Did we call Tehran a crazy city? Well, if so, then Dubai reached a whole new level of craziness! Wow, oh, wow.
As soon as the plane reaches its altitude, the pilot already calls the cabin crew to prepare for landing. Our mouths still munching the snacks we’ve just got.
When we land and arrive at the baggage claim, I’m still wearing my headscarf, hesitating to put it down. It feels almost unreal to be in a country, where women actually don’t have to wear it by law. Apparently, those 7 weeks in Iran have had a bigger impact on me than expected, and I need a few hours to realise that I’ve got a part of my freedom back. There’s hair, women’s hair, in all colours and shapes and lengths. And there are bums, in all shapes and sizes, in jeans, leggings, skirts. And bare arms, and legs. We can actually see women’s bodies, not only their vague silhouette wrapped up in a fluttering piece of black cloth. We can’t believe that this place – another world – is only a half an hour flight away from Iran.
After exiting the airport, we call a taxi to drive to our hotel, which is about a 10 minutes drive away. However, after we realise that we would have to pay 20 Dollars for it, we decide to take the metro. Welcome back to the Western world, we think.
Or, is it really that ‚Western‘?
After 5 minutes at the metro station, seeing people coming and going, we can’t stop staring and shaking our heads, almost laughing. In those 5 minutes we’ve probably seen more people from more different countries passing by than we’ve met in our entire lifes. It seems as if there’s just one person of every continent, every country, every colour, religion or ethnicity, united in this huge melting pot. Like Noah’s ark for humans. We are amazed.
Our hotel is in the neighbourhood of the Old Town of Dubai, in Deira. It was one of the cheapest we’ve found, for about 30 Dollars per night. We arrive there at dusk, sweating under the unfamiliar weight of our backpacks on our shoulders, already missing Jorge. Suddenly, we realise why the hotel was so cheap: It’s the neighbourhood of the immigrants. The poor immigrants. A place, where no usual tourist who wants to visit this city would go. So, perfect for us. From the moment we enter the small streets packed with people, smells, noises, lights, we are in love with it.
There’s the Pakistani men in their pyjama-like shalwar-kameez, walking down the street holding hands. The African hot mamas in their sexy bodycon dresses or the ones in their colorful kaftans. Omani men wearing their white dishdasha and embroidered little hat. There’s the African muslims, the Arab muslims, the Asian muslims. Men wearing maxi skirts. There are the Indians, Bangladeshis, Nepalis, Sri Lankans, there’s both Hindus and Buddhists. Women wear short skirts, burqas, headscarves, sarees. Everyone is living next to each other as if it would be the most normal thing on this planet. It seems like a video clip for Michael Jackson’s ‘We are the world’.
This is just not how we’d expected this city to be. And it’s great!
However, as interesting and inspiring as this mix of people might be to us, the real reason for this city to be that multicultural is actually not that fun. It’s the ‘other Dubai’, the other half of this reality, which brings these foreigners together:
It’s the impeccably mowed golf courts, sparkling million-dollar-cars, inumerous luxury buildings, air-conditioned shopping malls including shark-filled aquariums, spotless clean metro stations, …
It seems almost like one of those very bad toupees you can see with politicians, trying to cover up something bald with the help (or hair) of someone else. And it’s sickeneing when you realise that all this luxury is actually only possible because it’s depending on the misery of thousands of people, trying to escape the poverty in their own country just to be exploited in another.
Workers taking the cheap taxi boat to the other side of the creek (or reality).
We’re disgusted and can’t understand how people actually want to go there on holidays, actively supporting this inequality.
So, on our third and last day, instead of exploring more of this weird place, we prefer to take the bus to the airport and wait there 9 hours for our plane to get off, reading a book. One of the most interesting ways to spend time in this city, we guess.