Dubai and I have officially crossed the six-month mark. Like any new relationship, it’s had its ups and downs.
I vividly recall those first few metro rides to work from my hotel in Deira, feeling overwhelmed by the size of the city and the Arabic announcements and the sea of unfamiliar faces. I remember going to Deira City Centre mall, where the pungent scent of oud (a popular fragrance in the Middle East) filled my nostrils and made me feel nauseous. Eating McDonald’s in the food court as the evening call to prayer blasted through the mall speakers. Seeing the women in their modest black abayas and worrying about whether I would get in trouble for wearing a sleeveless shirt.
I remember being annoyed at myself for experiencing culture shock. This is a place with so many comforts – the same language, the same foods – so how come it felt so alien?
Then there was the life admin. Waiting for my visa to be processed, waiting for my Emirates ID, waiting until I could set up my phone and bank account. Trawling through Dubizzle (the Dubai equivalent of TradeMe) to find a place to live. Finding a place to live, getting kicked out by the landlord, and having to start all over again.
Everyone says the first few months of getting settled in the sandpit are the hardest. And yes, it has been hard. But six months on, here I am, writing this in my bedroom overlooking the Marina as a party boat covered in neon lights floats past. It’s not so bad.
There is a new island being built off JBR (close to where I live), which will be home to the world’s biggest ferris wheel. Over the past few months I’ve watched it go up, piece by piece. I sort of like to think of it as a symbol of my time here – almost as though with every section, I feel a little more at home.