On the 2nd of December, 2003, at about 12:15 am, an Air India flight from New Delhi landed in Dubai. One of the passengers travelling in that flight was a young, shy and scared bride. While being nervous about not just travelling to a foreign land for the first time in her life, she was equally excited since she was about to be reunited with her husband after a long wait of two months. At New Delhi airport, a well-meaning co-passenger had scared her by telling her to keep her hand baggage close to her at all times else someone might slip drugs in her bag if she wasn’t careful. Myriad thoughts ran in her mind of the things that could possibly go wrong. Nervousness, coupled with flight turbulence due to poor weather, had made her sick on the flight as well. Aware of the strict laws of the UAE, she was petrified of making a misstep. After landing at Dubai airport, she was sure that she would be deported back before even seeing her beloved’s face since she couldn’t find her copy of her visit visa. She mumbled her predicament to the stern lady behind the counter, who gave her an irritated look. “Passport!” the lady barked. The young girl tried to control the trembling of her hands and gave it to the lady. The lady looked at it, searched for something and gave her the visa. The young girl felt some air coming back in her lungs as she quickly got her passport stamped. She practically skipped through the baggage control to fall into the waiting arms of her husband, where she could finally breathe properly. That young girl, dear reader, was yours truly.
After a rather adventurous time at the airport, hubby decided to show me fireworks that evening at the creek. It was UAE’s National Day, he explained, and the fireworks were supposed to be amazing. I just nodded, happy to have been reunited with him (and coming out of the ordeal at the airport unscathed). We sat on the steps of the jetty looking at the creek and the lights of Deira shining from across. Government buildings Dubai Municipality, Etisalat, NBD were all lit up to celebrate National day. Their lights twinkling gaily from across the expanse of the creek. The crowd around us swelled as people gathered to watch the fireworks. Sharp 8pm was the first boom, followed by a flurry of fireworks lighting up the sky. We gasped in awe as the night sky was illuminated with colours and sparkles, spreading magic. The fireworks seemed to be spreading joy and hope in our hearts. The fireworks were over in 5 minutes, but their magic lingered, as hubby and I continued to sit there caressed by the soft breeze, planning our future.
2nd of December, 1971, seven emirates came together to form a nation called The United Arab Emirates. A nation that was modern, progressive and yet, valued its past. A melting pot of cultures, it shows to the world that different nationalities can peacefully co-exist. And today, this nation completes fifty years of its formation. Fifty years of constantly developing, evolving and providing a safe haven in a region marred with strife. World’s tallest tower, deepest swimming pool, fastest roller coaster, largest indoor theme park, longest zipline, highest tennis court, most expensive Christmas tree and the list of laurels goes on. While other developed countries took decades to reach this level, the UAE accomplished all this in a few years. And yet, the country is not ready to settle on its laurels. UAE’s drive to succeed, to be the best in the world, remains untouched.
I too have a shared history with UAE. These past eighteen years have had their share of joys, sorrows and a pandemic. Over the years, Dubai became home. A place where I feel safe and enjoy a comfortable life. Just as I have matured from a shy young bride to a mature woman, Dubai has also evolved. From a handful of malls in 2003, there are now malls in each community. I have seen Maserati’s and camels on the same road. I saw the Burj Khalifa taking shape as well as the popular Downtown area. Dubai Metro, Dubai Tram, updating of Abra stations to make mobility around Dubai easier, all happened in a matter of few years. Dubai Canal, JLT, JBR, Blue Waters, Atlantis, Meydaan and many more attractions came up year after year. And beneath it, the desire to do better, be better, pulses strong.
I know, that like all expatriates, one day, I will have to bid adieu to UAE’s golden shores (though hopefully, that time is still some time in the future). It will be a wrench to leave a city that has given me the space to grow and thrive. But today, as the nation celebrates the 50th year of the formation, all I can do is look forward to the fireworks and feel my heart fill with hope again.
If you enjoyed reading this post about Dubai, then you might also like one of my earlier blogs City Of Gold..Dubai.
Psst I have recently published my first book “Xanadu: Three Souls Searching For Their Paradise” on Amazon, do check it out