Wrote this last Friday but forgot to post it.
Picture Credit: @Pinktaxiblogger
It’s almost midday and the muezzin’s full throated voice has filled the air. The faithful are heading towards the mosque along the creek to gather together in communal worship. Dhuhr.
Sipping on karak chai at the Iranian cafe by the banks my friends and I slip into a casual chatter about the merits and pitfalls of Dubai’s distinct two halves: on the one hand the untouched beauty of the old city and on the other, the sparkling skyline that looks like it developed out of a dose steroids, in just a handful of years.
My phone vibrates, taxi has just sent me a picture she took this morning and it couldn’t be better timed. She’s captured the essence of our thoughts with one quick click of her phone camera. Dubai juxtaposed.
The conversation resumes and we chatter mindlessly over tiny cups of karak as the abras pass lazily by.
It’s amazing how quickly you can fall into the same old routines in a city like Dubai. After eight years of living here, I’ve largely succumbed to the familiar cycle of work, dinner and occasional outings with friends – but for quite a long time I spent all my evenings exploring the city, getting a feel of its insides.
This may sound a little crazy but I think Dubai serves as a perfect metaphor for something deeper. While glamorous hotels and luxurious stretches of beach front entertainment arenas have won Dubai fame as a kind of mini-Miami, this view is romantic at best. Yes, you’ll find glitz here but the city with its rich elite in their ivory mansions to match also has so much more to offer. So much more heart.
Earlier this morning I visited the farmers’ market. Among the palm trees and white cabanas the weekly market was taking place. If it wasn’t for the palm trees, it could have been the kind of market you might see in a small town in Europe. Stalls full of fresh produce. A row of tables decked in checked table-cloths where you could buy breakfast –omelets, Arabic bread and milky tea. The produce was mainly fruit and vegetables but it was fresh and varied. Everything from peppers, beets and carrots to herbs and fat, shiny mushrooms and melons all set up to resemble a colourful vegetal parade.
In that early hour we were surrounded by what seemed like a scores of early morning people speaking myriad languages. French, Arabic, Pashtun, English, Hindi. I smile at the mash-ups. I consider my own speech, with its spattering of Arabic. Passersby smile and the old Iranian man with his kettle promptly pours three cups of tea as we approach his stall. He smiles as he welcomes us again.
Personally I don’t enjoy the night life that Dubai has to offer. I’ve tried it, dipped my toes into the evening culture but grew out of it more quickly than I thought I would. There are so many little things that bring so much joy, like sitting here by the creek with my friends. Chatting. Thinking. Writing. Dubai offers plenty of opportunities for simpler pleasures too, so many avenues for enjoyment that you won’t see on glamourous hoardings or TV commercials.
But that’s progress, I guess. Dubai has grown into the Shang-ri-la of the Middle East and while I don’t begrudge anyone their extravagant lifestyles I am cognizant of the fact that with those lifestyles has come the price of agonizing complexities. And in the current climate of our world, how precious are the simple pleasures of creek side karak or early morning jaunts to the farmers market. #JustSaying