Tuesday, 12 August 2008


It’s back to the dunya, and nowhere epitomizes the dunya more than Dubai, where I’ve just spent the last couple of days.

Tarim and Dubai aren’t just on opposite sides of the spectrum, they’re on completely different planets. And to go from one extreme to the other has been more difficult than I could’ve imagined, being thrust into everything we’ve been so far away from for weeks and weeks. Even the view around me is aesthetically distressing—imagine going from seeing mud houses to seeing Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world.

Other than the moon, absolutely nothing is the same.
I have Tarim withdrawal symptoms.

I can’t get over how much stuff is around us. I’ve gotten so used to subsisting on so very little—and I proved to myself that it’s possible to do so—so everything just seems like such an extravagance, and all the stuff that seems so necessary just seems superfluous. There are four mirrors in my hotel room, and I find myself just looking around at them, bewildered at their uselessness. Why do I need four mirrors?

I spent my first day in Dubai with an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Not butterflies, but more like a rock. I spent half the day sleeping and woke up feeling uncomfortable, like there was something important I had to do that I had forgotten, or like I had lost something. It seems strange to be doing nothing.

Physically, I couldn't be better. The first thing I did when I got to the hotel was order room service, and man did I enjoy my steak with french fries. And dessert. Then I slept on the poofy pillows in the divinely comfortable hotel bed. Waking up when my body wanted to wake up was pure bliss.

But emotionally, I feel torn. I can't bring myself to shop, and when I did eventually drag myself to a mall, I couldn't help myself from just watching people around me. I felt that I was looking at them from far away, and that everyone scurrying around was failing miserably at seeing the bigger picture, like ants who cannot comprehend the universe around them.

Dubai is a life of heedlessness. The word soul sucking is perfect for it. The people here have every material thing they could possibly dream of—I even saw an advert for a 24 carat gold facial!—and yet they're still not happy. They're still unfulfilled and striving to fill a gaping hole in their souls which many cannot comprehend. Contrast that with the people of Tarim, whose faces are aglow with spiritual contentment and I just feel all the more depressed.

Oh sure, I had fun with my Dowra sisters who were also here in Dubai for a few days. We went to the movies, stayed up all night talking and enjoyed our caramel popcorn, krispy kreme doughnuts and room service. So I'm happy in a sense, but being plunged into an ocean of materialism with no buffer leaves me adrift in confusion.

Because of the way I was living, it seems like I have crystal clear vision. I can laugh now at the branded sunglasses and bags, looking straight through them as the pathetic displays of ostentation they are. I passed through Harvey Nicholas and I was tempted by nothing. I can see the materialism driven world we live in for the sham it is. But will my eyesight be so clear in a year? In a month even? How quickly will I slip back into my normal life and into my 'normal' way of thinking?

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