So Long Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Dubai

This angry hatchet job was originally published in May 2010, a couple of weeks after I ended a 20-month stint in Dubai to go travelling. For reasons unknown (or possibly forgotten) it became unpublished and disappeared. 
A few of months ago I applied for a job back in the Middle East, evidently having failed to remember most of this list. But, though occasionally hyperbolic, it should be remembered - by me, by you, by everyone.

Things I won't miss about living in Dubai:

  1. Walking outside between May and September and feeling as though I’m being beaten to death by a furious oven.
  2. The cold tap running warm over the same months.
  3. Seeing rats in restaurants with alarming frequency.
  4. Genuinely worrying that I might not make it to my final destination every time I get in a taxi.
  5. The brown sky.
  6. Every man from the Indian subcontinent looking at Wee Mo as though she’s from another fucking planet.
  7. Worrying about us holding hands in public, never mind kissing.
  8. Worrying about walking around in the buff in my own fucking apartment.
  9. The utter carnage of Sheikh Zayed Road.
  10. Having to neuter everything I write professionally.  
  11. The unique class of wanker that absolutely thrives in the city; the type who, beneath their shallow surface, trembles with terror at the prospect of having to do a decent job in a real country.
  12. Pint of beer: £6.40.
  13. JD and Coke: £8.20.
  14. Spinneys and its absolutely shameless mark-up of pedestrian goods like frozen fish. Four breaded fillets sell at a cool £13.60. Frozen, mind.
  15. Knowing that if I call a superior a cunt incompetent, not only will I be sacked, but I’ll have my visa cancelled and have to leave the country.
  16. An unending sense of guilt that, even without paying taxes, I am somehow contributing to slavery.
  17. The haunting, haunted glare of construction workers on their way to or from a shift.
  18. Looking at a woman in a full veil and not knowing whether or not she’s making a funny face.
  19. The merest bit of rain taking on biblical significance and incompetent drivers smash into one another.
  20. The way some Arab women harass and bully the endlessly cheery, decent Filipinos.
  21. Having to have air conditioning on year round just to make being alive bearable.
  22. Air conditioning bills.
  23. Knowing that if the slightest thing goes wrong with the flat, it’ll be a long, torturous road before it’s fixed e.g. Cracked lavvy pan. Resolution time: 19 days.
  24. Writing strictly positive reviews, even when faced with obviously laughable standards.
  25. Crowds in the cinema, be they screaming children neglected by disinterested mothers or overworked nannies; inexcusable pricks using their mobile phones like they’re in a fucking teleconference; or snide, spoiled local children belittling the (invariably Indian) cinema workers.
  26. Leaving a cinema and not fully understanding what has happened in the film because of the brutal, nonsensical censoring.
  27. Reading articles in the British media about Dubai and knowing that they’re total bullshit.
  28. The Dubai Way: a habitually dangerous way of driving, with manoeuvres like the Highway Reverse, the No-Signal Five Lane Change and the Bumper To Bumper Honky-Flash.
  29. Sandstorms.
  30. The tragicomic lack of theatre, live music and culture.
  31. Waking up on yet another weekend and thinking: “What is there to do today?” Answer: “Fuck all.”
  32. The getting-to-know-you-because-my-real-friends-are-far-away-and-it’s-you-or-nobody-you-dreadful-bastard conversation.
  33. Getting into work on a Sunday morning, just as people in the UK are heading home from a club and find themselves in the mood for a long-distance chat.
  34. Cockroaches.
  35. People  misogynist Indo-Paks mostly – who point-blank refuse to talk to Wee Mo and only address me.
  36. Looking at a pigeon as though it’s some kind of weird, exotic animal by virtue of it being alive and not human.
  37. Making a call to any government authority and knowing with a deep certainty that the problem(s) has no earthly hope of being resolved without a face to face shouting match.
  38. Worrying that when I open the toilet door outside my gym I’m going to find the little lobby urchin inside, dead from malnourishment.
  39. Not knowing three days beforehand whether or not the powers that be are going to grant a national or religious holiday.
  40. The expectancy and very quick acceptance of incompetence in every walk of life.
  41. Having not heard one for a number of weeks, wanting to cry a little when coming across another Scottish accent.
  42. Road signs coming two hundred yards after the turning they are supposed to advertise.
  43. “Can you take me to Chilis in Garhoud?” “You know?” “Man, you’re the taxi driver – don’t you know it?” "Sorry sir, I new.”
  44. Having to pay vast sums of money for painful, and somewhat shoddy dentistry.
  45. While at work, watching Filipino staff being ordered demean themselves with things like cleaning out my bin the middle of the day; or coming to my desk to take away a dirty mug; or cleaning the fucking banister for the second time that afternoon. Poor bastards.
  46. Every morning walking past a sign above the MD's parking space that says: “Bentley Parking Only”. What an enormous cunt.
  47. Having to check advertising sales for the month to see if I’m likely to still have a job the next week.
  48. Any website designed for any company based in the region. Honestly, they look like they’ve been designed by children. Talentless children.
  49. Having to spend time in supermarkets searching for fruit or veg that is not already rotten on the shelf.
  50. Walking out of Dubai Airport and being slapped in the face with the heat and humidity.
  51. Walking out of Dubai Airport and looking at the forlorn faces of the tired, huddled masses, there to ensnare more of their ain folk.
  52. Having to mind my language.
