People here speak English.They also speak Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Tagalog, Gujerati, and god knows what else.  Most of the cab drivers here speak better English than the cabbies in New York.  On the one hand, yay! Everyone should speak English, shouldn’t they? I mean, shouldn’t there be a law or something? And then, of course, on the other hand, we earnest expats wonder where we will find the “real” Abu Dhabians?

The city seems a bit like Los Angeles or NYC  in that almost everyone here is from somewhere else…and the people who are really “from” here are very hard to find.  Plus that, when you leave the downtown area, where we live, the neighborhoods look like any swanky nabe, anywhere: walled villas set back from the road, green grass (green!), expensive shops and car dealerships: BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes, Lamborghini, Ferrari.

On my way to Spinneys (a British grocery store), the cab drove through one such Al Swankia neighborhood and for a moment I could have been in Beverly Hills.  When I walked into the grocery store, the illusion of Western life persisted: orderly aisles, food from Waitrose, rows of Campbell’s Soup, Betty Crocker pancake mix, frozen pizzas, organic frozen vegetables.  All very Whole Foodsy (with prices to match), all very familiar.

And then…this:


Behind sliding glass doors, at the back of the store, a section of the grocery store set aside for us pork-eaters. In this room you’ll find porky happiness: babyback ribs, pork chops, and bacon, which comes with a sort of Surgeon General’s warning:

I wonder: what would constitute “pork for Muslims?”

Also in the pork room? Wee packets of pork scratchings, which I think are what George Bush the First liked to eat, yes? Pork Rinds? (Ah, the Bushies. What a classy group.)  The pork room also held shelves of Pop Tarts, that lard-based breakfast of champions. Should we call them Pork Tarts from now on?  (And yes, yes, I confess, if the box hadn’t been almost eight bucks, I would’ve brought some home. I loves me some Pop Tarts. )

Pork, it seems, resides in unexpected places. For instance, in seafood:

So yeah, everyone here seems to speak English, and yeah, there’s a Baskin-Robbins two doors down from our building, but squid balls and the pork room remind me that we’re a long, long way from home.