Ode to Dubai: Residents share how they’ve reclaimed the spirit of their city after coronavirus restrictions

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A view of Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai
Image Credit: File photo

Dubai: Relieved with the relaxation of movement restrictions, Dubai residents are basking in the new ‘normalcy’, deriving pleasure out of doing what they took for granted earlier. Just walking on the streets, appreciating the beautiful sunset, going to the gym, meeting friends over coffee – there’s a new thrill in all of this now. The spirit of their city is alive again and residents say no pandemic can steal the beauty of life as they always knew it in the UAE.

‘I have a newfound appreciation for Dubai’

Karen Osman, British expatriate, author and UAE resident of 16 years

Karen Osman

“As an author, I was relatively used to working from home for long periods of time. However I don’t think anyone could have been prepared for the stay-in. With two young children, I especially missed being outside and as the restrictions have eased, we’ve cautiously been getting back into our outdoor routine. The beach has always been a huge draw for us and there is nothing better than watching my children playing in the sand and skipping in the waves – plus it helps them sleep well later. During this time, I also get a lot of inspiration for my novels, so I always make sure I have a notepad to jot down ideas.

“Most mornings or evenings, I exercise outside as well, usually going for a run around the Marina or even just a walk along JBR. Finally, while I’ve been staying in contact with writer friends through Zoom, it was great to have a one-on-one coffee for a proper catch up – the coffee shop scene in Dubai is great because there’s so much choice. If I’ve learnt something from COVID-19, it’s about not taking anything for granted and I definitely have a newfound appreciation for Dubai.”

‘I nourished my mind, body and soul with a visit to the ocean’

Punam Verma, British expatriate of Indian origin, TV journalist, host and producer, resident of UAE for 13 years

Punam Verma

“I have been in Dubai since 2007. At that time I was the host / writer of the first English entertainment TV show called OUT & ABOUT on Dubai One TV. As part of my job, I would film all the fun activities such as sports events, celebrities, festivals and restaurants in and around the UAE. This got me into the habit of constantly being active and busy in Dubai. I was always looking for something exciting, adventurous and new to do in town. The stay-in was pretty much a shock to the system. I wasn’t used to being stuck at home. It was very abnormal to me.

“As a journalist and producer I am always on a different shoot in a different location each week. Once the restrictions eased, my first stop was the ocean. I love to paddle board and kayak, so last weekend was the first time I ventured out again for some adventure and fresh air since March. The water was crystal clear on the Palm and very quiet as there were no big boats around. It was a well-needed outing for my mind body and soul. Just to feel a little normality again and be active can really help us all feel more positive about the future.

“Of course, there is a ‘new normal’ out there, which includes keeping your distance from others, using face masks and sanitisers wherever you go. But as long as we go out responsibly, hopefully we will all start feeling like life is looking a little brighter. However, the one thing I do miss, is hugging my friends and family. Looking forward to that day the most.”

‘I am reclaiming what I cherish about my life in Dubai’

Dr Rommel Sergio, Filipino expatriate and management professor at the Canadian University, Dubai, UAE resident for 12 years

Dr Rommel Sergio

“Dubai’s breath-taking sites have always moved our pristine spirits. Whenever I traverse Shaikh Zayed Road, being a city fanatic, I always feel connected to its vibrant power. Moreover, teaching has been part of my holistic being. There is no perfect substitute for physical interaction with the students, so visiting the campus was a big time ‘miss’ for me.”

“As a coffee lover, it is rejuvenating to sip a hot cup of coffee while I work on my course readings, of course getting a good spot in Dubai Mall with the picturesque Burj Khalifa with the water fountain makes it perfect.

“Getting back to the ‘new normal’ would entail being in those moments that I cherish the most, no matter how simple the circumstances may be.”

‘Watching the sunset fills me up with gratitude’

– Kelly Lundgren, British expatriate, entrepreneur and UAE resident of 16 years

Kelly Lundgren

“My favourite time of day is between 4 and 6 pm and I love nothing more than finding the perfect spot to watch the sunset. We are privileged in Dubai to see some awesome sunsets and I have missed being able to share this with friends. After the restrictions were lifted, I was happy to find my spot on the beach and watch the magnificent sunset, which just filled me up with gratitude.

“Whilst I have enjoyed the routine of working out from home, getting back into the gym and enjoying a morning walk have been a welcome break.”

‘I missed the sense of community…can’t wait to get back to simple delights’

Alex Broun, Australian expatriate, head of drama at Studio Republik, screenwriter, playwright and UAE resident since 9 years.

“Dubai has developed a dynamic cultural scene over the last decade and what I have missed most during the shutdown is the connection with that vibrant aspect of the city’s life.

Alex Broun

“In terms of the performing arts, both The Junction in Alserkal Avenue and The Courtyard Playhouse in Al Quoz, are busy and productive creative hubs filling their spaces with plays, music, comedy and improvisation – almost every night. Most are created by locally based artists. While artists have been performing on video portals, I am looking forward to a theatre night in the ‘new normal ‘scenario with social distancing etc.

“I’ve really missed the sense of community these spaces foster by bringing residents together to celebrate live performance.

“The poetry scene in Dubai is also buzzing with high quality groups such as PUNCH, Poeticians and Blank Space regularly holding readings and open mic nights – and I have greatly missed the opportunity to hear these wonderful UAE-based wordsmiths. I know all this will be revived soon.

“The visual arts scene in Dubai is also very fertile and one of the city’s best cultural experiences is to wander through the numerous galleries – and cafes. It’s been hard not having access to these visual and edible treats and I can’t wait to get back to sample the delights of all the galleries and eateries.”

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