Dubai Diaries: Growing up in the '80s
What were some of your hobbies growing up?
As someone who has lived in Dubai for four decades, I’ve watched my second home transition from a quiet, laidback desert city into a dazzling metropolis that attracts people from all over the world. But back in the ‘80s when I was growing up, life in Dubai unravelled at an unhurried pace. Kids who never dreamed today’s gadgets would exist, played for hours in sandy patches between their homes, marveled at the height of the lofty Dubai World Trade Centre, rode in their families’ cars to simple picnics at beaches and parks, and became overjoyed at the prospect of rain and ‘swimming pools’ in school grounds as winters rolled around.
It took very little to make us kids happy. A trip to the small grocery store in front of our house would mean we could emotionally blackmail our dad into buying us interesting stuff like Kinder Eggs, Fruit Tella and Pofaki only to be met with a good reprimanding when we returned home to mom. She would relent as the Kinder Eggs were popped open and we would collectively marvel at the mini-toys that emerged. What was the best toy you ever got from a Kinder Egg? Other interesting items available in Dubai groceries when I was a kid were packets of postage stamps from different countries. It was a hobby that engaged many kids and endured for quite a few years. A full stamp album was a priceless possession that would be displayed with pride. We learned quite a bit about countries in the process. While the hobby never went beyond ‘let’s exchange stamps’ or ‘give me the one you have in duplicate’, it was a pastime that made us feel a bit important. Sometimes I wonder how we kept ourselves occupied and amused, without tablets or phones or the Internet. Where today I am slowly becoming an Instagram addict — not posting but scrolling, through pictures mindlessly, back then I had my nose constantly buried in a book, which had to be yanked away if I attempted to take it to the dinner table. While I am still a great reader, I get distracted easily by — you guessed it — my phone.
Another favourite pastime as a kid in Dubai was buying cheap painting sets from the supermarket and attempting to create a ‘masterpiece’. There were no YouTube videos to guide us back then so we gleefully and randomly splashed colours around on paper. These ‘artworks’ made it to the fridge, sometimes. I remember my favourite subject was a house wedged between mountains, with the sun shining over the tranquil scene and black birds circling the sky. Thankfully, art is something that I never completely let go of, and what was then a joyous indulgence is today more of a stress buster, a way to get over a tough day ‘adulting’. Sometimes when I look out from my balcony over the tops of buildings that have been around since my childhood these and other wonderful memories come flooding back. They make for pleasant musings on a sultry summer afternoon.