So further to my previous blog today, I thought I would write about my second home..Dubai.
After living here for 7 years I still get asked “why did you move here”. My story was one of fate and my living here as been a twisty path. I came here first in 2003 on holiday with my parents. Friends in the UK were perplexed by the decision to come here. No one had really heard of Dubai in England and they thought it was in Saudi. In 2003, the end of Sheikh Zayed was where the Mall of Emirates now stands. I stayed in Al Quasis and Bur Dubai in hotel apartments. I met my tailor at Dreamgirl who has remained our go to tailor since then.
2 years later I looked for a job outside of England, got a job quite quickly working for the airline here in Dubai as a lawyer and moved here. When I came for my interview George Clooney was filming Syriana and staying at the Fairmont. Burj Dubai (as it was then known) was at foundation level and Dubai Marina was full of cranes and not much else. I moved to a huge flat in Bur Dubai and had dramas after dramas for a year and a half. At that time there was no blogging, twitter or facebook. I wrote 2 page essay emails to about 30 friends every week telling them my stories. Some got bored, some were fascinated and some were exasperated by my tales. However all the tales were the reality of the weirdness of Dubai at the time.
I moved back to London in 2006 to study but the hold of Dubai was too much and I moved back in 2007 to work for a shite company that has now disintergrated. At the time of returning Dubai was exponetially blinging itself on a daily basis. If you left Dubai, you would return the following week to find new buildings had sprouted up on Sheikh Zayed Road.
Then there was the crash. Dubai fell hard and I fell even harder. My money was stolen by two theives who ran off to live the life of riley in the Far East and then back in the UK and I was piss poor for a few years. It was kinda good that Dubai was poor as well, we could suffer together and try not to spend too much money.
Now Dubai is rising again like a phoenix and I am now contently happy with my life here. After living in posh Jumeirah for 5 years, I decided that my kitties and I need to move and explore more of Dubai so now we are away from the beach and in the desert in Motor City.
The chavs that ran away in droves in 2008 leaving their cars at the airport are now encouraging their brethern to come here to make the most of the tax free lifestyle. The roads are blocked again, there are queues to get into bars and copious amounts of money are being spent on champagne in dives such as the Cavalli club.
We now have Twitter, et al to keep us in touch more seamlessly with the rest of the world in real time and people now know that Dubai is not in Saudi and that we don’t dress up like ninjas (unless we go to a fancy dress house party).
Life is the same as anywhere in the world, except when you go to the gym you are more likely to park next to a Ferrari than a Ford Focus and that tea shop in Satwa will be packed full of Sheikhs and Sheikhas beeping their horns for some karak chai. My friends and I discuss the merits of pest control companies and whether the gel stuff can be put in places away from our cats preying mouths (a lot of us have pets here), how many maids should you have in your pad to finish in an hour and we also stand on the slopes of Ski Dubai deciding whether we should go to Lebanon or an ex-CIS country for our Winter snowboarding trip.
This country is a transition country and people come and go. Its a melting pot of people especially fuck ups running away from their own country/people (me included). You will be with one group of people and then you will stupidly date someone in that group and boom you will be outcast if it all goes pete tong. Or a girl will have complexes which result in your being outcast for being you. Finding good friends on the same wavelength and in the same relationship status as you is hard. Once you are coupled up, you are generally coupled up and the singletons (normally me) are left stranded. Lonliness is a huge problem here but luckily there is social media to keep you company on your bad days. Also there is now a travel group – Escpae travels – based here which has brought people together who like travelling around and hanging out with other expats (<a href="https://www.facebook.com/EscapeDubai).
Tolerance is limited despite the various nationalities here and racism is rife. Being an English East African Indian working in an Indian company is a minefield of issues and judgements which still arise after 3 years of working there. I am vilified by the Indian men (especially the men) for not accepting my background. Considering my grandparents never returned to India once leaving in the early 1900’s and my parents only went once for a holiday, you’d think they would get into their thick head how people can be un-Indian (thats a word for today); but nope the Indians in this country take it as an offence that we would not consider ourselves Indian foremost.
The other minefield is the varoius Arab nationalities in this melting pot. Everyone in this country are now bloody experts in Arabic politics especially since the Arab Spring. We can all sprout an opinion on what is going on in the region and can even tell the nationality of the Arab men in their kundoora depending on the colour of their headscarf. I personally have an affiliation for the Emirati; they look more regal than the Saudis (yuck), Yemeni (not bad), Omani (old skool Mombasa like), Bahraini, Kuwaitis, etc.
Food is abundant from expensive, American chains and dirt cheap indians. If you want to eat any cuisine, it will be here. Bread is always a disappointment for Europeans but the rest is generally amazing. I have been to Nobu twice here but never in the UK and I won’t go to Hakassan as i thought it was shite in London. The best Indian food is not at the chain called “Asha’s” but in Karama or in Bur Dubai. My personal favourites are Gazebo (North Indian) or Ravis (Pakistani). Khaleej Palace Hotel in Deira looks like a dive but has the best Chinese restaurant in my opinion in town, an amazing Japanese resturant and Cafe Entrecote (same as in Dubai Mall) but you can drink in this hotel branch. Dubai Mall and Dubai Festival City have food corridors rather than halls of various good restaurants. However, Dubai Mall has the most shambolic car park system in the world. All Dubaians get pissed off when entering and leaving that place.
Shopping is immense and we get a greater choice as we get all the brands from all over the world. I love Crate and Barrel for furnitues and home stuff, but we also have the stalwart Ikea (bigger than at home) and a shop called The One which is a local enterprise which has really good (slightly overpriced stuff). Clothes shops – we have it all but pay more than back in Europe so most of us will go home a few times of the year with an empty suitcase, fill it up and claim our VAT back. The only shop not here is Primark which is great so we look different from the herd when wearing Primarni in the malls, bars and clubs.
Entertainment is great here. We have bars and clubs (most of the clubs are a disappointment though). The major artists come here or to Abu Dhabi for concerts. I go to Yas Marina island just on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi to see concerts every few months. Despite being an F1 fan I never saw a live race until it came to Abu Dhabi. I’ve now seen it every year (except the first year). David Guetta is here every week practically which is great for us (not!) and we get to see other artists who I would never have seen back home, such as Bikram Ghosh, a fusion tabla player who I saw last night. He knew how to use those fingers and the young man on the electrical stitar was bloody awesome.Plays and operas are pretty dire here but a good friend went to Muscat, Oman, last weekend to go to the Opera house and gave it a huge thumbs up review. With cheap flights and being an hour away I would be happy going to Muscat to see good opera. Comedy is not bad with an improv group here and also the top ones from the Comedy Club/Edinburgh Festival coming here every month.
I could go on with my guide of Dubai but I’ll stop for now. Our weekend is nearly over (Friday and Saturday is our weekend here) and I gotta get prepared for another long week of working. Also I really don’t want to become like those annoying bloggers who blabber on and on and on. So for now here is an abrupt end to a new chapter in my writing (until i meet another douchebag).