Nicolette took time to breath after touring one spectacular neighborhood of the city. She was sweating under the sweltering heat of Dubai and was no longer able to smell the pleasant scent of her Narta deodorant. The drops of sweat that were lazily running on her body had washed it away. As she sipped a fresh beverage from one of the numerous smoothie shops, she took time to feel the air conditioner refresh her wet skin.
Dubai did not have one isolated wonder to register in the Guinness world record. Dubai itself was a wonder. Although some people thought it was a fake city as it had been built on sand.
Near the Dubai mall, there was a performance of the Dubai Fountain, shooting water jets in the sky. Each thirty minutes of every night, the show was open to the public from 6 to 9:00 pm. That Friday night, the water danced to Andrea Bocelli’s song Con te partiro.
While Nicolette was listening to Bocelli, his tenor voice deep emotions. She realized that, for a while, she had missed the feeling of having a person holding her hand. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been truly and passionately in love. She felt pain lonely but she decided that feeling should not ruin the marvels of dancing water.
When Bocelli stopped singing, the water stopped dancing and became a normal artificial lake. Nicolette wanted more of that lush experience. She waited for another thirty minutes and then followed an Arab classic song by a woman.
The next morning, in a light night robe, the young woman started her day by playing with some doves on the balcony of her room. As the birds flew lazily around her, she saw an old bearded Arab man who was looking at her. He was seated on the balcony of another building across her hotel street and he was chain-smoking. He was almost her grandfather’s age mate. Nicolette quickly tightened her night robe, wondering if she had shocked him with her half naked body. In return, he offered her a silent smile, prompting her to run back in the room and draw the curtains.
It was Saturday and her last day in Dubai. She still had places to discover, gifts to buy, foods to taste and languages to hear. Her hotel was in the middle of the city, surrounded by shops. She went to the watch shop:
“Hello, madam? You want what?”
“Hi, I would like to buy a watch for women. I love Rolex watches.”
While she was talking to the shop attendant, she heard a voice behind her:
“You don’t need to speak perfect English in Dubai, my lady!”
She was shocked by that familiarity and she turned her head to see a young man trying on a Swatch watch. He smiled at her. Because he was really handsome, Nicolette forgave him for intruding into her space.
“Hi, I am Abeeku.”
She hesitated but since the shop attendant was looking at her weirdly, she felt pressured to say something.
“I am Nicolette. Nice to meet you in Dubai” She said with an ironic touch in her voice.
She turned to the man behind the counter. In the brief moments that she had been talking to Abeeku, the watch seller had already selected ten nice watches to show her. She was tempted to buy all of them but she didn’t have that much money with her.
She tried them one after another, not knowing which one to pick.
“Me have big watch for you, madam”
“No thanks, these are very elegant, I love discreet jewels.”
Once again, the voice behind her back resonated:
“Don’t use serious words, remember we are in Dubai!”
Nicolette was pissed off but she wanted to remain polite.
“You know one secret that my late father taught me, peace to his soul, … he told me that a woman who often uses the verb to love in normal conversations, … in fact, she would like to love and to be loved.”
She did not respond.
“Don’t be mad at me, it was my father’s belief and now he is dead and buried in Ghana. By the way, take the watch, number 3 as it suits the finesse of your fingers.”
Nicollette didn’t know whether to sympathize with his father’s death or tell him to mind his business. But before she could make up her mind, Abeeku had headed to the exit.
Nicolette chose the watch recommended by the stranger.
“Me dollar have,” she explained to the watch seller. You dollar take?”
“No problem, madam.”
She handed him three one hundred dollar bills. He refused to take money and said instead:
“No problem, madam!”
“But you said you dollar take! Me not have Dirham!”
He murmured something in Arabic into the ears of another younger man who was standing next to him.
“My father said that the other gentleman has paid for you. You don’t need to pay twice!”
Nicolette nearly crunched her tongue with fury but Abeeku had already left the shop. She took the watch wrapped in a box and refused to take the plastic bag because she knew that if she reached Kigali airport with any plastic bags, they would throw them away.
The Dubai tour continued to Jumeirah beach. Jumeirah meant beautiful. Nicolette admired the blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Not far from the crowded beach, she took pictures of the Burj Al Arab, the luxury hotel. It was a very nice building, but the reason why Nicolette was interested in photographing it, was neither the fact that it was the third tallest hotel in the world nor that it was built to resemble the sail of a traditional Arabian dhow. It was just because it was printed on many notebooks that she used to use back in high school.
