A Day in the Life... is a popular series of books which attempt to depict the life of a country in photos taken by numerous photographers all on a single day. Such is the inspiration for today's post. If a picture speaks a thousand words, perhaps a collection of descriptive accounts can help to paint a rough image. What follows is a portrait of a day across the UAE.
In Abu Dhabi, the night time streets are speckled with light traffic--many on the road are taxis scouting late night shoppers and those visiting clubs, hotels and restaurants. The last shoppers are straggling into check-out counters at the Abu Dhabi Co-op, the last outlet to close at the popular Abu Dhabi Mall.
On a quiet back street lined with dark, ghostly apartment blocks a lone cafe is alight with bright lights and strong whiffs of sheesha, as young local lads chat loudly and play with their mobile phones.
The city streets are finally quiet and safe enough for newspaper carriers to cycle about and drop off bundles of the morning news at the small neighborhood grocery shops. A few of the drivers still on the road hail them to get their early copy.
It is time to rise on the farms--yes, farms in the middle of the desert. Hidden only a few hundred meters beyond the brightly lit highways, huge tracks of irrigated farmland await the morning sun. Farm and livestock keepers from India and Bangladesh, dressed in their wrap-around lungi and tattered shirts, start their morning routines. They drowsily make their way along the dusty roads that circumvent the farms.
Closer to the cities, the giant labour camps at Sonapur, Al Quoz and Musaffah are a buzz. Workers are already piling into busses after the frantic morning rush. Rising between 4 and 5 a.m., taking turns at steaming showers and toilets, they begin another day which often seems like an exercise in futility. Though towering structures rise up at construction sites, they have little to add up at the end of a day's work.
Sharjah to Dubai: Roads are crawling with traffic--three, four and five lanes wide. A 3 to 5 km stretch can take 30 to 45 minutes and even up to an hour. When there is an accident all bets are off. Drivers futilely listen to their radios for clues as to why the morning's traffic is so bad.
Government offices, already into their first hour remain two-thirds empty due to leave-taking and late-arriving staff. Once the latecomers show up it is usually just a short stretch before one of many tea or prayer breaks roll around.
Workers on construction sites begin their last hour of work under the scorching sun, before a government-mandated mid-day break kicks in. Never having dried off from their morning showers, the workers coveralls are by now drenched in sweat.
American soldiers at an un-demarcated (read secret) military base relax in barracks listening to their iPods or writing email at their laptops. The mid-day summer heat is unbearable, in or out of fatigues.
An apartment full of bachelors is alive with activity as the men returning from nearby shops and offices settle down for their communal lunch. Hot spicy curry over white steamed rice plants a delicious odor around the cramped apartment. Newspaper spread over the floor converts a sleeping room into a dining room. They quickly finish their meal with little conversation.
The afternoon commute in full-steam, major roads into Dubai are more clogged than those heading out. These are workers leaving new Dubai heading back into old Dubai or Sharjah, where rents are--well less unaffordable. Thousands of villas and, soon to be, tens of thousands of apartment units beckon residents to new Dubai, however extravagant rent and sale prices keep most residents at bay. Home means Bur Dubai or Deira where 8-20 to a flat can just make ends meet.
Jumeirah mosque in Dubai is full of worshipers, many of them Asian workers--taxi drivers, salesmen, shopkeepers, delivery men, etc. They spill out onto the attractive grounds surrounding the large mosque, resplendent in the golden rays of the evening sun.
A group of adolescent boys play football on a vacant section of a concrete parking lot surrounded by apartment blocks. Annoyed, nearby car owners peer from their flat windows hoping the kids stay away from their cars.
Another day is nearly finished, as the busiest time of day sets in at an international airport terminal. Friends see off workmates, departing passengers line up with overweight and oversized baggage, weary travelers file in from arriving flights... for some it will be their first, for others the last glimpse they will have of this thriving desert sheikhdom.
The above is just one person's collection of images. Readers, add your own to create a more colorful portrait.
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