Living with bad neighbours in Dubai

Holly Sands hardens up and takes her noisy neighbours on at their own game

Last word, The Knowledge

Fed up with inconsiderate neighbours, Holly Sands decides to tackle them head-on.

While the smell of frying onions might be appetising when you’re ravenously awaiting your evening feed, being awoken by wafts of such fatty aromas at barely 7am is far from pleasant – particularly when it happens daily. The scent of my neighbours’ early morning culinary activities has replaced my alarm clock, setting my nostrils twitching and my stomach churning before I’m even out of bed. It may seem like a small nuisance, but it’s actually the latest in a long line of niggling irritations that have now set me one incident away from hammering on their door to deliver a screaming psychotic outburst.

Neighbour rage is nothing new to Dubai. In fact, it’s probably more prevalent here than most other places you’ve lived. Apartment blocks mean you not only have to contend with such clichés as Fighting Couple on one side and Smokes-A-Lot on the other, but also DanceMat Devotees upstairs and Holds House Parties on Tuesdays below. If you’re really unlucky, you might live near Can’t Operate A Toaster, who is so challenged in the culinary stakes that even heating bread is a skill too far, and so your home is flooded daily with the acrid scent of burning. You might share a wall with Ultimate DIY, whose favourite thing to do is put up some shelves, and then some more shelves. Ultimate DIY is typically nocturnal.

Then there are the types who treat the corridors as though they’re an extension of their own homes, sending screeching kids out to play in lobbies and stairwells (Put them outside! We have a playground!) and having loud, shouty phone calls outside my front door (Pipe down! This is satellite technology, not plastic cups and string!). I have quickly learnt that asking politely for the noise level to be reduced is futile, so I have to play the game – and a very loud, sharp slam of my front door will do the trick. If you can’t beat them, you’re not trying hard enough.

But there are some definite upsides to neighbours here. Last week, I accidentally left my keys in the front door. Despite hanging there for half a day, not a single thing was stolen – I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t be so lucky in my old ’hood in London.

The month before, while hanging out alone at the pool, a group of people from my block drew me into their conversation and invited me to a party at their apartment later that night, and then went around to extend the invitation to the rest of our neighbours. It reminded me how friendly and trusting my community is – and there aren’t many big cities with such a small town spirit.

Maybe it’s time to cut them some slack. Well, all except Only Eats Onions. I hope he likes the smell of the dead fish I’ve been stuffing under his doormat. It’s on.

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