So I have survived my first Christmas away from home. (Actually, that might be premature - I am heading to a party now, and like all of our get-togethers, I predict debauchery)
Last night I set out with a friend from work after we wrapped our shift on the revise desk. We headed to the Sheraton Tavern pub, where there were loads of British people already acting badly, a painfully loud and average band, lots of Santa hats and, as there always is, a cougar-ish woman wearing one of those trampy Santa dresses. Quite a few pints and lots of interesting conversation I can't really recall later, we meandered over to the Howard Johnson's last resort, The Cellar, which was like a drunken scene out of Ally McBeal (in that it was full of my colleagues, and they were all singing along with the band, and dancing dramatically). There were more Santa hats. It got a bit blurry after that. My friend tells me slept in his glasses and hiking boots, which is odd, because he was wearing shoes last I saw him. I spent a few minutes listening to George Michael on my iPod before retiring, and am still not sure which one of us had the more embarrassing end to their night.
I woke early this morning, making my way down to the Gulf Diagnostic Centre and the annual appointment I have already WAY overshared about. The doctor said "I did not expect anyone to turn up today". I stopped at Al Wahda Mall for breakfast, and since I couldn't decide what to get, I ordered french toast, fruit salad AND a side of bacon. Turkey, of course. It was Christmas morning, after all. I wanted to get the power breakfast, but the waitress at Dome pointed out I never eat the muffin that comes with it, so it would be a waste. Then I stopped in at Nail Art for my favourite combination, a pedicure/neck, head and shoulder massage. Headed back home for a nap, then came into work, where a delish turkey dinner - albeit with different trimmings - was laid out on the conference table. At one point a woman I work with drank a cup of gravy, after someone bet her she wouldn't for 100 dirham. (About 33 bucks) As you can imagine, she said it was totally gross.
I am not exaggerating about this: every single person I encountered - people on the street, those in the elevator at my hotel, cab drivers, hospital staff, the guys in the Eiffel corner store that has nothing to do with Paris, Muslim and Christians alike - wished me a happy or merry Christmas. It was one of the most respectful things I have ever experienced, and made me resolve to do better with my Eid Mubaraks next time around. I have been getting loads of messages from back home, with jokes about how I am probably not allowed to celebrate Christmas or even say it here. I probably would have made those kinds of jokes myself, before moving across the world and finding out for myself – among many, many other things – that it's not like that at all.