I lift the empty cardboard box onto the table and look around the room. It’s time to move. Again.
I have lived in Dubai for 15 years and this is my fifth move, except this time it’s after five years. Time to say goodbye, again, to a house one has made a home.
Again, I start to open the drawers filled with papers and knick-knacks and travel souvenirs that never reached the friends they were meant for. Again, I marvel at how many books on my shelf I still have to read and how many clothes I will probably never wear again but don’t have the heart to throw out.
Once more, I find the little greeting cards and notes and sentimental things I have collected over the years and only look at when I move.
My first ticket to this city (April 13, 2008), my first employment contract (I remember how thrilled I was to sign it), my first home rental agreement (to have a home of one’s own!), the first time I remitted money home (the exchange rate was only 12 rupees to a dirham).
I hold these papers in my hand and feel nostalgic about how young I was when I moved here, how naïve, how inexperienced, how clueless about what this journey and city would mean to me.
A decade and a half in, the firsts have given way to seconds and the seconds to thirds, and fourths, and fifths. And yet, in this city, it feels like we are always moving. I know very few people who can say with surety that they have truly settled, allowing their roots to seep into the grounds of one home.
Most have a stack of boxes and a mover’s number ready, for the next year and the next renewal.
Living in the UAE is like living in an airport. You make friends and you buy things and you make plans, but you know that the next move is only a call away. And what this makes us is permanently nostalgic.
All it takes is one little drizzle of rain, or a bite of street food from our home towns, or a song from our childhood and immediately, we launch head first into the deep end of nostalgia. Always missing home, always missing a part of ourselves that we left behind, always holding on to bits of what life was before Dubai happened.
Over time, we’ve got to know this city better. We can drive anywhere without a map. We know where to buy and find the right things at the right price. We even respond “Dubai” when people ask us where we are from. But somehow, we can’t quite say that our roots have found ground to hold.
And so, we move, again.
I put the last of my picture frames away, seal up that cardboard box and think to myself how the NEXT time will be the last time I move.
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