DUBAI – With only around 15% of local Arabs, most of Dubai’s population consists of expatriates making it one of the most diverse cities in the world and the very depiction of the word ‘international’.
If you try searching up its name, the pictures shown emphasise on one major theme of Dubai – modernisation. They showcase globally iconic skyscrapers, flashy lights, and an impressively surprising amount of water fountains for a Middle Eastern desert. They showcase the pride of the UAE; the way Dubai has transformed from a desert of nothingness to the city you see today in just 47 years.
Dubaians are not anything if they are not diverse. This city you see today is a result of foreigners offering pieces of their knowledge and culture to contribute in making Dubai as it is. Look deeper past that surface and you see more than cultural diversity and modernisation. Namely, rich Arabic backgrounds, natural life, and more than meets the eye.
I like to think of Dubai as three interconnecting areas. Its first and centred piece is where construction and creation dominate. Most of the towering buildings, fancy restaurants, and luxurious shopping districts are concentrated here – a typical tourist’s shopping fantasy.
A secondary district encircles downtown Dubai towards the humble suburbs where the less lavish markets of spices and fish stand. It is a place where you can find goods high in quality of a different kind, stemming from the passion of traditional art forms and branded ‘C’ for Culture rather than Chanel. You can experience more of Dubai’s Bedouin roots evident through the architectural designs and souks surrounding its modern counterpart.
Go further out and outdoor-lovers are in for a treat, because the third area I have come to love just as equally in Dubai is the state it was in 40 years ago – the deserts. There is dune-bashing, camp-staying, star-gazing, camel-riding… a peaceful, yet energetic place. Sure, deserts are not flowers blooming and birds chirping in a lush garden, but the feeling of smooth sand slipping beneath your feet and the opportunity to meet the national bird, a falcon, are just as beautiful in nature as any other scenarios you can imagine.
I bid you to consider the reality: no city is ever perfect. Dubai has been portrayed as a high-end place for the expensive and exclusive, but it is so much more than that. Take a step back and you encounter the less fortunate who still choose to come to Dubai as it is probably a lot better than the life they would have had in their home country.
You’ll find people who don’t drive Lamborghinis – let alone take their pet tiger for a day out.
It’s interesting to hear the commonly-held beliefs about Dubai when you know you’ve experienced much more than that. So, while no city is ever perfect, to me – a kid who had grown up there – and probably to many others, Dubai is pretty darn close.
This stigma of the perfect life does not exist in Dubai, but I can report that having the stigma still means a great deal to the residents. For parents who move their family there, the idea of care-free living compliments their aim for a better life for their children and loved ones. For people living there, the ability to be much more in such an environment than they could even hope for otherwise is a blessing on its own.
Lives are the way they are for a reason. I, for one, know that I would not be standing here as the person I am today without everything I have seen or faced. I was given the opportunity to be a Malaysian that grew up in Dubai, and with all that I have had the pleasure to encounter, I speak for many when I say I am grateful for the things Dubai has provided me with in the way a city can provide things with.
Hannah has been living in Dubai for 10 years, her love for gymnastics encouraged her to take up Sport Science and is currently pursuing a double degree in Sport Science and Psychology at University of Canberra, Australia.
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