When I decided to move to Dubai last year, I realised I would have to make new friends. How the hell do you do that in your late 30s?
I decided to do a 4-week photography course – because I really did want to learn about photography, not just do it to meet people. The people I met were nice, but there was no interaction between classes – no swapping of numbers, or anything that suggested ‘let’s keep in touch’ when the course was over. Having said that, we’re all connected through a Facebook page where we post our photos so I’m sure a few of us will get in touch.
About two weeks after I got to Dubai, I searched online for ‘British expats Dubai’. I came across several online groups and decided to join one (to start with). Their page said they met at a bar on the last Thursday of the month with other events taking place from time to time as well. I applied to join the group and was approved a couple of days later. When I got the invite for the meet-up, I RSVPd ‘yes’.
When the day came around, I was deliberating about whether to go or not. I didn’t know anyone. What was I thinking? What if they didn’t like me? What if they thought I was too fat? Too tall? Not intelligent enough? The easy option would have been to not go. I came this close (holding thumb and index finger 2 mm apart) to not going. I could stay home and read. That would be fun, right?
Jesus, get a grip, I told myself. I got ready and left before I could change my mind (again).
The venue was the Underground Pub at the Habtoor Grand in Marina. The email said there was a space reserved at the back by the pool tables so I walked towards the back. There were several groups of people around and I approached one of them and asked if they were with the British expat group? One woman said she was, but she was on her own and had just met the people she was standing with (who looked rather dodgy). ‘Shall we go find the group?’ I suggested. A waitress asked me if I was looking for the British expat group and showed us to where the others were.
There weren’t more than 10 people there by then: a few guys sitting at one table and a couple of women sitting at another. I walked over to the two women and introduced myself – they were so friendly. The area started getting busier and busier as more and more people arrived. I met people who had been in Dubai for 25 years and one who had just arrived three weeks before. The age ranged from mid-20s to mid-50s, and I think most people were single. Conversation was flowing (as was the alcohol) and everyone seemed to be having a good time. There were several people who were there for the first time as well so I didn’t feel like everyone already knew each other. I’d say there were about 40 people there at the busiest time.
At about midnight a smaller group of us walked over to the Buddha Bar at the Grosvenor House Hotel. We weren’t there for very long – just one drink – and then it was on to somewhere else.
We ended up at Barasti at the Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort. There were thousands of people there. It was like being at an outdoor rave by the beach. There were several bars and for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to switch to beer. Don’t ask why – I have no idea.
When the bars closed we thought it would be a good time to leave, but because there were so many people there getting a cab home was a nightmare. After waiting in the non-moving queue for 15 minutes, a few of us decided to try for a cab on the main road. We got one in 3 minutes and headed home at about 3am.
It was a really fun night, considering I didn’t know a soul. I swapped numbers with four people and heard from all of them that weekend – telling me if I needed anything to just ask or that they would let me know about book/writing groups, etc. It was just a nice fun group of people.
The next morning, however, I felt like absolute crap. I had to go to my photography class and I couldn’t face getting out of bed (but I did).
So would I go again? Yes, definitely. I’d just make sure I had nothing planned for the next day (and possibly the day after)!