I’m in Dubai for my connecting flight home, and I just don’t get it. This place is weird, I’ve seen more culture in a pot of Munch Bunch yoghurt. I don’t really feel this is an appropriate destination for backpackers, particularly not one on the bones of their arse at the end of their trip.
Everything gleams here except me. The dirty, travel-worn clothes hanging from my emaciated and burnt body bespeak my lack of bespoke tailoring. On golf courses around the city, tip dependent caddies politely look away as millionaires hit mulligans, but the sand wedges in my fingernails are at once an emblem of my recent descent into savagery and a constant reminder of the unspoilt place I unrealistically hoped Dubai would be.
This place is like Vegas without the vices, and I suppose that is why it doesn’t grip me. I walk around this city desolate and destitute, feeling like some doe-eyed, smudge-faced orphan with my nose pressed plaintively up against a cake-shop window.
The hotels all have helipads, where guests gather to compare the size of their choppers. The doormen’s top hats are customised with Velcro chinstraps lest the rotor blades blow them across to Abu Dhabi. There are always new openings for doormen in Dubai, but top hats are expensive. Inside these full, yet empty, buildings, white tigers prowl impatiently behind Perspex in the foyers, like stripy-suited businessmen who missed their appointment. Lobbying for sport, looking put out about being kept in, flicking their tails dismissively at patrons they would consider perambulatory meals had they only encountered them in the jungles of Ranthambore. But the food here is far too rich for them.
In the miles and miles of malls, weekending start-up entrepreneurs and clam-baked Croydonites shop for ostentatious, tax free talismans of their own avarice. They wince as their suckling pig pink, exposed shoulders rub against the more conservatively attired frames of royal entourages, there to seek out jewel-encrusted hoods for their liege’s hawk. New and old money fold together in the same wallet, but circumnavigate around each other cautiously in the food courts. As true servants to the sovereignty sit demurely, having selected fruit smoothies and shawarma, all the sun-brittled Brits prostrate themselves in the hall of the Burger King to tell each other whoppers over Whoppers and drown their taste buds with Coke Floats.
I stopped in last night, because it somehow wouldn’t have felt right without you by my side. When seated now, my thigh feels naked without your hand drumming a tattoo upon it. My knee aches for a reassuring squeeze as you lean in towards me with a conspiratorial whisper. I ended up watching a “CSI Miami” marathon on the telly. I finished up in that advanced state of solitude where you start shouting words of encouragement at the onscreen characters. The team of Mossad hitmen in the next room probably thought I was being roughly sodomized by a man named Horatio.
I milled about for a while today (because if I stand still here, people will probably throw change at me) and now I’m back on my way to the hotel. I’ll probably have a quiet one again tonight. I could probably have a quiet one in Basra now. It’s been nothing but quiet since you left.
I sincerely hope that you’re doing well and getting along with all the people on your trip. I miss you and I really do wish you were here with me, but I know you’ve got your own stuff to be doing and I respect that. No word from you as of yet, but no pressure, drop me a line whenever you can.