Working on a public holiday in Dubai

Penelope Walsh finds a zen-like peace at work while others play

The Knowledge

Penelope Walsh learns Jack may be a dull boy, but the office is a great place during Eid.

As I write this, I’ll warrant you’re currently laying on the sand, sleepily basking in the desert sun. Perhaps you’ll follow tanning-time by sipping sundowners on a school night, or stuffing yourself silly at a sushi buffet. But not this tannophobic, quasi-Celtic chick. I’m indoors, in the air-con, where I belong, working on maintaining my Marilyn Manson pallor, at my desk, while working on a public holiday.

Don’t cringe, don’t make puppy dog eyes of sympathy. Today, I’ve learnt that popping into the office for an hour or two, while the rest of Dubai is on R&R, is not nearly as bad as you might fear. That’s because, on my way into the office, I’ve experienced a wonderfully un-Dubai peace and calm.

My first Eid gift of the day was to find a taxi lying patiently in wait for a passenger the second I stepped out of my house. No need for the usual tactics of pure desperation, tinged with cunning in a bid to fight off the hoards of other office workers waiting for a lift. It’s normally survival-of-the-fittest on the means streets of the Marina each weekday morning, with a display that might make you question my very humanity. But not today. Instead, the driver ushered me into the cab eagerly, greeted me with a friendly ‘Eid Mubarak’ and then showered me with sympathy during the journey when he realised I was heading to work. As we soared through streets normally backed-up to your eyeballs with traffic, the sympathy didn’t really seem necessary.

Reaching my desk on Eid to join a paired-down team of colleagues, (also putting in an appearance to finalise the dotting of Is and crossing of Ts in the magazine in your hands) the office was dramatically reduced to the soft and happy hum of a colleague’s stereo.

True, there were no sandwiches in the canteen, and instead of drawing love hearts and fern leaves on our lattes, Time Out’s favourite barista was day-tripping in Abu Dhabi. But then heading out to hunt down some sustenance was also infinitely more pleasant. There were no queues, no hunt for a table and service was faster than the lifts in the Burj Khalifa.

The phone didn’t ring, not once, and the usual hounding from email notifications and calendar reminders had ceased to a level of serenity that was as beautifully empty as my inbox. And any emails I sent were met with only two responses: ‘out of office’ or ‘Eid Mubarak!’ Only the intermittent ping of friends asking where I was, and tempting me to join their ladies’ night plans disturbed me. It’s incredible how many words you can compile, in record timing, under those blissful conditions.

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