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Scammed in Dubai
Dubai, the place of marvels of architecture and culture - and tourist scams.
My wife and I recently enjoyed a wonderful anniversary trip to Dubai. Aside from experiencing the souks, the museums, the camels and the falcons, we found everyone there to be not only friendly but also very helpful.
Well, almost everyone.
In our four days there, we managed to get scammed not once, not twice, but three times.
First was with a taxi driver. He didn’t have a taxi sign on his car, but he had a meter, and insisted that he was a proper regular taxi. Only after arriving at our destination did we discover that he was actually a “limousine” taxi, which meant that his meter charged more than double the rate of a regular taxi.
Then, at the extraordinary Dubai mall, my wife was convinced to spend a very large sum of money on a therapeutic gadget. The (Israeli) saleswoman was excellent - she pointed out that it was a revolutionary five-star prize-winning gadget designed by scientists from the Technion along with a Nobel Prize winner, and it was on sale at a huge discount. My spidey-sense (also known as Rationalist Radar) started tingling and I looked at the gadget’s website. The scientists from the Technion who were named as its creators had no other mention on the Internet whatsoever, and the product itself was barely mentioned anywhere else on the Internet, which seemed strange for something that was presented as being so revolutionary. I found the email address of the Nobel Prize winner who was prominently displayed on the website, and he told me that he wasn’t actually the designer of the gadget, he had just answered some technical questions about it. The prizes that it had won were from a single entity that didn’t seem tremendously credible, and the five-star reviews were more than balanced by many single-star reviews. And even at a “huge discount,” it was still over ten times more expensive than other gadgets that are essentially identical. The store initially refused to take it back, but after we kicked up an enormous fuss in front of other customers, they agreed.
And finally, it was my turn to be scammed without any assistance from my wife. At one of the fascinating souks (markets), I visited an antique store, featuring many extraordinary items that I had never seen before. When the proprietor heard that I was interested in animal-related items, he had something special to show me: an ornate brass shofar-type instrument for calling one’s camels. Of course I immediately googled it, and I couldn’t find much, but there was an antique website with a picture of a similar instrument which also described it as a camel horn. And so I purchased it, after bargaining the seller down to a quarter of his original asking price, and I left feeling very proud of myself. It would be something wonderful to add to our developing camel exhibit, alongside a model of a spice-laden camel made of real camel fur, and camel milk chocolate.
After having our museum maintenance staff member polish it, changing it from a dull green tarnish to a gleaming brass, we posted a picture of it on our Facebook page with a challenge for people to identify it. And one person immediately did - using a reverse-image search, which enables Google to find a similar picture.
It turns out that it is actually a musical instrument known as a todi, from the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, India, which is played by tribal people in many traditional and cultural events. And it doesn’t double-up as a camel-horn; there aren’t even many camels in India.
Now I’m thinking that I may need to check out my other purchases more carefully. The camel milk chocolate might not even be Chalav Yishmael!
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