Maybe it’s because growing up in Johannesburg has cemented the mix of danger, concrete and… I don’t know what to call it… flow? maybe. That’s always had me mesmerised by cities. It’s that constant movement, people moving through it like blood along arteries. It’s a macrocosm of life. Like blood flows through the body delivering nourishment and oxygen to organs, people do that to a city… from one place to another, keeping it alive.
It’s like the city is a living organism on its own being nourished by ideas, labour and the flow of money. I love how, generally, in a city big and diverse enough, you can always find people or a place that caters exactly to your particular curiosities. Hip Hop, Islam, Knitting, Cats, Book Clubs, etc. etc. You’ll find something that brings people together in a city. It’s so easy for ideas to mesh together… for similar curiosities to group together.
I always have the animated image in my head about the public transport system and how if you track them all in the system in a time-lapse it would look exactly like blood flows through arteries. When you think about it like that, it’s kind of weird when you jump on a bus or take a walk through the city. You kind of are the lifeblood of a city… you and millions of others.
What I don’t like is that, as a habit, you end up eventually spending a bit too much time away from it. Not really taking advantage of a city. Then again, a city is built on concepts like capitalism, which sustain it and make it grow… to a fault. Eventually seeing something like that, growth for growth’s sake… it does kind of grind against you and makes you subconsciously shy away from it… or it becomes you.
Like most things… it gets complex the more you think of it. So, in the end, you kind of end up loving and loathing it. But you can never get away from it.
The gap in my blog posts recently was due to a trip to Dubai for my cousin’s wedding. It was a very enlightening trip simply because, before, my perspective of Dubai was mired only in its total absorption in extravagance and overt luxury. I couldn’t see anything else. Every trip there, work or otherwise had me rolling my eyes over eating food and shopping. There’s only so much you can do… and the heat kind of limits doing anything outside.
So anyway, let’s get to the list…
- Capitalism on Steroids – Everywhere… Luxury, Opulence and extravagance from the $30m licence plates to the upturned noses. You cannot avoid the show of wealth and while it’s cool to gawk at the Lamborghini’s, Bentley’s, Rolls Royce’s, Muscle Cars, etc. After a while it infects you. It’s a place for the insanely wealthy who want to show it and the those who aren’t insanely wealthy but aspire to be… or at least in its presence. Maybe it would rub off on them like cheap perfume.
- No Soul – You feel the fake. The country did come up from nowhere, with nothing nad now hitting records for what? Biggest building, biggest light show on the biggest building, etc. etc. They’re trying too hard man and as with all shows of wealth you can sense that something fundamental is missing. You see it in the people too ,especially the expensive places… the disdain for everyone else, how they treat anyone who doesn’t live on their level.
- Growth for the Sake of Growth – The place is HUGE. It reminds me of Joburg it’s so big. Like it takes you at least a half hour from place to place and you’re generally surrounded by skyscrapers. On this last trip, I’ve heard it seems the same problem like back in 2008, where contractors up and disappeared might be happening again. There is one hell of a lot of property in Dubai and I’m not sure there are enough people or businesses to fill up that space. All of this growth also means it’s being built on cheap labour with dodgy labour practices. It’s a shit show all the way through.
“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.” – Edward Abbey
- The Desert – My cousin took me to the desert with a couple of friends, a place called “Maliha”. We stayed up till like 3.30am with a camp fire, talking and listening to music and drinking chai. It was amazing. The vastness of the desert and the stars makes it so much easier to take breath and introspect. Think about Life and your place in it. Answer all the big questions for yourself. Making new friends in such an isolated place is also very easy.
- The Normal People – Away from the cars driving past willing you to look at them with your mouth open. There are normal, everyday people in Dubai just trying to live their lives and get by. But when you’re going there on holiday you don’t get to see it. It’s the guys who make karak chai on the corner, the local cafeteria’s making shawarma, the others getting by day to day in corporate jobs sending money back to families in other countries. I was looking for a soul to Dubai, these people are it. They make Dubai what it is, both the extravagant and the quotidian.
- Family – This is specific to my time their recently where I got to spend time with my cousins who I’ve only seen off and on for short periods and over decades. I’m also like 10 years older than all of them, so I got to really bond with them at an age where we’re more or less on the same level. That and spending time with my aunt and getting involved with helping set up all the wedding bits ( as family does) was a really awesome experience.