For whatever reason, I am in Dubai. I'm in its airport, in fact, and – after having had a thorough snoop around – I've retired to a waterhole called Jack's Bar and Grill, where I am drinking a cooooool pint of Bud at 7am and organising my thoughts about Dubai into the column I have just remembered I have to file by midday UK time.
Dubai, then. I'm not really sure what to make of it all, is the honest truth. I needed more time here, is probably the thing. It's difficult to get under the skin of somewhere like Dubai when you only have 50 minutes and you're not allowed to go outside. But that's the situation. I'll have a stab at it. Get it right and The Independent might give me the golden ticket and transfer me from the magazine bit into the travel section. That'd be something! Flouncing about in swish hotels and commenting on the food and climate. "Gosh, the beach I'm on in Indonesia is nice!" That sort of thing. "I've just eaten a clam!" But with this assignment, my hands are tied, in that I'm having to knock this out just while my airplane refuels. Jack's is nice though, I'll say that. It's got a pool table and sells ribs.
If I was forced to sum up Dubai in a word I would maybe go for 'shopping'. Plodding round just now, I noticed there was a lot of that going on. Dubains love their shopping, it seems – I think that's their 'thing'. Then again, maybe that's just true of all airports. For example, I remember buying a keyring with the Guinness symbol on it from Dublin airport once. Things are tax-free in Dubai, so there seems to be a lot of prancing about and filling trolleys with things made of leather or champagne. There was one shop that appeared to sell diamonds and a particularly moustachioed Dubain was egging his wife on to pick herself a big one. I caught the bug and bought Jennifer Saunders' autobiography from their equivalent of WHSmith.
A young English couple have just waddled into Jack's with some bags full of booze, fags, perfume and cuddly camels. He's clearly treated her because she's kissing him loads and letting him play pool. I expect they, too, are victims of refuelling. Soaking up as much of Dubai as possible in the scant time they've been allotted. I think I've been to Dubai about three times now, but never for long. If you tot it up, I've probably spent about seven hours here. I'm beginning to wish I'd stored it all up and used all that time in one go. Seven hours would probably be enough to get me in and out of town, maybe inspect a temple or a zoo, depending on what there is in Dubai these days. Maybe there's a nice square in the middle with Arabs sitting outside cafés and other Arabs playing accordions or dancing. I literally do not know.
I'll miss Jack's Bar and Grill. They are showing the baseball and the façade is windowless so you can get a sense of the bustling atmosphere of the main body of the airport beyond. Also – handily for me – they have free Wi-Fi, so I can copy this from my Notes bit of my iPhone and paste it into the main body of an email, which I can then send back to The Independent on Saturday magazine.
It is time to go. I know that because a friend of the young English couple has just burst in, shouted the phrase "Are you guys taking the actual fucking piss?! The gate closes in seven minutes and you're playing fucking pool??!!!".
The irate blonde has a point. I check up at the display next to the baseball and sure enough it confirms that the gate is closing. I chug back my Bud and read through what I have written. I do, on reflection, feel like there must be more to Dubai than this. It's probably like a lot of countries where you can experience only so much within the confines of the airport. Singapore's a bit like that, too, I hear.