Happy second Christmas day for my Dutch and Belgian friends!
Many Christians in the UAE received 2 days of compassionate leave this year for Christmas: the 24th so the continental Europeans can enjoy their feast day, and the 25th so the British can enjoy their feast day. (What day do the Irish have Christmas dinner?) Today is not a holiday but because it is Friday – and thus the first day of the normal 2 day weekend – we get the day off anyway.
Interestingly, until 2006 the Islamic calendar was followed more traditionally, with the weekend being Thursday and Friday. However, in an effort to make doing business with the West easier, the UAE (along with many of the Gulf States) changed its weekend to Friday and Saturday. The Friday stays because it is the traditional Islamic day of worship and rest. I think the Islamic Friday can be compared to the Jewish Saturday or the Christian Sunday.
We went to the supermarket today and noticed the place was virtually deserted. With many of the Christian expatriates visiting their home countries, and those who stayed lounging at home eating Christmas leftovers, there wasn’t much action at the Mall of the Emirates today.
I also noticed a significant increase in the number of Americans in the Mall. American accents are not that common here, due to the US tax system, which effectively penalises Americans if they work in tax-free countries by making them pay tax in the US as if they had earned that amount in their home country. (That really sucks by the way. American’s should get Obama to change that!) But today there were heaps of Americans shopping in the Mall. I also wondered if a US ship is docked here, because there were a few groups of American men aged between 35 and 45 walking around together looking like people who have a bit of time on their hands in a place they have never been before.