  53. Having to encourage distrusting, downtrodden individuals – again, usually Indo-Paks – to walk through doors that I’m holding open for them. I’m doing this because it’s the right fucking thing to do; I’m not going slam it in your face.
  54. The enormous hypocrisy of the place, best evidenced in the acceptance of prostitution in the streets and marketing of booze-sodden brunches on Friday, the supposed Islamic day of rest and prayer.
  55. Having to fend off a strong desire to spend every single holiday in the UK.
  56. Being locked between embarrassment and cowardice when some white motherfucker starts giving one of the (Indian or Filipino) coffee-makers shit in work.
  57. Going from sickeningly hot to shivering cold because cinemas/offices/malls don’t know how to control their AC units.
  58. Having to explain jokes to the myriad nationalities who don’t really understand irony or sarcasm i.e. everyone outside Britain and Ireland.
  59. Taxi drivers falling asleep at the wheel.
  60. Going to the beach and having to follow so many bloody rules.
  61. Having to be polite in a conversation that begins with someone from home saying: “So you’re in Dubai – that must be amazing!”
  62. Looking at a flower and thinking: that’s beautiful, but it really, really shouldn’t be there.
  63. The malls: colossal, sterile tombs of decency.
  64. Westerners trying to speak Arabic – it sounds fucking pathetic, it really does.
  65. This
  66. The general lack of passion for anything other than money and one-upmanship.
  67. Conversations degenerating into drunken shouting matches and boasts.
  68. Ramadan. Not simply because it exists, but because its rules – no drinking water during daylight hours no matter how hot it is, for example – are imposed on everyone. If that’s anti-Islamic, why is it OK for half the city to be fucking wrecked on a Friday?
  69. Walking into a toilet cubicle and having to deal with the devastation left behind by some clatty bastard washing their arse with a hose. 
  70. The call to prayer. Don’t hate it, but certainly won’t miss it.
  71. Reading blatant propaganda in the paper.
  72. Books having limited availability, with one glorious exception
  73. Books costing double the RRP.
  74. Buying a booze being at least 50% more difficult than it would be to buy class A drugs in the developed world.
  75. The laughable disdain with which recycling is treated.
  76. The bread.
  77. Looking at items for sale that have been imported from (and price-tagged in) the UK, looking at their amount in dirhams, reaching for my phone and calculating the enormous mark-up.
  78. Knowing that if wanted a dog, I could only keep it for about seven months before having to do the humane thing and toss it in the creek sometime in May.
  79. The happy Emirati family picture: mum and dad walking ahead of nanny and horrendous, hectoring kids. If you’re not willing to be a parent, don’t bother fucking breeding.
  80. Basically anyone who has a maid.
  81. People taking pictures of the aquarium in the Dubai Mall. Turn the fucking flash off, moron.
  82. The Dubai WorldCup, essentially a gathering of the most dreadful brand of preening, tittering shitbags known to man. It’s possibly the worst sporting event I’ve ever been to – and I used to go watch the Jaggy Bunnets
  83. Johnny Foreigner, the English mostly, arriving and talking to Arabs with the same blaring staccato they use with Spanish waiters. (There are no guarantees I’ll ever escape this.)
  84. Lazily playing up to a Scottish stereotype to give deeply, deeply unfunny people something to talk about other than themselves.
  85. The drive between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, surely one of the most soul destroying trips in the world.
  86. The total lack of visibly insane citizens. In real cities, nutters are all over the place and I miss them. There's the odd crazy taxi driver in Dubai, but they're hardly the Electric Scarecrow
  87. Etisalat and its pitiful attempts to provide a decent internet service.
  88. Daylight-savings being ignored – it makes communicating with the rest of the world a bloody nuisance.
  89. Muslims who don’t give a fuck about religion for 11 months of the year, then become super devout just in time for Ramadan (and some greatly reduced working hours).
  90. People highlighting the beach as one of the city’s redeeming features. Ayr has a beach.     
  91. Knowing that the unnatural grass/trees/flowers are all watered with pish.
  92. Endless road works meaning that maps are effectively out of date before they’ve even hit the shelf.
  93. The most casual, disinterested doctor’s examination costing almost £20.
  94. Dreadful press releases that proclaim utterly pedestrian events to of monumental importance e.g. Sheikh Suchnsuch’s 19th cousin opens a puppy vivisection lair.
  95. Simultaneously not being able to use the iPlayer and having to endure ads on the BBC website.
  96. Leaving a bar and smelling like one of Cancer Man’s farts. 
  97. The slightly lecherous way taxi-drivers kerb crawl The White Man looking for business.
  98. Emirati teenagers.
  99. The fact I’m supposed to be grateful for only spending a grand a month on a one-bedroom flat that has no natural daylight.
  100. The shit painkillers and the fact that anything stronger then coproxamol is treated as a narcotic.
  101. Folk – anyone really – who doesn’t recognise points 1-100. Or worse: does, but quickly reconciles it with their fucking bank balance.

 ...And 10 things I will miss.

  1. Shish taouk.
  2. The constant reassurance that there are many, many people who are bigger bastards than I.
  3. Knowing with 95% certainty what the weather will be like at the weekend.
  4. Camping regularly.
  5. The Filipinos – whether or not their cheeriness is brought on by fear or necessity, it’s nice to have so many people be, well, nice.
  6. Tax deductions equalling fuck all.
  7. Having a gym and pool in my building.
  8. Constantly meeting people from different parts of the world, even if they quickly turn out to be dullards.
  9. Being able to order absolutely anything via home delivery.
  10. Waking up to sound of the kids singing at the local school opposite our flat.