It was kind of funny reading your column about not feeling at home. I have resided for the last 14 years in Dubai, and like you have to a certain extent assimilated into the society here, taking time out to learn Arabic and trying to immerse myself into the local culture with Emerati friends, whilst also holding on to my own culture with another set of like-minded Brit mates.
Dubai itself is quite a contrast, with all its glitz and glamour hiding the reality of the thousands of cheap labour workers from the Indian Sub Continent and now from further afield such as Burma.
It also hides its biggest secret, that of being the biggest whorehouse in the Middle East where planeloads of sex tourists land every weekend for their fix of booze and cheap sex!
Yes, Dubai really is a whorehouse, contractors poring in from Afghanistan, oil workers from Saudi, and of course all the Arabs from the neighboring countries who can't get their fix at home, or it's the camel's time of the month!!
Get off at the airport check in at the hotel across the road (Le Meridien) 5 star luxury of course, what else…but then go and relax in Jule's Bar and I bet within 20 minutes you will be approached by a lady offering her charms.
Then there is the infamous York International Hotel, downstairs enjoy a quick pint in the E-Bar, where there is a nice selection of Chinese or African girls who will accompany you anywhere! Now upstairs is the revelation, in the York Club, maybe upwards of 200 girls plying the oldest trade in the world, with a mind-boggling array of nationalities (Chinese, Vietnamese, African, Morrocan and Russian to name a few).
The York is situated in Bur Dubai Area, and just down the road you have the old stalwart the Panorama Hotel (or paranormal as it is known locally) with Jockey's Bar the scene of the crime here, a very old bar again featuring an array of different nationalities (one seating area is even called Tossers Corner, and is engraved on the glass).
Still in Bur Dubai is the Regal Plaza with its upstairs nightclub, specializing in ladies from Eastern Europe, Russia and all of the Stan's.
Like Filipino girls? No problem! In Ratsky's located in the Karama Hotel, there must be at least 30 – 50 there most nights supplementing their income from their day-time jobs.
This is to name just a couple of the bars that offer drinks at European prices ($10 up) and an in-house supply of the ladies of the night at rates varying from $US200 upwards. It really depends on your haggling skills.
That is the darker side of Dubai, covered….there are also restaurants, clubs etc that you would not find in any other Middle Eastern City.
But I am going off track here. As I saidm after 14 years I am getting a little jaded. Visas here are no problem, buy one (2 years validity) or do the 30-day visa run to Oman. You can buy property here, no problem (personally I would never as they can change the rules whenever they like), but I have never felt I have put down roots here. Friends are very transient, some staying for years, some for only a small time so perhaps that is why I too will be looking to move on….but where to is the million dollar question?
I have no idea at the moment. I have looked at Malaysia, but then after a couple of years would I feel the same as I do about Dubai? Should I split my time between them, and then I would not get so jaded as quickly? To be honest I do not know, but I do know that the time has come to make a change.
Dubai has been very good to me financially, and allowed me to enjoy a very high standard of living, great apartment, great car, beach 10 minutes away, but sometimes that is not enough.
Would I consider going back to the UK? To be truthful, never in a million years! The last time I was there was 11 years ago and I could not wait to leave. Perhaps I have been spoiled here in Dubai, and if I was away for a while would appreciate much more of what is here, especially like working in Saudi or Kuwait (which I have done).
Have I considered Thailand? Yes, but I soon dismissed it… I just would not feel like I was secure there, not in a threatened way but constant changes to visa rules etc would not suit at all. I love the place for 2 or 3 weeks holiday, but to me that is what it is – a holiday destination, no more.
So it seems I am at a crossroad in life, old age beckoning, middle-age getting ready to say goodbye. Haha, so that is what it is, a mid-life crisis! Oerhaps I should go out and buy some leathers and a Harley? Nope, I don't think that would quite cut it.
So decision time is here and the Middle Kingdom is beckoning. Yes, folks, China has won. A small farm in rural north-east to be exact. I will be setting out my crops and reaping from my harvests doing something I should have done years ago. It is a small organic farm and I love being there with the peace and tranquility, plus the neighbours in the small village are fantastic and there is a real sense of community. And the best thing is I really do feel at home in this place. My Mandarin is still shit but then I have an excuse – I am English we don't do languages!