On the same trip to Abu Dhabi, we met with the senior leadership from the UAE’s military. We were briefed in the van on the trip through the city to the military headquarters. Everyone in line from most senior to most junior. It was cool. I was the second most junior.
We filed off the van and into a magnificent white marble building (aren’t they all that way?) where we were led to what I considered an opulent meeting room with plenty of space and chairs for all around a single massive conference table. The leader of the team was an SES (Senior Executive Service – a civilian equivalent to a two-star general). The rest went from colonel to an Air Force master sergeant along with our civilian grade counterparts.
The members from the UAE military filed in and took their places. They had a comparable number to our team with comparable ranks. A young man, a captain moved into position next to me and we started talking. It was quite engaging.
At one point, he motioned toward a server carrying a tray with a small cup for coffee. It was dark and heavy. Turkish coffee. It smelled glorious. I took it and thanked him, sipping casually before returning to my conversation.
My counterpart nodded toward the server and suggested I should finish the coffee. I drained it and handed the cup back. My counterpart declined getting any. The server moved to the last couple people and offered them coffee.
From the same cup. I counted where I was. Fifteenth in line. I hoped that the others caught on quicker than me so I wasn’t the fifteenth to drink from the one cup. I used to think of myself as intelligent until cultural reality sunk in.