People watching in Dubai

Time Out's resident people watcher shares his tales

Last word, The Knowledge

Big Brother might not be looking at you – but Will Milner is.

I will always remember the day I watched a one-armed man haggling over the price of gloves in Ski Dubai.

It was the most fascinating thing I have seen in my life.

After a minute of unsuccessful bartering – he wanted to pay half price – the gentleman turned on his heel, said to me ‘I only do it to see the look on their faces’, and walked away, gloves in hand.

Nor do I think I’ll forget my first ever trip to the Burj Khalifa. Obviously I had seen the building’s construction over the course of a few years, so I had a general idea of its towering enormity. But standing at the foot of the building and staring up I have to admit to a momentary feeling of awe at the scale of the operation.

What most sticks in my memory, however, is a nearby observer who had the strangest case of hiccups I have heard. Each spasm that erupted from his mouth was accompanied with a high-pitched yelp.

Like, I imagine, the sound a sleeping cat would make if you dropped your phone on its head. I couldn’t avert my eyes and in the end had to ask if everything was OK.

The afflicted fellow cheerily explained to me that this was just how he had always hiccupped and he would be fine in a minute or two. We chatted about the Burj Khalifa for a moment – eventually agreeing that it was indeed very tall – until his female companion arrived and addressed him with such ferocity that I was taken aback. There was a muttered explanation that she had told him not to get the big bottle of cola and was cross about the (frankly ridiculous) hiccups and off they went.

How about the time I observed a man who fell asleep on a moving bicycle. Or a woman trying to fashion a pair of flip-flops out of a bucket and spade to avoid burning her feet on the scolding hot sand of the beach? Or a spectacular toy shop tantrum that ended with a doll’s head, literally, being bitten off and spat on the floor.

You’ll never hear me complain of being bored. There is just too much too see here in Dubai. Yes there are the attractions – the beach, the ski slope, the malls or the massive skyscrapers would be decent places to look for fun – but even more there are the people.

I’ve never known a place where simply standing still and watching fellow man could give such varied and unpredictable entertainment.

Next time you are out in the city, stop and look around a little – you never know what you’re going to see next.

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