House-hunting, buying a second-hand car or choosing the curtains for your living room must be the most stressful tasks in a person's life, at least in my book. But people have their own priorities and some may say that finding a wife, moving to a new city or trying to find a baby-sitter for a hyperactive child, wears them out.
But there's nothing as stressful as trying to find a place in Dubai you can call home; where you can put up your feet when you return in the evening, tired after a long day's work.
Just when people stopped demonising landlords, the rentals in Dubai have once again gone through the roof, just when my colleague finally decided to get an apartment of her own. She apparently waited two months too long.
A one-bedroom flat in Bur Dubai, the heart of downtown, has suddenly shot up to Dh55,000 and the reason must be because of those extra 27,000 people who have decided to live in Dubai, says the Dubai Statistics Centre. (Everybody wants to live in Bur Dubai; it's a happening place. You come down from your flat and are right in the middle of the famous traffic gridlock as soon as the elevator opens!)
The demand for living space has gone up so fast that developers who had kicked out everyone from the Jebel Ali Village are once again renting out the prefabricated villas.
I may be just a statistic for the number-crunchers, but when I first came to Dubai, the landlord was someone whom everyone despised and feared; he was like the taxman, your hated brother-in-law or the friendly, neighbourhood dentist, who smiled while he extracted. I had heard horror stories of how one landlord gleefully threw people out into the streets because they could not pay the higher rent, which he wanted right in the middle of the contract. But there was one thing which was worse than becoming poor after paying the rent; it was moving to a new flat.
You finally find a place far, far away, right across the other side of town. "It's just a 15-minute drive to my office," you tell your friends proudly, about how you finally got a good deal. But what you forget to say is that you have to start driving at midnight to reach your workplace in time the next day!
After finding the new place (‘I now pay my rent in 48 cheques! I believe my landlord lives in the south of France'), you have to move there and you realise there is a whole lot of junk you had accumulated over the years.
You just cannot throw away things like the coconut shell lampshade which you got from your trip to the Philippines, or the sorry-looking camel saddle footrest from Yemen. So you hire what is known as the ‘movers'. These are people, someone like the Harvey Keitel character, you call when you are in serious trouble.
These professionals come to your apartment at six in the morning, carrying rolls of brown paper, bubble wrap, box cutters and what is known as industrial tape, that sticky tape that makes an awful tearing noise as it quickly closes everything.
While these guys know their job — most seem like they were hand-picked by the company while wandering the streets one night — you have to keep an eye on them. One lapse in concentration and they might even bubble-wrap the baby!
"Where's my tea"? asked my wife one time, looking for her tea mug which had disappeared when she went to the other room as the packers packed. One guy, looking very sheepish, pointed to a carton down the corridor. He had picked it up, washed it, dried it, stuffed it with newspaper and boxed it.