I have been working on writing a guide to Dubai. I will be leaving the city in two months. I cannot believe how fast the past three years went. It’s a strange and wonderful city. Although it is nothing like living at home, it can sometimes seem very American: malls, highways, fast food; a car culture built on consumer culture. Everywhere I go, English is spoken and I do not stand out as foreigner, because….well practically everyone is a foreigner.
I would not say I have a love/hate relationship with Dubai, but there are things that bother me. The driving is insane. Having a car has been lovely, but traffic is terrible, incredibly aggressive and roads make no sense. You cannot navigate by addresses alone. The workers sweating the day away in blue jumpsuits, scarves wrapped round their faces to ward of the sun, these men pull at the heart strings. I know many expats are bothered by it, but we sort of shrug our shoulders and feel helpless to change things. Also, the humidity, massive cockroaches and sewer smell by my apartment, because yes, sewer water is used to water the grass that doesn’t belong. The trees that barely root.
I don’t really fit into the cliché Dubai lifestyle of club hopping, name dropping, corporate ladder climbing, shop-til-you-drop in five-inch high heels and plumped lips. Although I wouldn’t mind a membership to a club with a private pool, spa and tennis lessons. Here are cartoonish, outlandish things, and we say “only in Dubai”. Take for example, their new Lotus ambulances:
It is a Field of Dreams city that is proving, “if you built it, they will come”.
I wish I had gotten to know some locals better. I’ve interacted with a few, including parents and students. All have been warm, generous and kind. To know them better, I probably should have lived in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah or Fujairah, where the foreigners are outnumbered by locals.
All of Dubai is an expat bubble. I love being able to get amazing Indian food, delicious Lebanese, Turkish, Russian and Iranian as well as a good burger and fries. In the morning, there is a cute little spot, with excellent organic coffee, so it’s not all mega chains and has an eco-granola-crunchy side hidden between the glass skyscrapers and Hummers. To stay active there are great gyms, yoga in the park, running paths, free beautiful beaches and hiking in the desert. The city still mostly caters to a posh, preppy, yuppy set, but it’s getting more hipster too. I see more beards, more tattoos, people riding skateboards, and there is the ever growing Al Quoz warehouses of gallery hot spots with its cafe, Tom and Serge. In three years, I have already seen so many changes and I wonder what will they build next.