“I’ve got no roots, but my home was never on the ground.” Great song lyrics, story of my life, and very prevalent in the city I call my home nowadays – Dubai. I’ve been here almost three years and have already said goodbye too many times, whether to friends or lovers. And it hurts – every damn time. As an empath who loves to connect with people, I have succeeded and failed to do so many times, in one of the most transient cities in the entire world.
I came here for a new life and to enjoy The Bubble of expat living. Dubai is a travel hub and the city makes you feel ageless, life is glamorous, you meet people from countries you have never even heard of, the sky is always blue. I start my weekends at the beach or infinity pool, spend a lot of time with my sister (and have the privilege to see her kids grow up). My friends and I can be found on yacht parties, at 5 star restaurants and spas, I have a best friend who is like a sister, and I have a cool yet challenging job. Sounds amazing right? This part really is and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Then you realize you’ve finally made a connection with someone new, only to have them exit your life as quickly as they entered it. Leaving a feeling of emptiness every time. You enter the dating scene, becoming disillusioned soon after, losing hope of ever finding love in a place like Dubai. The majority live life at a superficial level, so not to catch feelings, making it super easy to hop from one person to another, or to leave Dubai after a few years of filling their pockets. People don’t connect. And let that be one of the things I value most in life.
My friends and I have all fallen in the Dubai dating traps. When I first arrived as a newbie, I dated a rugby-playing Egyptian, the most gorgeous man I had ever seen (yes, he also had dimples!). We dated on and off for six months, for him to tell me he ‘wasn’t ready for any type of commitment’ and wanted to ‘sort his life out’. Oh… and could only be with me if I eventually converted. Only to get married to a Plain Jane Christian American girl half a year later, who he had hooked up with the entire time while we were dating. I guess he preferred an American visa to a Dutch one.
After recovering, I moved on in my second year, to a charismatic – but short! – Lebanese pilot who lived in Bahrain. I had an exciting one year long-distance relationship with him. I tried to ignore his flirting tendencies – and his 1,000 Insta followers, including his stewardess who looked like a Greek Playmate of the Year. Out of the blue he asked ‘for a break’ after 10 months of dating, as he needed to ‘focus on himself and the launch of his company.’ It was a mindfuck, but I waited as I was deeply in love with him. Only for him to tell me three months later to my face he met someone else. The company? Still hasn’t launched. Number of Insta followers? 1,453.
I then upgraded to an Emirates Captain, British-Indian guy (ok also shorter), a bit older and quite distinguished. Even though I swore never to date a pilot again I took the risk. After a few months of dating, he introduced me to his friends, which was quite a big deal for him. They loved me, I had fun with them, the guy was holding my hand the entire evening. And… that was the last time I saw him. After I sensed something was off he sent a lame text a week later: “I feel a strong physical connection, just not an emotional one.” Well, after two months of only drinking and dancing, I don’t have an emotional connection with anyone. Not sure what planet he was from, and that was the final blow: no more pilots. No more assholes.
I do really enjoy my life here, just not my dating life. Like Sia sings – you need to have ‘thick skin and an elastic heart’ to be able to date in Dubai. Not sure how much longer it will hold in place though. Instead of saying goodbyes and focusing on Peter Pans, I have decided to focus on my family, close friends and myself first. Because I know at least that they – and I – will never want a break, or will walk out on me.