white basket in the back for me.  my friends hopped onto a two seater and the boy grabbed a four wheeler.  we raced each other, wove in and out through the foot traffic, caressed the fuzzy grasses with our feet as we rolled by, slapped five onto the low hanging branches, and giggled like four year olds.  we rode to the port.  dozens of wooden dhows were docked, some nearly covered by all the fish traps on board.  several wave runners sped through and a lone sheik stood at the rail of the boardwalk and watched, his khandora catching the wind.  he looked like the sail of a ship, solitary and proud.

we turned back as the fourth call to prayer floated out of the minarets and the sun was setting.  as it drew nearer to the horizon, it heated into a brilliant red ball.  the dunes across the bay glittered, the date palms’ outlines grew sharp.  i heard someone whistling a tuneless tune.  every once it a while the whistling would stop and a giggle would burst forth.  so deeply was i entangled in my own contentment, it took me a second to realize that the whistler was me.

after returning the bikes, we took the boy back to the hotel and we headed out for lebanese food.  if i would have known, i would have prepared myself by not eating earlier that day and two days before.  we ordered two drilled meat plates, grilled chicken, an appetizer of baba ghanoush (which was called matoubal there), and avocado shakes (trust me.).  but, even before our food arrived, the manager kept sending out other plates.  he sent out a plate of olives, crudités, arugula and mint, hummus, labneh (yoghurt cheese), and a basket of pita.  the meat plates were mountains of meat.  i got the mixed grill.  on my plate were: lamb chops, lamb kebabs, grilled chicken, chicken kebabs, beef kebabs, and grilled beef.  on top were whole grilled tomatoes and a chopped parsley salsa.  i ate and ate and ate but the pile did not seem to diminish.  and then, there was coffee.  it was, so far, the richest cup i’ve had here.  and since the manager felt that coffee could not be had alone, he sent out a dessert.  it was a delicate rice pudding smothered in honey with chopped pistachios and almonds.  it took us fifteen minutes before we could walk to the street to get a taxi.

after that meal, i didn’t think i’d ever be hungry again, but the leftovers are in the fridge right now.  so, i gotta go.

when you look at the day, i just hung out with my friends, went for a bike ride and had dinner.  but the perfection is all in the details, isn’t it?  make sure the friends are worthy, the ride beautiful and the dinner delicious.  that’s the difference between mundane and spectacular.

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