I didn’t come here for the art and culture. Who does that? “Oh I’m going to Dubai to get my art and culture on!”
I came here just like any American man – To live the American dream with all that Arab money. I wanted to be the big fish in a small pond. Okay, maybe calling Dubai a small pond is a stretch, but I come from New York City, everything is a small pond compared to Manhattan. Oh I’m sorry, did I hear you call me arrogant? I think you must have meant American. Go ahead; roll your eyes at me, all you want, I’m just writing down what you’re thinking. On my first night here, my buddy took me to a bar by the beach. Hot chicks, all lined up for the taking. One particular chick was making eyes at me, being all coy and mysterious. So, I talk to her while she feigns disinterest. Ask for her number. She gives it. I call her to meet up. She refuses, says she’s busy. Call her again the following week and she’s still busy. Now by this time, I’m thinking, forget it, I don’t need this, but then she calls me back and says that she wants to meet Saturday morning for breakfast. Now, I know, I should be playing her game and say that, I too, am busy playing video games and watching TV series marathons on DVD. But this girl, was a solid 10 and I couldn’t pass that up. So I agreed to a breakfast date. Who does breakfast dates? I mean, really? We meet at Deira City Centre and I thought we were going to be having breakfast at the mall, but as soon as we greet each other, she hails a cab.
“Where are we going?”, I ask.
“You’re new to Dubai, right?”
“Well, let me give you a proper welcome.”
I didn’t even notice how long we were in the cab, I was too busy focusing on this gorgeous woman right next to me, smiling like she could cure cancer. The cab stops and I have no idea where we are, but there are about a dozen wooden boats. And yes, she says we are going to ride it. I could smell kerosene in the air and the boat looks older than my grandmother, but the girl was waiting for me to get on the boat and I don’t want her to think I’m a sissy, hell, I don’t want to think of myself as a sissy. So I get on. Ten minutes later, we were still alive and not drowning in the river. We arrived safely and were now walking through the old market. Spices, incense, gold, silks, it was a flurry of color.
“Here.”, she said handing me a glass of green liquid.
“What is it?”, I asked wincing.
“Just drink it, you wuss.”
Sugar cane juice, I’ve realized, is actually quite delicious and I now can’t go a week without it. We kept walking and we went inside this old house which was turned into a museum with old photographs of of Dubai and she was telling me stories about Dubai and how it grew to how it is now in just a little over two decades. Occasionally, she would stop at a particular photograph and examine it closely, muttering something about light and aperture and composition and why it worked particularly well. She does this, because as I would later learn, she is a photographer.
The rest of the morning whizzed by as would be expected when you are with a beautiful woman who talks about Dubai the way that she does. In the months that ensued were filled with dates to various art galleries, of which I learned there were dozens, plays, and hunting for the best biryani in town. Dubai, I have come to realize is not just a city with bling, sure that’s what you see, and that’s what they show you, but if you look hard or if you’re lucky enough to have had a guide like I did. Then you would see that there is more to Dubai than cars, gold bars, and bars.
Today, would be a month, since my solid 10 lady friend/Dubai guide has moved away. Off to some fantastic photography adventure. Do I miss her? Sure. Am I writing this in hopes that she’ll read it and come running back, maybe. But moreover, I’m writing this as a thank you.
That morning, before we parted ways, she handed me a green colored plastic bag and said, “Here.”
“What is it?”, I asked befuddled.
“Don’t ever say that I never gave you anything.”
It was a snowglobe with a miniature Burj Khalifa.
She gave me more than just a souvenir that day. She gave me Dubai.
…And a Burj Khalifa in my pants, but that, of course, is another story for a different kind of magazine.