“Do you like Dubai?”
It’s a simple question that diverts my attention from reading Divergent on my smart phone. Curous, friendly, brown eyes edged in a small dark face greets me in the rearview mirror of the taxi I am travelling in.
I am convinced I heard the question correctly, but it came as such a surprise I needed to hear it again.
“Sorry”, I said.
He repeats the question slowly, thinking I couldn’t hear it because of his heavy Pakistani accent.
A slight pause and then with much conviction, my reply.
“No.” And return my attention to the slightly annoying, sixteen year-old Triss fighting predujice and a guy named Peter.
“Why not?” he persists stubbornly. But his voice is without surprise.
I look up again, seeing intrigue and a smile. I turn and look out the window at the wondrous structures lining the highway. Towers of steel and glass and light. I pause and consider for a moment.
Why not? What are my reasons for not liking this marvel of human achievement, this Las Vegas of the Arab world. What’s not to like about a city that has everything…even a ski-slope for goodness sake.
No immediate reason comes to mind as we pass a Palm Jumeirah sign. Then I know.
“Because its fake.” I said finally.
The little Pakistani driver doesn’t seem satisfied. His petit, dark features beckons for a further explanation.
“I mean it’s not authentic enough for my taste. Its got no character. I prefer Muscat.”
Before he can challenge me again, I flip the table.
“Do YOU like Dubai?”
“No”, he said.
He continues in a rant about rules and working hours and expensive apartments. But the detail of his rant is lost in the maze of my thoughts. Then we stop at my destination.
A few minutes later I lean over a veranda looking at the impressive reflection of this modern wonder in the water below. Laughter and lively conversation buzz in the background. What’s not to like?
My reply to the cab driver echoes in my head. And then something clicks…
It is because I am alone. I always visit Dubai on business, on my own. It’s not that I don’t like Dubai, I don’t like being alone. And whilst impressive, this commerial center is becoming my monument, my constant reminder of my loneliness when I travel for my work. It’s not the city, it’s the loneliness.
Sorry Dubai for the blame and hatred mistakenly aimed at you. When I filter my own emotion I have to admit; you are pretty close to amazing.