Fear and loathing in Dubai?

Penelope Walsh realises the city’s no more scary than a zombie Katy

The Knowledge

Ahead of Halloween, Penelope Walsh realises the city’s no more scary than a zombie Katy.

This week, the big social event in Dubai is Halloween, taking place on Friday October 31. According to age-old legend, it is the night when ghouls and goblins are let lose and run amok. Today, the scariest thing about Halloween is probably the very real prospect of finding your otherwise fairly reasonable friends suddenly using ‘scantily clad’ and/or ‘zombie’ as prefixes for pretty much any costume idea they can come up with. Pirate, lollipop lady, ninja, Angela Merkel: you name it, and someone, somewhere, has probably given it an undead and/or undressed makeover for Halloween.

Rationally, we know there is no real fear of being traumatised by unruly spirits on Friday night. So instead, we let out all of our irrational craziness in one fell swoop, by running amok for the night in a frenzy of wigs, fake blood and lycra (or in my case, six metres of police caution tape). And a lot of fun it is too.

Halloween has got me thinking though, beyond the monsters that scare us as little children, how much do we really have left to be scared of, as adults, in Dubai? Of course, some of us have personal phobias that do not shift, even when our location and the sands of time do. Ironically for a tall person, my own nausea-inducing phobia is vertigo. You will never catch me skydiving, bungee jumping or even standing particularly close to the windows in the Burj Khalifa.

Vertigo aside, what else is there to be really scared of in Dubai? I would argue that in comparison to the lives I have lived elsewhere (London, for example), Dubai is infinitely less scary on a day-to-day basis. I appreciate that we all have very different life experiences in Dubai, and you may not share my thoughts on this. Perhaps you once tried to cross Sheikh Zayed Road on foot. In which case you are in fact leading a hair-raising life in the city.

However, it has just dawned on me that the day-to-day experiences that cause real, rational, adult fear, are largely not applicable to life in Dubai. No more disruptions on the Tube, because the copper piping between Bermondsey and Canada Water has been stolen. Again. And no more pretending you don’t have whatever it is the crazy person at the bus stop is asking for – a pound, a lighter, the time. No more sitting as close to the driver as possible on a 4am night bus home, while the ‘yoofs’ raise hell on the top deck. No more clutching your handbag to your chest like a newborn on a packed train. No more hiding your wallet in your socks when walking down certain dark and quite creepy alleyways on the way home. Most of us are living a sort of Brave New World of social safety here.

I’ve knocked on wood and thrown salt over my shoulder as I write, to avoid tempting fate, because superstition is perhaps the adult equivalent of the boogeyman. So this Halloween, let’s dress up as something genuinely frightening, yet equally mythological in Dubai.

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