Lighting up the sky across a narrow causeway, I could see a familiar emblem; I was instantly reminded in the 21st century, the world is flat.
In another day and another time, if I had seen the “Cleveland Clinic” title and emblem amongst the desert sand dunes of Abu Dhabi, it certainly would have been a mirage caused by severe dehydration; and a harbinger of an untimely demise.
On this night though, there were no longer any sand dunes, only the penetrating blue lighted outline of the Middle East meeting the Midwest.
Of course, I did not simply happen upon this world-renowned institution during my stay in the UAE.
My occurrence directly across from its imposing opulence in the emirate of Abu Dhabi had been several months in the making, facilitated by technologies and infrastructure that upon the birth of the UAE over 40 years ago would have themselves been a mirage:
- Reserving a room in a world-class hotel across the causeway from this beacon of hope to the people of Middle East had occurred through the connectivity of our world via the web only 24 hours prior to my arrival
- Modernized highways, accompanied by upgraded metrorail and busing, safely transported me from one emirate along the course of a previously treacherous journey; surely innumerable lives were at one time or another were lost in the not-so-distant past
The entire scenario, an American-based institution acting as a crown jewel in the emerging Abu Dhabi skyline, would not have become a reality if our world was as round as previously experienced.
The following day, over two hours in this bustling institution, I discussed the emergence of American medical influence coinciding with the development of the young country’s infrastructure with an expatriate American physician who had risen rather quickly to her impressive post in this foreign land.
From her, I learned how the Royal family viewed the integration of a national health insurance plan for the native Emirati with a separate private insurance for the increasing expatriate population.
The balance between the needs of an emerging global economic powerhouse and the necessary assistance from the (Mid)Western world were of particular interest to my inherent intellectual curiousity, especially given my relative proximity in Columbus to the original Cleveland Clinic.
Along the return path between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, I could still see vast stretches of open desert between the Emirates, connected by small swaths of modern day buildings and the requiste electrical towers.
The cranes rising high into the Emirati skyline were even more omnipresent upon the conclusion of my journey back to Dubai. Each crane stood adjacent to an emerging skyscraper, awaiting further construction from the expatriates brought to perform the necessary duties in a country barely older than I.
I found the reality to be striking; myself, a faltering child of the American Midwest, venturing to the Middle East for the first time, yet unable to escape it.