When I came back post-summer vacation to Dubai from England, and even from Australia, I felt that this place was cramped; that my apartment was too small and that the city was truly stifling. I came from the homes of family and friends, from the life of sprawling supermarkets and full size highways and returned to find this place totally underwhelming and rather constricting. There’s always the aspect of returning to work that makes it harder, as there is this year, but every other year I felt pretty miserable about coming “home” to Dubai. It just didn’t feel like the place where I wanted to be and the heat and humidity didn’t help the matter.
But this year has been different. Even as I stepped into our studio apartment, I felt the space. I saw the cream of the tiles, the calm of a simple bedspread. I appreciated the full length glass doors out into the common area and the bench space in my kitchen, freshly adorned with a dozen red roses. I saw the clean cut lines that my recently-returned photographer’s eye wanted to capture. I saw light, colour and calm. My life was a sudden contrast from the pathways of Vietnam, where telegraph poles droop under the weight of hundreds of metres of electrical cables and kerbs collect the dust and grime of millions of citizens living on less than a dollar a day. Instead, I saw clean streets, glass buildings and some semblance of order compared to that of South East Asia.
This space was refuge.
I no longer had to keep up my guard for every minute of the day, protecting my valuables, waking with panic in the night about potential strangers in my room, or signing my passport and money in and out of a hotel safe every second day. I didn’t have to haemorrhage money at every turn or worry about being ripped off by Western, or white-people’s, prices. I didn’t have to wonder how I would find anything or how I would communicate something other than coffee or noodles, and I didn’t have to carry my life on my back. I didn’t have to forgo all of my beloved makeup or wearing nice clothes to avoid ruining anything as I became a sweaty mess in the city.
I love travelling and collecting stories from around the world and don’t think I will ever be able to stop pacing my way out across the globe. I have had some cracking adventures this trip: some borne of chaos and others of culture. But I can’t explain to you, as I sat with my neck nestled into a hairdresser’s shampoo sink today, how overwhelmingly wonderful it has felt to be back home here in Dubai, with my husband and my cat. And this time, the heat doesn’t feel so bad and I didn’t even have to use inverted commas when I used the word ‘home.’