Jumping Over Hurdles
I first moved to Dubai in 2005. I’m originally from Egypt but by then I had been living in the GCC for almost 10 years.
Back then, Dubai Marina was just a couple of buildings, and Jumeirah Beach Residence was nothing but a sign in Sufouh pointing to a direction that no one knew anything about. The traffic light at Royal Mirage leading to Media City and the American University was where Dubai ended.
I lived through the endless construction in Jumeirah and I was among the first to walk into Emirates Mall or the Mall of the Emirates as newcomers call it.
I didn’t even notice that Dubai was undergoing a major transformation. Whether the change was too fast or I was too young to catch up, I will never know. But one day, I woke up and I found that Dubai had become a different place. A place where the metro will take me to many destinations around the city, as opposed to baking in the sun for an hour and a half or two before the wobbly bus showed up at Mina Road.
Throughout, Dubai felt like home to me and to many others. Yes, there were a couple of hiccups that led us to existential questions, particularly around the financial crisis in 2010 and the dropping oil prices in 2015, but even a natural hometown can give you moments of uncertainties. I wouldn’t know. I never had a hometown.
But the two hiccups drained me and I got tired of the rat race and all the uncertainties. I had been travelling extensively in 2014 and wondered at every destination about how those who lived in those places related to it as home. So, I went on a journey to find a home. Overnight, I found myself in Sri Lanka with nothing but a faint memory of a city that had high-rise towers and six-lane highways. For two years, I tried to live like a local. I ate street food and celebrated the local festivals. I made friends with the neighbourhood dogs and got accustomed to the snake and the frog that mistook my room for a pond every wet season. It wasn’t long, however, before I realised that I was just an expat living in a tiny community of expats.
In the meantime, I kept visiting Dubai to see my family. When my mother got sick, I decided to start looking for a job again in Dubai. I was ecstatic to finally receive an offer from my dream job and happily came back, enjoying all that the City of Gold has to offer. But the glamorous city is never free of qualms and I was made redundant during a downsizing round that my company was carrying out.
Another hiccup. I am yet to find out where it will take me this time though.