dubai sits in between abu dhabi and the 5 other emirates that make up the united arab emirates (UAE). contrary to popular opinion, dubai is not the country but only a part of a country. it is the second largest emirate in the UAE and currently is the most populated with over a million residents, 85% of which are expats.
despite being only a city, dubai operates as an independent kingdom, having its own ruling family, its own local economy and even its own local rules. this too is the same with the other emirates. national responsibility however is shared and power distributed among the seven states, a large portion though is delegated to abu dhabi and dubai for being the two largest and richest with the rulers of abu dhabi (AHU) and dubai (DXB) automatically becoming the president and vice president/ prime ministers, respectively.
the emirate of dubai is practically divided into two by the dubai creek, the center for commerce and trade since dubai, historically, was a trading station, a stop over for goods on the silk road coming in from persia and india, on route to the british empire. the two are dubai city (now more commonly called bur dubai) and deira, the twin cities.
we lived in the bur dubai district, kind of analogous to what escolta is now. formerly the most happening place in the city, it now stands as a memory of its former self, its industry drained from it and moved farther up town along the main artery of the city, sheikh zayed road. though much of the businesses have moved out, there are still a good number that remained, owing particularly to the fact that bur dubai holds many residences. this meant a steady clientele for these establishments. the number of budget hotels located in bur dubai also meant a significant number of tourists flock in this area. bur dubai is known for its banks (all lining Bank street), its electronics (along Computer street), fabrics (at mina bazaar) and its bargain shops (at Al Karama, an adjacent district, similar to our divisoria).
our flat was located along mankhool road, behind a mosque (which is dubai can be found at almost every corner, almost like starbucks). our company housed me and my colleagues in 2 flats and grouped us according to gender. the units had a separate kitchen, a living/dining room with a powder room and 1 master bedroom. called a 1BR with 1 1/2 bath, it was of comfortable size though not really meant to be inhabited by 4 people. despite the limited confines however, we managed to make it work and adjusted with what we had and with each other.
my last experience of communal living was way back in college. my friends and i decided to rent a townhouse together since it was near school. my current situation is however a tad different since now, we were all strangers. thankfully so, my flatmates were a cool bunch and we meshed well almost instantaneously.
mornings in mankhool was a foretaste of what daily life was in dubai, feverish and chaotic. being in between downtown deira and uptown new dubai, we were regular witnesses of the stampede of people as they emerged from their homes, rushing to go to work, for apparently, work was the national "sport", football only came in second. taking this daily phenomena into consideration, we had to get up extra early to catch a cab, that is, if we could find one. cabs, like most of dubai's public transport, were not enough to accommodate the multitudes who rely on them. i even recall a time we waited for 2 hours under the scorching desert heat for a ride. time and time again, this scarcity had caused us many inconveniences, more especially so when you are trying to beat the rush hour traffic, something dubai too is notorious for. on a good day, the ride would cost us AED15, around P150 one way, double that for the round trip. on a bad day, well, the sky is the limit on that one.
our office was situated on deira, near the airport and already bordering on sharjah, the neighboring emirate. the company was small then, comprising only 10 when we came in. there was the pinoy general manager, our indian senior designer and her jordanian counterpart, an indian visualizer, 2 pinoy CAD operators, another indian marketing head, an indian accountant, a pakistani projects coordinator and a pinay receptionist. notice that we were composed of primarily pinoys and indians, well, now more pinoys due to our arrival. in a blink of an eye, we more than doubled in number and being how pinoys are in a foreign land, we huddled together like sheep. to say that we were a riot is putting it lightly. a new family was formed and it gave us all a sense of belonging. in addition to our new group, we also hired a boisterous pinoy office boy whose laughter can be heard the building over! he was a welcome addition to the clique as who wouldn't want to have a jolly soul in the bunch.
the first few weeks at work saw the strengthening of the bonds between us islanders. we drew from each other support on times of weakness and loneliness. with our pinoy GM at the helm, we felt that this would really be home away from home. things will be alright we thought. we were secure, that was, until things started to go wrong.