STRAIGHT TALKS

As I had mentioned in my last ST article, Mumtaz and I would be in Dubai for the next two weeks, to attend the wedding of Natasha, the daughter of our friends from Congo and celebrate the festive season in swinging Dubai.

So here we are, staying with Fauzia, in her villa in Jumaira 1, a quite suburb, about 30 minutes drive from the hustle and bustle of the still growing and expanding city.

The two o’clock, two-hour Emirates flight to Dubai was uneventful and after a light lunch, washed down by a glass of red, I settled down, put on the headphone and listened to some smooth jazz as we streaked across the clear blue skies, towards Dubai. I must have dozed off during the flight, for I was gently woken up by a charming airhostess, who politely asked me to straighten my seat and fasten my seat belt, as we were about to land.      

As usual, my two-wheel chrome chariot was waiting for me at the exit and I was soon whisked through immigration and into the brimming Duty Free Shop, which Dubai is famous for. My first purchase was a sim card for my mobile phone and then onto the Santa Clause counters, where I bought a variety of perfume bottles, etc., for our friends in Dubai.  I have always enjoyed visiting this glass and chrome, Disney Land city, but I don’t think that I would like to live here permanently, as for me, it has no soul. My first visit to Dubai had been way back in the early seventies, when Dubai was just a sandy, arid and hot town, with nothing to show and be proud of.

But in the last thirty years, thanks to the vision of their leaders and their ability to turn vision into reality, Dubai has made breath taking progress and over the years and this arid, barren, sand covered town, with hot and dusty winds, has become a shining jewel, among the many jewels in the UAE.

The city has been build by the sweat and blood of Pakistani and Indian workers and is now managed by professional expatriates from around the world. They have collectively helped to transform Dubai, from a fishing port that was a heaven for pirates and smugglers, to a shopper’s paradise and a playground for the rich and the famous. And to tower above all the glitter and gold, Dubai now has the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, with its dancing water fountains, surging into the sky to a giddy height of 800 meters.

However, in the process, Dubai has lost its Arab identity, culture and authenticity and the Bedouin of the past is now a total misfit and a stranger in his own country. As one old resident observed, when I asked him what he missed of the old Dubai, his nostalgic reply was, ‘I don’t know where to tie my camel’.

This is always the danger, when tradition and culture are set aside for the sake of development and ‘enlightenment’ becomes the buzzword for progress. And this leads to a clash of tradition and why some conservatives are against adopting modern, enlightened, western culture.

And now to the wedding in Dubai. The last time I had gone to attend a wedding outside Pakistan, was the wedding of Farah, daughter of Merengiz and Shahveer, to Nikhil, son of Kumkum and Sandip Shah. 

The celebrations had started in Karachi, then to Bombay and finally to the world famous Taj - Fort Aguada Hotel, Goa. At that time, I had been restricted to a wheel chair due to my gammy left leg, but that had not stopped me from rocking and rolling on the golden sands of Goa beach, with the help of some charming ladies from different parts of the world.

The wedding celebrations in Dubai had started on 21st December, with a Mandwo and Pithi Ceremony at the remote Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa, some 35 kms and an hours drive from the city centre. There were over 200 guests from far corners of the world. A beautiful, well-endowed, exotic belly dancer entertained us. And in no time, the beautiful lady had seduced all the guests to join her on the floor and shake, rattle and roll their hips. What made the occasion very memorable were a full moon and the perfect whether. Thank God for our gentle eastern winters, where we are not snowed down with brutal blizzards and snowstorms until hell freezes over. The next function was the Mehndi Ceremony at the Mina A’Salaam Hotel, another exotic location, where the bride, dressed in white and her bridesmaids, sailed gracefully up to the reception platform in a gondola.

After the Mehndi function, the guests were then asked to proceed for a sit down dinner, which was followed by a musical evening. The wedding ceremony was held the next day, on 23rd December, at the Ismaili Centre in Dubai, where we were served a simple lunch. This was followed by a reception in the evening at the Atlantis Hotel, Palm Jumeriah, another Disney land location.

The Atlantis Hotel, built on a man made island, is now world famous for its exotic settings and water park. The guests were served chilled oysters and glasses of bubbly and the evening started with speeches by friends and family of Natasha and Zakir and their courtship while in college.

We were then served a sumptuous, seven-course dinner, followed by the usual dancing. Somehow these young disc jockeys never seem to judge the type of dancers on the floor and usually go by the book. For the first fifteen minutes, the dance floor remained empty, as the music was all wrong.

Finally, I walked over to the DJ and asked him to switch to the old Michel Jackson and Gypsy King numbers. And within no time, the floor was packed with young and old, shaking and rolling to the beat of the King.      

The last and final function was the Bidai, what we know as Ruksati, the next day, at the exclusive Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club.

(Email: trust@helplinetrust.org.pk).