All Nicolette knew about this city mega-city of Dubai was that it personified world-class tourism and business. She had dreamt about it and soon, her dreams would come true. In the Rwandair airplane that carried them to Dubai, Nicolette felt soothed by the thought that the company was a property of her country. Her heart billowed with pride, as if her father held shares in the business. But this just meant that Nicolette felt secure with people from her homeland. They belonged to the same motherland and spoke the same mother tongue.
At Dubai International airport, the pilot landed more smoothly than on the Mombasa touchdown a few hours earlier. They descended and entered the airport hall. A humid air and Arabic words everywhere received them. Inside a police or military guy in a greenish uniform showed newly arrived travelers the way to the passport control desk.
Nicolette took a couple of long seconds to admire him, he was very elegant in his uniform, and he embodied kingdom class. She couldn’t explain why that conclusion crossed her mind. Perhaps because his uniform was ornamented with golden decoration and he wore a tight belt of similar color to his uniform and a claret head-cover.
She queued in front of a blue metal sign displaying 'All passengers' in huge blue English and Arabic characters. While the young woman was waiting, she discreetly stretched her shoulders and observed other passengers who were mainly Asians although she couldn’t tell their nationalities. She also saw many black Africans. They were mostly Nigerians and Congolese. She recognized them thanks to their English and French accents. They looked like business people and were making unnecessary noises that attracted the attention of other passengers.
Nigerians wore a lot of golden chains around their necks and arms while some Congolese had their skins lightened by unsuccessful bleaching products.
There were many control desks and everyone was waiting in front of whichever desks seemed to have the shortest queues. Passengers were separated by several crowd control barrier tapes that looked rather helpless to Nicollette. She took time to observe the security guards, they were incredibly elegant in their traditional clothing, which were composed of a kandura, an ankle length, loose-fitting white robe. Their heads and soft hairs were covered with a headscarf called ghutrah that was kept in place with agal, a black tight band.
They looked like those Arabic princes that she read in Harlequin books. She was traveling from a small, low-income country massively Christian and was heading to a rich Muslim nation. As much as she tried, she just couldn’t stop thinking about those Hollywood movies that link Arabs with terrorism.
The Rwandan tourist was wondering if a gunman would drop from the sky any moment and start spraying bullets at hapless travelers.
Nicolette was also watching those men wearing light kanduras and wondered whether such attire made it easy to hide a bomb. But she urged her mind to move away from such diabolic thoughts and focus on the delights that awaited her in the megacity of Dubai.
Two security guards were seated in one box separated by a low compartment. They were laughing merrily as they chatted in Arabic. Nicolette felt guilty at not speaking Arabic and laughing with them. When it was her turn to present her passport, she stepped forward and waited for the veiled man to scrutinize her face and her passport photo.
She felt shy as he scrutinized her face three times. She instantly wondered what deence to use if he decided the photo in the passport did not match her face. But although she had gained weight, she knew that her rabbit ears remained the same. He finally reached the same conclusion and asked her to look at a wall camera.
“Should I smile at the camera?” Nicolette enquired jokingly. She just wanted to hear how is English accent would sound like.
“It’s up to you!” He replied with the indifference of a person who has gazed at thousands of unknown faces.
He stamped a printed copy of her visa. Now she could walk through and have her first ever taste of the Dubai that lay beyond the airport.
It was still early morning on a Friday, the humidity of the city covered Nicolette’s entire body. Strangely, she felt welcomed by that warmth. A friend of a friend who was also Rwandan had come to pick her up. She couldn’t describe the nice feeling of meeting a fellow citizen in a foreign country.
He was driving a Mercedes Benz, a far cry from the old carina that she drove back in her country.He explained to her that Friday was a day of prayers. All businesses and offices were closed. Roads were almost empty expect for a few cars that were cruising along perfectly paved roads. Lining these roads were big buildings interspersed with giant advertisement signs that evoked images of New York. The only thing that was missing that Friday morning was the multicultural crowds that would normally fill New York streets.
In the afternoon, some shops started to open as people, mostly male, slowly filled the streets. Nicolette’s female eyes were searching for Dubai women. Where were they? Were they all in their homes cooking and taking care of their children and husbands?
Her stomach started rumbling with hunger and she entered the first fast food cafe that her eyes saw. Nicolette took a thick mango smoothie that had a miraculous effect on her hunger.
The rest of the day, she strolled around the city and met people from over the world, probably searching for a better life. She could feel money in the city. She met many African eyes scrutinizing her in order put her in tourist or businesswoman category.
Dubai looked like America to her, but things were newer in this golden metropolis. Although Dubai was a fancy city, it had simplicity in its extravagance that made her feel at home.
Shops were incredible; they were full of affordable things that she could buy for her family and friends. There was:
Shoes for her sisters perhaps they will find good husbands
Wallets for her brothers so they would save their meager income
Lamps for the house her father had never been able to finish
Creams to keep her mother’s skin smooth like a baby’s
Clothes for her cousins so they could stop being jealous of each other
There were many nice things to bring home from Dubai
That whole evening, she took a train to the Dubai mall, one of the biggest in the world and the most expensive. She had no money to spend but she had eyes to contemplate the marvels of Dubai.
She loved the luxury of the mall.
She loved seeing people from everywhere with different pocket sizes.
She loved watching the crocodile in the mall aquarium.
She loved getting lost in a false galaxy above the aquarium.
She loved observing the water falls in the same building.
She loved touching the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa.
She loved hearing random people speaking her language and others speaking totally strange languages.
She loved her first taste of Dubai