Dubai diaries: Being house happy in the UAE
The relentless rigmarole of shifting houses is the cycle I had to break free.
The Dubai apartment that I call home now is my 15th address in the UAE. And it won’t be the last either. The erratic rental market fluxes of Dubai have sent me packing from house to house and emirate to emirate. And the profound wealth of experience I gained as a roving renter is in no way inferior to the wisdom Buddha attained under a Banyan tree — which is to say that desire is the cause of all misery. ‘When you free yourself from the clutches of desire, you will set yourself free from the cycle of birth and death.’ In my case, the relentless rigmarole of shifting houses is the cycle I had to break free.
My desire to upgrade my living space kept growing in utter disregard to the size and depth of my pocket. From a small, stuffy studio apartment in a swarming neighborhood in Sharjah to an extravagant six-bedroom villa on the Abu Dhabi corniche — I had traversed the whole length and breadth of the country’s real estate landscape — all alone and in partnership — in the last twenty years. From scouring internet sites to hounding real estate agents, and haggling with penny-pinching landlords to convincing reluctant partners, I have done the whole hog to find the right house only to move out in a year or two. Alas, the right house is as delusional as a mirage that recedes the closer you get. When I was commuting for two hours in the horrendous peak hour traffic between Sharjah and Dubai, a one-bedroom in a decent area in Qusais was the dream I was unable to live. When I found a spacious one-bedroom apartment on Sheikh Zayed road — a hop away from my work —I yearned for a kitchen of my own, which I did not have in that shared villa. I put up in an outhouse of a villa in Barsha and paid a fortune too for that modest abode at a time when Dubai’s rental bubble had swollen like a man’s wounded ego. I waited for it to burst and it did. With the pride of the nouveau riche, I moved into a spacious one-bedroom apartment in the verdant Discovery Gardens but soon switched loyalty to the hep and happening Dubai Marina.
After a few adventures and misadventures in the high-priced Abu Dhabi housing market, I am back in Dubai with no promises or prospects of staying for a few more years. I have always wondered why I never grew attached to any of the houses that I lived in. I guess, after almost two decades as an expat, you learn that the cardinal mantra is to practice detachment. After all the home is where the heart is. The bricks and beams are never yours. What we pack and move are our hopes and dreams. They are light-weight and easy to upgrade.
Anjana is a humanist by passion and a journalist by profession. Her cluttered desk is not indicative of her state of mind.