Tuesday, November 6, 2007

dubai nights

found myself tossing and turning early this morning. despite having been exhausted by my activities in the day and not taking a nap, i couldn't seem to manage getting myself to sleep. my mind was racing in full throttle and there was no way of shutting it down.

i was thinking of my dad. about the meat shop he runs (the charcuterie!) and about me redesigning it when i get back. i was thinking of vikki and how she will manage after i leave. i was thinking of surya. i was thinking of work, thinking of manila, thinking of dubai. idea after idea kept churning in my head. my body was exhausted and wanted to desperately sleep only that my mind was fully alert and was unwilling to cooperate. after a while though, i managed to finally doze off.

my mistake was that i set my alarm to go off at 2am. it was my dad's birthday and wanted to greet him first thing. 2am dubai time would be about 6am manila time, just when customers start to pick up at the shop. gave him a ring and greeted him a happy birthday. can't really say if he was surprised but i never really expected anything. my dad was really never good in expressions of emotions except in its extremes. but that is ok, i know him and i'm sure our short conversation made a mark in his day.

i again couldn't sleep after that. i layed down on my bed and stared at the dark ceiling, and then my mind started at it again. idea after idea, like a ferris wheel of never ending possibilities of what could be and what could have been. this time, my gut joined in the chorus and started making noise. not only was i sleep deprived, i was also hungry. i then decided to get up and leave the flat. i remember there's a grocery a couple of blocks down that's open 24 hours. it was also one of the thoughts that played in my head, to walk out in the streets on the wee hours of the morning and just see what my neighborhood is like at that time.

the streets were not as deserted as i was expecting it to be. i guess since dubai prides itself as being one of the "safest" cities in the world, ppl have no qualms of walking around at 230am. right outside my flat, the paperboys were congregating, receiving their share of the morning news and loading it on their bikes, ready to speed into the night and drop off their packages in their designated destinations. the 24 hour pizza place at the corner was baking as usual, catering to the hungry stomachs of the laborers working on the dubai metro, operation i presume runs 24/7.

crossing the streets at this time is probably the most enjoyable. wee hours in the morning are a pedestrians dream as there is a scarcity of vehicles on the road. if ever there are any, they are mostly cabs with their lights on. never have i seen, in my stay in dubai, so many unoccupied cabs. there is a huge round-about in front of where i live and it would usually take me a good 15 minutes to traverse this monstrous hindrance. tonight, it only took me a good 3 mintes to croos to the opposite side of the road.

it was nice to observe which establishments were still operating at this time in the night. besides the 24 hour places like the pharmacy, i was quite surprised to see that some of the restaurants were just closing. you see into their dark interiors people cleaning up. doing last minute chatting before calling it a "day". the shawarma stand was clearing up its equipment and the waiters at the lebanese cafe were having an end-of-the-day smoke. delivery boys were parking their bikes and the mangers doing their last rounds.

there was a police car stationed on the street i was walking on. added precaution i guess since the street was a financial district with 24 hour ATM stalls at almost every block. they would pull cars over every now and then, random check ups on dubious looking characters. i passed a couple of budgeted hotels on my way, their patrons just ending i presume a fun filled night of debauchery basing from their flushed faces and their unintelligent slur. i finally got to the grocery.

the place was deserted, except for the few staff that were manning the place. this was definitely a far cry from its morning state when the place was usually packed and the lines to the till were long. i don't really know why but seeing the place empty made me happy. maybe i was relishing the fact that i had the entire place all to myself. i went over the baked good section and could smell the freshly baked bread and pastries being made. i then went over to the aisles, taking a leisurely pace of perusing through every gondola. i was curious, really curious. like i was expecting the products would change, be different as to that in the morning. i was also waiting to see what kind of people would be attracted to a 24 hour grocery, besides insomniacs.

your occasional party people would drop by. taxi drivers, laborers, late-shift employees who just got out from work, and then you have the hookers.... yes. the hookers.

i have forgotten that the place that i lived in was notorious for its rather seedy crowd. despite being a residential area that caters to families, the presence of budgeted hotels in the area has also made the place where these nocturnal beings gravitate towards to. "creatures of the night" as a friend so aptly called them, they come in your asian and european variety. all like candy wrapped in light clothing, teetering on severely uncomfortable heels, waiting, waiting to be proposed at by willing patrons who are looking for a good time.

the patrons, like these nightingales of the night, also come in all forms. from curious boys to seasoned men, they lurk the streets like predators on the prowl. they drive by in their darkly tinted cars, lower the window and wait as the girls flock toward them like bees to honey. a transaction is made, a deal is struck, girl gets in, he drives off. all in less that 5 minutes. all in full view of the police car parked just 5 meters away.

as i walked back home, i thought to myself that this is a normal occurrence here in dubai. the lack of surprise in my person proved this point. in my head, i guess i was already expecting it. commerce by day, commerce by night. a sight not everyone gets to see, a fact not included in dubai's aggressive tourism campaign. i got back to my block to witness the paperboys starting to disembark on their journey into the night. went up to my flat, undressed and got in bed, exhausted from the walk, excited that i have something to blog.

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