After strolling on the beach and sinking her toes in its burning sand, she headed to the Palm Jumeirah. This was the artificial island shaped like a palm tree. Along each of its branches, were luxury structures that eventually lead you to the incredible Atlantis Hotel.
In the afternoon, Dubai took her to a desert safari, where professional drivers took them on a crazy adventurous ride on dunes. There, she ran into Abeeku. He was in a big group of tourists and screamed her name. The young man invited her to join them. Because she was on her own and had no excuse not to, she accepted. But she also thought that she would pay him back for the watch. All of them were from Ghana and surprisingly; they resided in the same hotel as Nicolette. Abeeku mentioned that he had seen her earlier at the reception.
“I could not miss to notice those sad big eyes!”
Nicolette smiled to him.
In the reflection of the sunrays, dunes looked like golden hills. Abeeku told her which places he had visited in Dubai.
“Next time, I will take you to the Dubai Fountain.” He said to her in a flirting voice.
“I have been there! And there will be no next time,” Nicollete countered.
“But you were not there with me!” he replied looking at her with his handsome brown eyes.
“It is not because you paid for my watch that I have to do everything with you, young man.”
He did not have time to add a word as the belly dancer started to gracefully move on the stage.
Nicolette couldn’t believe that she was there in the middle of Dubai desert, miles away from home. She happily clapped for the professional dancer.
“There is something I need to show you,” Abeeku said.
She watched him with curiosity and thought it would not be wise to trust a stranger.
“Shut, I can’t listen to the music!”
“Trust me, Nicolette.”
He insisted with his arm. Nicolette saw that Abeeku was very serious. He took her around and she knew that he could not abuse her; there were dozens of tourists around. They went outside the compound at the top of a dune. They sat next to each other.
Not knowing what to say, Nicolette asked, “What Abeeku means?”
“In Ghana, it means that I was born on Wednesday.”
He paused and added softly, “I brought you here, because I want you to watch that sunset, I want you to lose yourself in this incomparable beauty. Whatever issues you brought to Dubai, those that paint sadness in your eyes, I want you to leave them here, in this desert sand.”
Nicolette kept silent and the only sound that reached her ears was of her breath and far-away Arabic music. She was enjoying the moment.
Abeeku asked her, “But you don’t have cancer or any other serious disease, right?”
With closed eyes, she smiled and gently nodded her head.
When she finally opened her eyes, they joined others.
In the middle of the desert, visitors galloped on camels. Nicolette and the Ghanaian friend group gobbled local food and enjoyed belly dance before heading back to the city.
It was the last night and before Nicolette’s 4:00 am flight, Abeeku took her to enjoy Ethiopian music in an African disco where a band performed Bob Marley’s one love.
On the tiny stage, there were four cute Ethiopian cute dancers in black mini dresses and high heels of different colors. They were swinging their Jumeirah bodies at the beat of music.
As Nicolette and Abeeku enjoyed one love, she looked at the dancers wondering if they were ladies of the night or just dancers. She also asked herself if their parents knew what their beautiful daughters were doing at 3:00 am Sunday in a Dubai nightclub. While all those questions were crossing her mind, she was surprised to feel Abeeku watching her face.
“I wish I could have dared to talk to you when you arrived on Friday!”
She did not respond but she allowed him to kiss her. Then, it was time to leave Dubai, to leave Abeeku. On their way back to the hotel, he put his arm around her shoulders and told her sweet words. He begged her to stay longer. She simply smiled and thanked him for the watch and the kiss. He whistled a cab for her and helped to put her suitcases in the trunk.
“How can I see you again?”
“If you come to Rwanda, one day, you will see me. If you don’t find me, you will meet a hundred versions of me!”
They hugged and Abeeku set her free.
On the ride to the airport, Nicolette reflected on her time in Dubai. What she appreciated most about the desert city was that Africans, Americans, Europeans, Pakistanis or Indians were all given chances to earn their living through their sweat and not live in the shadows as abominable, clandestine immigrants.
At the airport, the young woman saw a Rwandair cabinet crew and instantly felt at home. As beautiful as Dubai was, she felt happy to head back to Rwanda because the most beautiful place in the world was home.