When I first arrived in Dubai, the now-ubiquitous leaving do was more of a bi-monthly affair. It was the kind of thing that could be celebrated at a bar near the office. It didn’t require fanfare because the goodbye itself was sad, and the parties, while not rare, were not too frequent either.
These days they seem as regular as waking up and seeing blue skies. This month alone I have been to six leaving dos, and there was a period when they started to feel run of the mill. Twice a week, I’d be headed to the same bar (or maybe, if someone wanted to be really different, to a brunch) to hug another mate for the last time and wish them luck on their journey. Regardless of how close I felt to the person going, the frequency of saying goodbye made each one I said sound less and less sincere.
Yet there came a point, it seems, when folks started to catch on. Lately, I’ve noticed that leaving dos have become much more exciting. An after-work drink doesn’t cut it any more. To feel special when leaving a city in which you’ve spent at least a couple of years, it seems you now have to throw a blow-out.
Two weeks ago, I had my first taste of the new trend of goodbye one-upmanship that has suddenly taken over Dubai. A departing friend eschewed goodbye drinks with a sneer. They were too common, she felt. Instead, she organised an overnight dhow trip. We slept onboard and woke up to splashing dolphins. Another friend – refusing to be outdone – arranged for a group of us to go gourmet camping. Hotdogs and burgers weren’t refined enough; instead, we dined on Creole prawns and mango salsa. The following week, I found myself at another similar bash, only this time I was belting out Madonna tunes in a secret karaoke spot in Deira. I fear that when my time finally does come, the only thing left for me will be a parachute jump out of a plane.
To be honest, I think I prefer these big farewell parties. Of course, they have the obvious effect of making each departure special, but they’re also a great opportunity to embrace all of Dubai’s assets. Wallowing is far too easy in a dingy local pub. When taking in a view of the mountains in Musandam, it’s near impossible.