In a city of undiscovered singing stars, Holly Sands wishes she could be less inhibited.
Inhibition has no place in Dubai. We live in an all-singing, all-dancing city – literally. People seem constantly on the brink of bursting into song, whether they’re making a coffee in the office canteen, queuing to pay for clothes in the mall or lying on the beach in Jumeirah. I once found myself in a nail salon where the entire place erupted without warning, and I became the reluctant onlooker in a real-life episode of Glee.
It was at the suggestion of a night behind the mic at a popular karaoke night that I realised I’m something of an anomaly in this town’s two million-strong population.
Though I yearn to feel comfortable singing my heart out on the Metro ride home, I’d rather spend my life sitting in traffic in Deira than behave in any kind of extroverted fashion in public. It’s very possibly an uptight British thing (‘Heavens no, I couldn’t possibly hum a tune in the shower – you know how judgemental those know for sure is I want to throw myself out of that very moving vehicle when a fellow passenger starts singing in the car.
But it’s incredibly hard to avoid all these perfectly reasonable demonstrations of cheeriness and self-confidence. You can’t even go for an evening jog without taking a lesson in how not to care what others think. Last week, puffing around the lake near my apartment, I found a man sitting on a rock, soaking up the last few rays of sunset. Only he wasn’t just sitting there, he was cross-legged and mid-chant in what looked like a rather intense meditation. Bemused yet impressed, I also felt a little intimidated by his obvious disregard for what passersby might make of his behaviour.
The very next day, my evening jog again took me past what I was now coming to know as the Mystical Rock of Exhibitionism. Upon it sat another man, this time absolutely rocking out (so to speak) on an acoustic guitar, with nothing but a few myna birds and a wide-eyed stray cat for an audience. Rather than be impressed, this time I had to wonder if he was quite well. Perhaps he was after some public feedback before releasing his debut EP, but I couldn’t help worrying he might be quickly whisked away in an ambulance if anyone else saw him.
Of course, I couldn’t possibly share any such advice with him through actual voice-on-voice action – he might ask me to join in. And with no car to throw myself out of or under, I might have to.