I thought I would hate the built-up utopia, but I didn’t. I thought I might love the high life, but I didn’t.
Location: Dubai, U.A.E.
Date: May 2014
My first encounter was in 2006. I did a research paper to recommend Dubai as the host city for a fictitious edition of the Olympics. That was the year in which the world was talking about the unfathomable man-made islands and ostentatious living redefined.
The paper was peppered with spectacular glossy images of a world that I could only try to imagine and a list of upcoming mega structures that seemed like those movie credits which scroll on and on.
As I was doing my research, I couldn’t stop wondering: what on earth are these people doing with a desert? They make it sound like they can hack a city out of nothing. [Throwback: This was when I had never visited a city in a desert. Having visited many now, it is absolutely possible though not exactly my idea of bliss. Oh how the heat burns.]
In 2014, I found myself there.
I lay in the desert camp with a spectacular guide and great travel companions, and savored some of the juiciest lamp chops in the comforting blanket of the starlit night. I marveled at camels and robots, and aspired to sand board like silver surfer. I looked out at sea and tried to be classy enough for a martini.
On the streets, everything just looked pretty. Trees were so well-trimmed; lights were so glittery; sidewalks were so neat; buildings were so shiny.
I ate lunch, peered at a 155-million-year-old fossil exhibition, families tumbling in 3000 sqm of indoor snow, walked past scores of brands I didn’t recognise, had dinner, and did all this without a peek of the sun.
The large expat population makes life there highly transient. I remember someone pointing out to an apartment saying that her dream is to move into that building.
Some cities charm you like no other. Others, you cringe.
Dubai fell into none of these categories for me. I was surprised. I thought I would hate the built-up utopia, but I didn’t. I thought I might love the high life, but I didn’t.
Undecided, I left Dubai with a question that the city asked me loud and clear.
What kind of life do you want? Who is the person you wish to be?
Here are the people who created cities out of deserts. They’ll tell you anything is possible.
So I asked.
And I said: I don’t know. But no more buildings please, for awhile.
P.s. The photos in the Dubai desert were taken by a friend, Shannon. For more images especially of orchids and wildlife, visit ThrutheFrame.