When you’re an American living in Dubai, the crowned jewel of the Gulf nation, you develop a natural and healthy respect for the locals. I mean, these guys built an entire Paradise island resort in the shape of the globe out of nothing but water and sand.
Think that’s cool?
They even put gold flakes on your cappuccino. Take that whipped cream!
If that’s not enough to strike your fancy, they also have snow skiing. During the summertime. In the mall.
I’m not sure where they’re hiding all their cash (I suspect it’s somewhere under all that clothing or fake snow), but we can all agree that The Emiratis have cornered the market on making the impossible, possible.
So, you can imagine my surprise when a few friends and I went to The Biker Café on Jumeriah Street, thinking to ourselves, “No real biker would drive his tricked-out Harley up to a place called The Biker Café in the middle of the dessert.”
But, sure enough, 3 cappuccinos later (yep, this was a coffee bar and yup, I got the gold flakes) we heard that familiar roar of motorcycle engines and watched, drop-jawed as 7 leather-vested men pulled their Harleys up to park.
Now, coming from Florida, I know exactly what real bikers look like. These guys fit the part.
They had metal-chained wallets hanging, black leather skull caps, fingerless gloves, and insignia patches decorating their leather vests.
This might have been a normal scene in 1980’s Miami, or “Bike Week” in Daytona, but it was anything but normal in the hyper-conservative Gulf nation where tattoos are forbidden and beer is only allowed in hotels.
So, we (being the brazen American women we are) stopped by their table to figure out just what this ragamuffin group of desert bikers were all about.
Rafi, the leader of the pack, spoke the most English, so he was mainly the one to tell their story. With a cheeky grin, he showed off his bullet-shell necklace and told us how their group fell in love with the biker culture after watching American television shows like Sons of Anarchy. Then, he confessed to owning at least 3 or 4 more motorcycles back home, much like a woman would confess to having 3 more of the same dress in her closet.
I felt like a rockstar in that Biker Café, and even more of one when Rafi and his ‘gang’ took us for a 10-minute ride on the Jumeirah strip (which is a lot like the beach highways of Miami — just 5 million degrees hotter.)
It was thrilling. Exciting. Invigorating. We were pushing our own boundaries and comfort zones while these leather-cladden men were pushing boundaries of their own, redefining what it means to be an Emirati in the 21st Century.
Sometimes you really do have to jump on a 16-hour flight and fly across an ocean to discover just how exciting your own home nation is.
But that’s the amazing thing about travel. When you’re willing to take a step outside your comfort zone, you allow yourself to experience greatness, both within other cultures and within your own.