kookie in dubai - tales in the desert city

Sunday, March 9

Into My Arms

When I first came to Dubai I was relaying a frustrating experience of trying to give directions to a taxi driver who had no idea of where they were going and neither did I.

The person I was telling told me that I was going through the five stages of grief. At the time I thought this was a rather odd comparison but in hindsight it was quite true.

Below is my mindset during this time – which I think was over a six month period.

Denial: The initial stage: "It can't be happening."
This is surreal – there are camels on the freeway and people are driving like lunatics at 140 kph in a 100 speed limit.

A little man keeps coming to our apartment door offering to sell me water filled bottles – doesn’t he know that there is a perfectly good water from the tap in the kitchen?

Opposite us are the Russian hookers – I only see them in the late afternoon with their seriously high heels and then very late at night if I’m sleeping lightly I can hear their door bell ring. They are all remarkably friendly and in my Anglo way I do the polite smile thing – nod and smile with a closed mouth and don’t engage.

Still unsure of dress code I’m wearing ankle length floor skirts and look like I’m from Little House on the Prairie. Even though I’ve started going to the mall I’m still not comfortable with showing too much flesh – even though there are lots of English tourists baring fatty flesh who look like lobsters and have no idea of the concept of ‘slip, slop, slap’.

Anger: "Why me? It's not fair."
Why am I living in a place full of dust and sand and its over 45 degrees in the middle of May? Why do taxi drivers insist on driving like lunatics and racing other cars if they get cut off? Why do people keep flashing their lights at me on the freeway? Why does the hot water burn in the shower? Why are all my clothes shrinking? Where can I buy stamps? Why can’t I find one decent hairdresser? Why do waitresses always read back the order? Why do I have to pay for a glass of water? Why do men keep staring at me? Why isn’t mail delivered to my home? Why does know one know which street I live on?
Why am I here?

Bargaining: "Make this not happen, and in return I will..."
If I live here for a year then I can leave with lots of money and I can travel to many exotic lands...and I can buy new clothes and feed my addiction to Zara, Massimo Dutti and The One…I could buy a Touareg…I could buy some diamond earrings…then I can retire at an early age and tend to a garden in suburban Australia…eh?

Depression: "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"
If I watch another DVD that cost me 10 dirhams that I have bought from Who Who, the dodgy little lady who comes to my door and says ‘hey sista, what up?’ then I might have to consider going to bed and not getting up – ever.

The heat is unbearable – there is just no reprieve. Four months later and it has reached just over 50 degrees on a few occasions and standing in the shade causes sweat patches to form straight away in the most unusual places.

Acceptance: "It's going to be OK."
It will be ok – it really will – the worst is over and the second season has kicked in – winter. Twenty degree days means picnics in the park and walks along the beach; pure bliss.

Things I like and have learnt to love:
  • I love learning about little nuances – anyone who live here knows what manakeesh is, understands what yani, yella and habidti mean
  • Love walking past the mosque. There is something deeply moving and calming about the call to prayer and seeing from the outside in the ritual of prayer
  • Taking an abra across Dubai Creek is just pure magic
  • I’ve never liked malls and in the past would avoid them – now I understand their purpose as a community hub and as an air conditioned retreat for all
  • Love the fact that I work with 12 different nationalities – the Lebanese have the best hair and know the best hairdressers, the Filipino's are the hardest workers, the Egyptians attend the most lavish weddings, the Jordanians are friendly yet reserved and the English are well…English.

And as for living in a Muslim country - its been nothing but a truly fascinating and liberating education. I’m so grateful to all those people that have let me ask probing questions and try to come to some understanding of why things are the way they are. Maa al salamah


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