One of the favourite topics of children raised in the Gulf is nostalgia. Growing up in the United Arab Emirates in the nineties was truly one of the best things that happened in our lives. Some of my fondest memories from those days are the weekends at Jumeirah Beach. Five families, a bunch of noisy kids and plenty of Quavers chips and Maaza mango juice was the highlight of Thursday evenings. Jumeirah didn’t have Burj Al Arab at that time, yet it was an alluring, picture-perfect destination for sun, sand and sea. Often, when I think about my childhood, the happiest moments are related to that beach and its waves.
The taste of the 1990s.
I vividly remember Dubai in the 90s. Dixi colas with four dots and Shawarmas for 1 dirham were our coveted treats. On Wednesdays, Junior News was the weekly we kids waited for! My friend Nat called the Deira Clock tower, which is now a prominent monument, as Tower ‘O’clock. Luckily, Emirates Pofaki and Pappy snacks still exist in 2021 and it’s a go-to snack that I share with my kids. Malory Towers, Famous Five and Secret Seven of Enid Blyton ruled as we imagined the taste of buttered scones and ginger cake till our surprise was destroyed when we discovered that scones were cousins of jam biscuits.
The weekend was just one day and that was Friday. Saturday was the beginning of school. Since we weren’t connected to the World Wide Web on the world’s biggest nation called Facebook or Instagram, we never comprehended that it was a limitation or that we were less privileged than our counterparts in other parts of the world. Life was happy and joyous as long as we had our fill of splendid picnics under sunny blue skies, a trip to Al Ain Fun City, Tom and Jerry, or Beverly Hills 90210 on Channel 33 and Oman Chips. One of my friends, Zan, even had an email-id in dedication, firstname.lastname@example.org
There are hundreds of reasons why ‘UAE born and bred’ love UAE and feel that UAE is their home. I am no stranger to this. Childish love for Kebabs and Mirinda paved the way for stronger and more mature sentiments of home and sense of belonging.
UAE is like a kaleidoscope. Just as easily as we explore the past and return to our modern upbeat youth, this country too switches sheen between traditional and modern dimensions. No person who has ever experienced the raw beauty of life here will return without a strong ache to be back. That is the aura that UAE exudes. That is the charm of UAE.
The best thing about living in this country is peace and security, the freedom to walk around anywhere at midnight without any care in the world! As a second generation UAE expat the mind rests in the safety net of the protective umbrella of ‘my home’ for 30 plus years in this country. That speaks volume of the respect, honour and protection a place has given to us!
As children who grew up here, we all share a deep bond, a recollection of old familiarity. It’s that marvellous mix of what is to come and what has been. There is a strange comfort in not having to build up life on an unfamiliar terrain. There is that magic of shared evenings in special classes and mom’s cooking. It’s almost like wearing an old threadbare T-shirt, washed and worn out but feels good like no other!
“The little ones have all grown up/The people of the sands stood watching/Setting the sky ablaze as they marched/Ahead into the sunny world/The wind carried the message/Arabia’s children have arrived/The children of the sun, sea and sand.” Evocative poetry flows just as beautifully as Dubai creek.
Home is where the heart is for the children of the sun, sea and sands.
Feby Imthias is a writer based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @Feby_Imthias