Noise pollution in Dubai

Peter Feely discovers an alarming new hypersensitivity to noise

The Knowledge

I’ve noticed recently that noise makes me angry. Once, the incessant tooting of horns was an amusing Middle Eastern idiosyncrasy; now it pierces me like a knife. Taxis, familiar with my commute, blast the horn to indicate their availability, which can be simultaneously alarming and infuriating. The constant hum of air conditioning plays like some never-ending malicious hiss.

Then there’s Dubai Marina. I’m all for the idea of alleviating the daily crawl along Sheikh Zayed Road with a gleaming new tram system. I’m also impressed with the environmental credentials of the project. My objections arise when it comes to the construction. At the risk of sounding like one of those bigoted ‘not in my back yard’ reactionary types, I truly wish it wasn’t. Waking up at the weekend to the sound of someone boring deep into the earth has an unwelcome effect: if it doesn’t startle me awake, it gives me nightmares about living in a war zone.

Problems have also presented themselves when it comes to strolling around the area. Roads are cordoned off overnight, paths are diverted around ominous-looking pits and it’s near impossible to predict how long it will take to walk to the relative sanctuary of Barasti, not to mention Carrefour: I negotiate obstacles like a Frenchman parkouring his way across the urban landscape for bread and milk (albeit with less finesse).

This isn’t to say my view is reflective of the majority. People look at me with an expression of mild pity, boredom and slight disdain when I raise my concerns. Moving to Dubai and complaining about construction is as irrational as living in Venice with feelings of contempt towards canals. My friend goes as far as stating that she actually finds the rumbling thunder and screaming drone of the construction reassuring. Sleeping in absolute silence freaks her out (apparently she lies awake listening out for minor noises, convinced there’s a serial killer after her). She also believes the perceived inconvenience of the building work will have a positive impact when she comes to renegotiate the lease on her apartment, allowing us more trips to Barasti, if we can get there. Obviously there are short-term solutions: earplugs, for example. Having thought about this, I’ve decided against it (I wouldn’t be able to hear a serial killer if they came to get me).

With the car horns, the air conditioning and the harsh shrill of the food court in Mall of the Emirates, I’ve decided that I should probably lighten up. A life without horns in Dubai would invariably lead to more accidents. Life in the desert without air conditioning is unappealing, and occasionally it’s a psychological necessity to skulk off to a clinically lit food court for a tray of something greasy. As a compromise, when it all gets too much, I think I might just listen to music on my headphones – and leave it to security to ward off murderers.
Pete is assistant guides and supplements editor. Ironically, he is a very noisy person.

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