I live in Dubai.
I’m having three days off, what recently hardly ever happens, so I really feel like I do l i v e here.
“Here” probably means million different things to different people. To many, it probably doesn’t mean anything too, as Dubai is quite a mysterious place. I’m trying my best at exploring it, so I knew at least a bit about where do I live, but I suppose that my point of view, the one of a girl who serves chicken and beef, is probably quite a limited one.
You know, I just serve chicken and beef and, o my Lord, sometimes I do run out of chicken. Than I just serve beef trying to convince people that it’s not really my fault and that hating me won’t get us anymore chicken. And hey, it’s not easy. It’s not a good feeling to be in the plane full of people who hate you, so I work hard.
They say Dubai is a place of the most amazing experiences, of perfect holidays, they say it’s a Gulf’s hub for sex, alcohol, it’s were girls will go with you for money, where people do more.
Let’s start from how you see Dubai. Probably you’ve never been there, nor really thought about coming here. Maybe once you saw tickets on some website, and the idea came to you head, so you put “Dubai” in google and you felt amazed for a while. Maybe some of your friends have been there for their honey moon, or you saw it on some “fashion tv” program, or in some fancy advert.
This is the thing about Dubai: it is w e l l advertised. I’m not judging whether it’s true or not true what these adverts say, but let’s face it: you’re not going to read about Dubai in some bad taste magazine, you’re not going to come here for some cheap holidays.
Dubai is about money, and not a small one. “Do, buy” that’s how some call it. Dubai is being represented as an exclusive product, as a dress from a very fancy shop. You could go for a shopping anywhere, but why not to go for a shopping to the biggest shopping mall? You can go to the Eiffle Tower, but why not to go on the biggest tower on the world? That kind of thing.
People say it has no soul.
The thing is, doesn’t matter how much money you have, you just can’t build Burji Khalifa like that, it’s just not that simple. There’s money here, right, but money didn’t build anything by itself. Who did, is poor Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian workers. And believe me, they didn’t build any villas with the salaries they got.
Once I got a bit drunk with a crew. I was chatting with the first officer. I ask him where is he from, he says “Dubai”. He had a bit of an Australian accent, and I couldn’t really figure out what kind of nationality does he look like, so I just give him a look, “come on, don’t bullshit me, you’re not from Dubai”. He asks why.
Well, nobody’s from Dubai, that’s why. Poor boy was trying to convince me he actually is from there for some 20 minutes, getting a bit frustrated I guess, and I only believed him once he showed me his passport.
What am I trying to say is, n o b o d y is from Dubai. You don’t just meet these people on the friend’s party. They are somewhere, but when you ask somebody where, nobody knows.
How does this refer to Dubai as a city? Well, what I believe is, the culture of the place is mostly based in its citizens. You can’t really find an identity of the city, which is basically a transit place.
Is it anybody’s fault?
Am I able to say I like Dubai?
Not really neither.
The First Officer I told you about, he went to school in Australia for a few years in the 90’s. Once he came back he was a stranger in his own city: he didn’t know where to go for a dinner or where do people party. The buildings just grew out of the sand and suddenly you lost the horizon’s line out of sight.
This is why you just can’t be from Dubai. Dubai we watch today in the fancy catalog is nothing like Dubai that was there 20 years ago. There’s no a right one and a fake one. It’s a strange thing, especially for us Europeans, who are so used to all these medieval dates engraved on churches and old houses, but it is how it is.
Who is there? Who is working in the biggest world shopping mall, and who build it? Who is carrying me to work and back and who is driving this city? People who miss their families. Tired people I see in the newest technology city’s metro. They are from Philippines, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh. Some of them managed to come here from Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Sri Lanka. There’s a long queue in front of the visa issuing building. This queue goes a way out, people sit on the sand waiting for their turn, the day is unbearably hot.
There are special schools providing the courses of keeping a hotel room in Philippines. I suppose in many different places too. Some girls will go there and learn, they are going to move to Dubai, the city of dreams. Their babies and husbands are back home, and while it was such a hard personal decision for the most of them, feeling sad about it here feels almost inappropriate: it’s common. It’s a thing they will chat with colleagues during the lunch break, all of them have a similar story to tell. What sounds to you like a romantic drama is a reality here. You hear it more often than a story of a happy family living in Dubai and buying a dog. There’s no dogs in Dubai: nobody buys a dog in a place he’s not planning to settle down.
I met this taxi driver, he tells me his wife and two babies are back in Sudan. He haven’t seen them for two years, but he couldn’t find a job back home and he’s happy he can send them money every month now. There’s no drama in his voice. We could be talking about what did he have for breakfast as well.
I’m not trying to criticize Dubai, but I’m trying to say that it’s not necessary what you think it is. These magazines and photos are not lying: it is an impressive, surreal place. But they don’t show the faces I see in the metro, don’t tell stories of the taxi drivers and shop assistants. This is not the matter of blaming anybody. Is it Dubai’s fault that we miss our countries?
And I miss mine too