On a sunny day in the light-hearted streets of Abu Dhabi you would not know this place exists. You go about your daily business as usual. Dropping off your pants to be hemmed at your Emirati tailor Freddy’s. Buying your dainties and perishables at Splash retail outlet. Driving around and around on different roundabouts because you don’t know how to exit. Haggling down that ridiculous 100 dirham bowl because it has a small chip in it and you think you can get it for 60. And all the while, you unknowingly pass by a dark store that should not be. A store like this should not technically be around in a “dry” country. But alas… it be.
Before we begin, let me state, that to protect the parties involved, we shall label this a fictional story. The following details may or may not have happened. And the individual accounts may or may not be true. But despite the obscurity of the situation, the place that we speak of remains alive and well and completely factual. And so…
There was a man, let us call him the Libationee, in need of some Spirit. He knew not where to turn for such a refreshment due to his predicament of location, but he had heard tales. Tales of dark holes and cubbies in his desert oasis that offered such refreshments of spirit. So with courage and wonder he went off in search of such a place not knowing where his journey would lead.
He questioned everyone, near and slightly farther than near, and received vague responses and general directions. Until he came across a fellow traveler who had just recently been Spirited away. She spoke of lefts and rights and lefts again until Mr.
Libationee was fully confused. Befuddled he was, yet his drive to find this nook had not been thwarted. Directions given, the experienced feminine traveler left him with one word – African. So, with his faithful sidekick and driver he went in search.
Left, right, left, left again… were they going in circles? All while looking for that one word that would signify their path was true – African. Like a whisper on the wind. Circles were most definitely what they were going in. Through parking lots and back streets. Through alleyways and sidewalk wide roads until it seemed hopeless. And still, no African in sight. Nor would there ever be.
They continued in that pace for what seemed like hours. In reality, it was about 3-4 minutes. The directions were actually quite good. But not finely crafted directions would help them at this stage. The needed instinct. The needed faith in themselves and their own gut feeling. So, provoked by that gut feeling, the Libationee knew he was close.
“Stop! We’re here!” he yelled to his female driver.
Who already being a bit on edge because of the shady nature of their environment, slammed on the breaks in the middle of the small street. There in front of the Spirit-seekers was a dwelling dark as night, despite it being midday. The mysterious windows were not marked by the word African as had been mentioned, but instead read two letters – A & E. Round and round the shadowed building the Libationee crept, leaving his companions behind, until he finally reached the opening of the cave. He quietly cracked the vaulted, but unlocked, doors and slowly stepped in. And what did he find in that dark, black, stone, window-less cavern that screamed of illegality, mischief, and despair???
Two Indian men having a conversation about a local cricket team and a young Filipino shopkeeper standing peacefully in the corner. Hmmm… that’s anti-climactic. No guns or whistles or bells warning that a non-liicensed American traveler had entered the premises? Oh. Sad face.
But this story would have intrigue because then came the dilemma. While it was not illegal for the Libationee to enter and be in such an establishment as the one he was currently residing in, it would be illegal for him to transport such cargo out of the store in this Royal Emir of Abu Dhabi… so he had to be fast.
He grabbed his black bag of spirits and moved quickly, though not quick enough to draw attention, to the place he had left his companions. But upon arriving at that location his heart dropped in his chest and his pulse quickened, for they were not there. They were gone.
Standing on a public street corner with a dark black plastic bag full of illegal substances, “Where could they be?”, he asked himself. Again, it seemed like days in that hot sun when he saw from a distance his sidekick Pancho from Porto. Pancho waved him over as though knowing the Libationee needed an escape route. They fled together to the steaming comforts of a nearby parked car. Lucky for them, it was their car. The driver had wantonly decided to make a quest of her own in a local cosmetics shop. And although I am sure her quest was just, I doubt one could be arrested for transporting nail polish remover. “Quick march!” he said. And off they flew to safety.
As the three companions sped away to safety and spirited anticipations, the Libationee reflected to himself on his journey and how he went from thinking there was a place such as that to knowing… there exists such a place.