Walking through a hotel corridor in Abu Dhabi, the stream of people coming the other way are smiling and friendly. Hotel staff and other guests alike catch my eye and smile = “Good morning, sir.”
In reception, most everybody is in a reasonable mood. The locals in dish-dash sit on sofas and smoke, the enormous families of visiting Russians add ever-more luggage to an already heaving pile in the middle of the floor. The bell-hop is relaxed and happy. It’s his job.
Children run up and down the marble floor, skiting along on their knees. They get in people’s way. The people smile and gently side step them, occasionally someone pats a stranger’s kid on the head as they pass. Nobody immediately assumes that person is a paedophile – some people are just nice.
Nobody grimaces. Nobody screams at each other.
Nobody uses “Excuse me…” as a softener before making some passive aggressive demand. Nobody starts their line with “I’m sorry but…” and then follows it with “You’re a cunt.”
It’s a civilised country, in the most literal sense of the word, in that people are civil.
Ten days later I’m landing in Edinburgh. Outside looks beautifully damp and cool and there’s no sand everywhere.
There’s a scrum when the plane sets down, people push and shove, glare and bitch at each other as though there’s only enough Edinburgh for the first twenty people off the flight.
At immigration people stride past one another to get one place further up the queue.
At luggage retrieval three kids play tig around the pillars, occasionally sitting on the luggage carousel as it spins, empty.
Their parents shriek. Passers by bitch. Someone mutters about a “damn good hiding.”
I feel my mental attitude shift back to a British one, feeling mafi mushkila bleed from me all too fast.