Life in Dubai: Fils for My Thoughts
Ten years and 29 days. That's the exact number of days that I have stayed in Dubai. Never have I imagined that I would last this long in a foreign land - me, who's always been so attached to my family; me, who can hardly wait for holidays so I can spend every free time I have with people closest to my heart.
In celebration of the number of years that I have spent here, I will enumerate 10 things that I have discovered about this country.
- When the idea of working in Dubai first entered my mind, I imagined the country to be so vast, so brown and sandy, so empty, save for some high concrete buildings and never-ending highways leading to another empty desert sand. I half expected it to be bare, with just a few palm trees and nothing green to sooth the senses. Boy, was I wrong! Not only is the place full of well-manicured gardens and parks, trees and different kinds of plants, it is even home to the Miracle Garden, a huge manmade flower garden that is fully landscaped, a spectacle that is super pleasing to the eyes and senses, what with the array of flowers in various shapes and colors. And no, the UAE is not only brown and sandy, it's got beautiful beaches, too. Although, of course, the brown and sandy desert is also part of UAE's charm, with tourists doing the desert safari, dune bashing and quad biking, complete with belly dancing and henna tattoos.
- I thought all places, especially the souqs and public areas, are full of people wearing abaya and gandoora (some would call it dishdash or dishdasha). On my first week after arrival, we had a company party in one of the luxurious hotels dotting Jumeirah beach. My jaw literally dropped when, upon entering the hotel foyer, I met two women in bikinis. I didn't know that when they say UAE is an open country, it would be "that" open. Every day, I would see people jogging around wearing short shorts and skimpy tops drenched in sweat. Only later did I learn that there are more foreigners than local Emiratis living in this country.
- When they said UAE is rich, I didn't realize how rich is rich until I saw, with my own two eyes, the ostentatious display of wealth here. Tallest building in the world? Check. Only seven-star hotel in the world? Check. Every New Year's Day, if he is brave enough to storm the traffic, one can see a very spectacular grand display of fireworks. You go to the parking lots of ordinary (read: not affluent) communities in Dubai and you will see, casually parked side by side, Mercedes Benzes, BMWs, Ferraris, Hummers, Lexus, etc., cars that are considered big stuff that dreams are made of from where I come from.
- They take fashion very seriously. Where in the world can you see most women you meet in malls casually tucking an arm candy with labels such as LV, Chanel, Dior, Gucci? And they're not even the hollywood type of women, they are just the regular housewives, office employees, yes, even students.
- The Emiratis are nice people. Being an expatriate from an Asian country, where westerners are considered demigods, and Middle Easterners are thought to be crude, I discovered that the Emiratis are quite approachable and willing to help. And yes, very educated. As in all other cultures, there are good and there are bad kind of people, and Emiratis are not exempted from these prototypes. In fact, I consider them to be very down to earth, considering that they are the host in this country.
- I consider myself blessed to be in this place where they are still trying to discover a lot of things around here. They are the curious type, and they also want its people and its constituents to be exposed to all things beautiful. It is not unusual for them to host an affair displaying the works of master painters (bring the Louvre to the UAE, anyone?). Almost every month, you will see concerts of big-named artists being held here.
- The leaders of this country are very concerned about its residents' health. In new residential developments, jogging and walking paths are mandatory so people can exercise to their hearts' content. They have state of the art government hospitals to cater to people needing excellent health care but cannot afford the private centers.
- They have very good police force. You will hear of crimes committed, and a few days after, the perpetrators are already apprehended. And did I tell you that they have luxury cars for police patrol? That. Rich.
- They are not shy in promoting to the whole world that they are the best, the number one, in everything.
- Being a Middle Eastern country, and having heard of how unbending these people could be in their religious practices, I was surprised that they are very tolerant of other people's beliefs. They even provide lands for Christians to build their churches on. Religious shops are allowed to operate.
Years after I will finally leave this country to go home for good, I will cherish my memories here as one of the best things that ever happened to me. I am thankful that I I got to experience the UAE brand of generosity, their kind of hospitality to expatriates and the life of what seems to be a never-ending basking in ease. I will think of this country as a place that gave me my wings to dream, to fly, to soar, and dream some more.