Our Bollywood films usually paint Arab Sheikhs in uncharitable caricatures. They are depicted as shrewd entrepreneurs with a penchant for women and cars made of solid silver. With this mental conditioning and pre-conceived notions, I visited Dubai only to see a very different side of a lay Arab oil Sheikh.
What I saw was a man who was a gentle pram-pushing father and a loving husband. In a busy food court, he would rip open his burger, disintegrate the tikki and scoop out soft bits to feed his toddler. In a luxury mall, he would patiently wait with an impatient baby in arms while the wife tried on a Cartier’s chronograph. He would even sign the cheque without any creases on his forehead – as clear as his white thawb.
Interestingly, Dubai is a place where both Indians and Pakistanis feel at home – well almost. They crack tourist jokes on each other, boast about their homeland’s savouries and grieve over inflation in the same spirit. Every second person you meet is either from Karachi or Kerala – willing to help, offer you a metro seat or vacate their official chairs at the airport – if you are carrying a baby. A collective spirit that is unique and not believable.
I had myriad experiences of general good behaviour from my country folks and Pakistanis that will go down my memory lane. For instance a Pakistani bus driver, offered us his sealed water bottle to take away while we were disembarking for our foot journey. We eyed the bottle suspiciously, because why would anybody offer us water in this perfectly imbalanced world. We declined politely as we were already carrying water in our backpacks. But, just thinking about the gesture makes me feel good.
I was pleasantly surprised to see young Arab boys who conducted themselves really well in the desert kafila. They watched the racy belly dance show with roaring applause sans any uncouth behaviour. That one moment when the dancer gesticulated them to clear their tables and hopped onto it with her jiggling belly was also welcomed by low-key merriment!
|Tanoura Dance: The Egyptian folk dance performed by a man at the Desert Safari|
Dubai is clearly a conservative society adapting itself to rapidly growing wired world. Every second burqa-clad lady operates an i-pad effortlessly. The women cab driver navigates through the curvy roads at any given time of the night. Girls occasionally cluster together in the metro train to self-click that perfect profile picture. It was a society that gave little hints of discrimination – atleast I could not sense it, perhaps it’s prevalent in other parts of UAE.
As for the place, Dubai is a man-made creative genius that has evolved from an ancient middle-eastern desert state into an exhilarating luxurious experience. Its sheer awesomeness is visible in its clutter-free processes, magnificent malls and easy approach. And above all – it’s safe for women – walk around wearing floor-length gold chains and no one will bother to stop and stare!