Sharjah, UAE

This is about a lovely Indian woman named Dolly, but there are a few cultural notes that go along with it. There are 7 Emirates in the United Arab Emirates (the UAE). I feel that is worth mentioning because I didn't know that before I got there. Most of us have just heard of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. While they are cities, they are also Emirates. Sharjah is an emirate that butts up against Dubai to its east. It is drastically different from Dubai though it is directly next door. Sharjah is more conservative in its Muslim law. There is no alcohol allowed at all, there are no shisha lounges. Along with that, I was told by Dolly's husband upon asking if she slaved away all day to make the delicious food that I was eating, women are not allowed to work in restaurants and certain other institutions. Sharjah has two main populations. It has a lot of Emirati families, and a huge concentration of Indian families. Not too many caucasians to be found here, they mainly hang out west in Dubai where the booze and shisha flow with more ease.

I met Dolly and her husband at the beach one evening. Her sister was visiting from India and they were all out having a great evening together. They excitedly invited me to come and have lunch with them at a later date at their Indian restaurant in Sharjah. I never turn down an invite for free food, especially when it's Indian.

I have to admit that I think this is the first all vegetarian Indian fare I have ever had. Oh my, was it delicious. Dolly's husband Jitendra came from India almost 40 years ago do Dubai. He worked in various endeavors before starting this restaurant, called Uttam Restaurant. He went back to India during those years and eventually came back with a wife, Dolly. Their marriage was arranged for them by their families and Dolly was brought over to the UAE away from her family. I asked her about this experience, and she said that it was made easier by the large Indian community that is already present in the UAE. Chunks of her family have since followed, and their one child, a son, is now training to be a commercial pilot.

They live in another the far east of the Sharjan Emirate, in a place in the mountains and on the coast called Fujeirah. The commute one and a half hours each way each day. Since Dolly can't work in the restaurant, it seemed to me that she was just a bit along for the ride in all of it. Since Jittendra spoke English much better than she, I didn't quite get the long conversation that would have been nice, but I could tell that she had a quiet strength of character that has carried her through a lot. Her calm kindness gave me that warm feeling about the human race that has been drifting around me during this journey. She and her husband loaded me full of amazing Indian food, then sent me home with more homemade sweets that I care to admit. They were so happy to sit with me, and so proud to show me photos of all the famous Indian Actors and Cricket players who had graced their little restaurant over the years. They truly were interested in being part of this grand race of humans, and wanted to know me just because I was one of the many. They also liked to mention repeatedly that their son was single, but will be getting married in the next few years. Did I have a husband?

If ever you are in Dubai, go to Sharjah and eat their food. I am sure they will invite you to sit and share your story.