Dubai: Waves of joy and despair tore through Dubai last night as India beat arch-rival Pakistan in the second semi-final of the cricket World Cup.
It is the first time the two neighbours have faced off in such a crucial match and the showdown - in the Indian city of Mohali - had overwhelmed expats here too with emotion.
Residents scrambled to make sure they could catch it here on TV, the internet, their mobile phones or radio stations. Some spent the day out on the streets, glued to TV sets placed inside shops.
Prayers on their lips
People murmured prayers for their team to win, often in their cars while waiting at the traffic lights; patients in wheelchairs came out to join strangers watching the game on big screens, in restaurants, shopping malls, sports halls - anywhere with a TV turned on.
Traffic seemed lighter, especially in the usually-crowded areas of Bur Dubai, Deira and Karama. People said finding a taxi was not as easy, since most of the drivers are from India or Pakistan and many of them had decided to take the day off. Others left work early, even without the management's blessings. A cricket fan said "a whole floor at work just walked out".
"We took a half-day off and will have to pay with one whole day out of our annual leave balance, but no one today would have done any real work anyway," said S.F., 26, a worker for an oil services company. Swanky hotels uptown, in New Dubai, hosted special screenings of the match. Perhaps the biggest screening was in the giant hall of the Palladium hotel in Dubai Internet City, which had turned into a virtual stadium. Indian fan Ashish Batra, 22, was there. He said: "I knew India was going to win, we've faced Pakistan five times in the World Cup and won each time."
A 16-year-old Pakistan supporter put his nation's defeat down to "sloppy fielding and missed chances". Schoolboy Jahangir Alvi said: "It was an easy match for Pakistan to win, but we played recklessly and paid the price."
But not everyone was swept away by cricket mania. A housewife in Sharjah complained about her "noisy neighbours". She said:
"I thought there was a fight at first, the walls were shaking. I called the watchman to go see if everything was OK. He told me it was all fine - just another India-Pakistan match."