Karachi for Dubai: An unfair trade

No matter how much you struggle, strive, sweat, bleed and cry for this place, it never calls you its own.

Saba Khalid August 19, 2012
Ever since my family was robbed at gunpoint, we’ve been planning an escape route out of Pakistan. Lately, my family has given me a very serious country testing mission.

The objective: to find a place that feels like Karachi — minus the killings and corruption.

Naturally, my first stop was Dubai because if countries were related, wouldn’t Karachi be its twin sister? Only Dubai would be the prettier, more fashionable one with more money. But three days in the city and I couldn’t wait to come home to the ugly, wretched sister with no morals.

I’ve always believed that every city has a heart, its own light, and a soul. It seemed as if Dubai’s heart had been ripped apart and replaced with a synthetic device. It felt like being on a merry go round for too long. The bright lights were blinding, the pace of the ride too fast, the steroid-induced and fully imported food too artificial, the smiles of the locals too fake and the city’s excessive pomp, glamour and luxury too intimidating.

Everywhere I turned, buildings were designed as if their perfectly sharp and pointed silvery edges were slowly closing in on me. Never-ending corridors promised to make me slip if I made one fast move. I went round and round in circles until I finally collapsed in the departure lounge of the massive airport to come back to Karachi. Throughout the ride, the playground for the Richy Richs felt like a nightmare for a cash-strapped traveller like me. This feeling translated into my photographs, which came out looking uninspired and boring.

I wondered how non-Emirati people live there — not just for a few days but for entire lifetimes. I asked a few how they felt in the concrete jungle. The answer was always the same: no matter how much you struggle, strive, sweat, bleed and cry for this place, it never calls you its own.

So, you float through the malls every day, lounge in luxurious apartment complexes that you could be evicted from at a moment’s notice and work in the tall office buildings, never truly belonging, never truly home and always in a state of ‘temporariness’. The only good thing is that the temporariness in this country pays better than the temporariness anywhere else. The question is, is it worth the trade?

Read more by Saba here.
WRITTEN BY:
Saba Khalid A blogger for Rolling Stone magazine, a contributor to Kulturaustauch and Musikexpres, Saba is an Institute for Foreign Affairs (IFA) Cross Culture scholar for the year 2012 who also teaches creative writing to young aspiring writers. She blogs at www.thecityalive.com and can be found on instagram as @thecityalive
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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