So I’m lounging by a pool in Abu Dhabi, here to train street performers for an international Science Festival that isn’t allowed to talk about evolution. I’m reading Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom” and there’s Western pop music pumping from a plastic rock behind my wicker lounger. The poolside bar sells mojitos. There’s a woman in a full black burkha, carrying an expensive Italian handbag, filming everything with an expensive Japanese camera. “National Express” by The Divine Comedy comes on, followed by The Police’s “Roxanne”. The poolside staff, as with all the low-waged staff in this city, are all southeast Asian, but have nametags reading “Allan” and “Matthew”. Last night was English night at the restaurant buffet, and they would freshly fry fish and chips for you. The hotel is half-empty. It’s November and it’s 30 degrees. My bedroom window looks out onto a mosque lit in green neon, a ten-stack oil refinery, a motorway, sprinkler-fed grass lawns and several building sites. The team I’m training are from Libya, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Sudan. Paul McCartney and Britney Spears are coming here this week; my team will be performing carbon dioxide experiments by the stage where Fatboy Slim is playing. Large military transports have been taking off all day, and we’re not sure why. I didn’t read the news today.