A letter from the Middle East

I didn’t know what it would be like. I had no idea.

Suddenly,  I was on that plane having said goodbye to everything familiar, about to be in the unknown. My reality had taken a backseat and I was surrounded by turbans and burkas, high-rise buildings and desert. 

Thankfully, I was able to see the real Dubai - the one that never sleeps, is incredibly intriguing and has amazing shopping. 

I was brought to the gold and spice Souk, although most were closed because it was the end of Ramadan and everyone was busy celebrating. We went to the Jumeriah for dinner and cocktails and it was just so much fun.

Extremely surreal place to be.Dubai was a city that was, and probably still is, growing. And by that, I mean that it was physically growing right in front of you. Buildings are literally appearing overnight. The first of its kind that I had seen in my life. I’d always been surrounded by buildings that were both old and new, but never before did I see the whole expansive skyline shrouded in scaffolding.

As i boarded the metro to make my way to the Burj Al Arab on the Sunday afternoon, the pulse of the city took my breath away. I saw the sun set over this man-made paradise and then realised why this part of the world was so Mecca. 

And i realised it, again and again and again. In the mornings, you were awoken by the call to prayer in the mosque around the corner from Vicky’s apartment and it was unreal. A soothing song which led me to the balcony and then my eyes couldn’t but avoid the piercing red sun that was emerging from the horizon to fill the skyline. If there is one reason why i would like to live in Dubai or the Middle East for a while, this would be it. To be as close as possible to the sun, on Earth. Magical moments. 

The randomness of my day, and self exploration took me to the Dubai Mall, where i got completely lost as was to be expected among the maze of shops, boutiques and buildings. One piece of architecture which did catch my eye was the aquarium which was situated right in the centre of the shopping mall. Sharks, stingrays and an array of tropical fish swam in the ridiculously massive tank overlooking the masses of people, standing in mall, staring. You could sit and grab your skinny soy latte while watching all this unveil itself if you wished. 

Of course, i was constantly intrigued by the culture and spent much time wondering how it all works. I observed women, fully swathed in their burkas with their husbands dressed traditionally also. However, what i was not expecting, and i’m not too sure why, was the amount of people that were so traditional, yet driving around in SUVs and sports cards and buying everything in designer shops such as Gucci and Armani. 

There were various degrees of tradition, if one can call it that, some younger women hardly wearing the hijab, while others were fully clothed in their black burkas. Others had jewels and fancy ones, while some were just plain. I was struggling to understand what all of this meant, if each item was a symbol of societal status. Did the colour of the scarf on the man’s head mean something that i was just too ignorant to know. Was any of this relevant, should i have been even eyeing up these people and making up their stories in my head? Was that allowed? How would it make me feel if they did that to me? Did they mind me staring? 

It all just made me smile when i saw one lady, who was shopping with her husband and her children and the end of her Burka got stuck in the escalator. I thought for a minute that she might have to take it off because it was pulling her down into the machine, but she just tore the burka off… one that i can only imagine cost thousands of dollars and she smiled and laughed. Such a rich cultural experience. I will be going back there. I want to understand it more.

travelRachel CaveComment