In New York, where I’m from, tap water is given out at restaurants willy-nilly. I’ve never been more grateful of that fact as I am now that I live in Dubai. I have tried to order tap water in restaurants here, but invariably the waiter refuses me.
‘The water’s not nice,’ they tell me. Well, it may not be nice, but it’s free, and I’ve yet to grow a third eye or develop a liver condition from drinking it at home, so I really don’t see what the problem is.
But the worst part isn’t that free tap water is unavailable, it’s that in many instances the only water that is available costs Dhs35 a pop. It used to be that only upscale restaurants served the likes of Voss and Aqua Panna, places like Rhodes Mezzanine and Reflets, where you expect to pay through the nose. But lately, nearly every restaurant in town has got in on the act. Otherwise cheap curry houses are now slyly trying to push the stuff on me, as if there’s nothing objectionable or unusual about paying more for water than I would for the actual food.
This behaviour is questionable in the best of circumstances, but in Dubai, where temperatures crawl up towards 50C, it is nothing short of extortion. I doubt even the mafia would be so callous as to inflict such an exorbitant surcharge on a necessity in the middle of a recession.
I’ve also noticed restaurants upping the price of regular water brands to compete with Voss. A plastic bottle full of Evian the other day came to Dhs28, a sum that didn’t register until I got the bill, because it’s easy to forget to calculate the price of water, especially when you show up at a restaurant completely parched from a short jaunt in the heat.
Really folks, what’s wrong with my good ol’ reliable Masafi ? I’m so sick of paying such a ludicrous amount of money for a resource that should be free. What’s next? Next season are the cafés going to start charging for the air we breathe? Claiming they had to ship it in from Siberia to ensure its pristine quality?
Enough of this. It’s time for those of us who depend on water as our lifeblood (yeah, that would be everyone) to make a stand. From now on I’m going to bring my own water with me out to eat. I may have to contend with the sneers of the waiting staff and the upturned noses of the few diners left with enough money not to care if they look pretentious. The rest of us can book a table together, sipping from mega-sized bottles of Masafi ’s and canteens full of tap water. Cheers!