Monday, April 11, 2011

moonlit flit

We're in our new flat now which is lovely and peaceful in a nice Arabian-style (built three years ago) development which is on the first floor, low enough to hear bird song and everything.  I'm
glad to be here as it's our very own place and we can cook when we want, wash clothes when we want, watch what we want on the (non-existent) TV and so on.  I have nothing against high rise developments but I'm one of those people who when standing on a high-rise balcony, always gets that uncomfortable urge to see what would happen should I throw myself off.  I realise that from 13 floors up, the simple answer is death, but the urge remains nontheless.  It didn't really bother me in our flat in London which was five floors up, but here, where super high-rise is everywhere, the urge was worryingly strong. 

During our flat hunt we looked at flats on the 43rd floor of a block.  They were beautiful, all white and what I imagine Steve Jobs from Apple's home would look like.  We rejected them for several reasons, one of which was the lack of outside space (but then, would, if you have vertigo like me, really want to be outside on the 43rd floor?) and the fact that I worried that I would go steadily crazy in a pure white decor. 

Anyhoo, moving house was demonstrative of facets of UAE/Dubai culture which I shall now bore you with.  A friend of mine who I knew from the UK also moved home a couple of weeks ago and told us that she was in the lobby of her block with all her possessions waiting for the movers when her building's security informed her they wouldn't let her leave unless she provided a letter from her landlord confirming she was moving out.  I can only assume that this is because of a combination of two factors.  First, the Dubai passionate love affair with officialdom.  Stamping forms and copies of documents that they don't actually bother reading the contents of and stapling copies of your passport, photos and visa to them is an obsession here.  It is like catnip to them.  They love it and go into some form of trance while they do it and they seem to have to do it for everything, getting a mobile phone, getting your electricity and water connected, getting a liquor licence, driving licence, and so on.  Second, perhaps it's a relic of the time of the financial crash when a lot of previously prosperous ex-pats lost their jobs and found they could not afford their hugely over-inflated mortgages, rent and car payments and quickly got on planes home leaving their debts behind them on a gold encrusted, brunch munching cloud.

I snorted with laughter at the idea that the security at our old block would do anything other than vaguely look up from whatever international call home they were making when we trotted past with our luggage.  But oh, how wrong I was.  There is an overlap between the tenancies on this place and our own place, so we casually moved our stuff out over a period of days going back and forth with the two big two suitcases we bought to transport our stuff with the UK.

Not once did they bat an eyelid until the Sand Warlock appeared in the hallway with two moving men and furniture, including a bed frame, mattress, dining table and chairs, coffee table and desk (the sum total of furniture we own at the moment). 

The receptionist that we have fondly referred to as monobrow asked the Warlock if we were moving out.  "Why yes," he replied, "either that or I am going on some form of holiday which requires the customer to take along their own furniture which doesn't sound like much of a holiday to me." 

Not, one, not two, not three but four security guards did she summon to make sure the Warlock didn't pick up his double bed and struggle off speedily into the glaring sun with it before she could involve him in some officialdom.  Without actually bothering to ask which of the 130 flats in the building he had been living in, she demanded his mobile number and a copy of his new tenancy agreement.

I got a bit pissy about this, as many of you know I can do on occasion, saying:  "What's the point in that?  It's none of their business where we're moving to and we've paid the rent and all she has to do is ring the landord to confirm this but she doesn't even know which flat we are in and does she really think if we were planning to leg it without paying the rent we would do it by the front door in full view of security carrying all our luggage and furniture?" 

The Sand Warlock summoned the oft-repeated phrase: "It's just Dubai" to soothe my shattered nerves which had been somewhat frayed by moving our possessions in 39 degree heat in a car that had been left out all day in aforesaid 39 degree heat. 

I was tempted, being somewhat bloody minded, to not bother going back with said tenancy agreement just to see if they would actually bother do anything if you failed to provide yet another time wasting piece of paper to be stamped, ticked off and filed in the bin.  But, misunderstandings about intentions can occasionally land you in jail in Dubai so it's not really worth the risk of not handing in your piece of paper.

So here we are, contented in our new home which has a small, windowless spare room for visitors should any of you have the urge to drop by.  We can't afford any more furniture at the moment because paying a 5,000AED deposit and nearly as much in commission to the estate agent (yes, it is the tenant that pays that here, joy of joys) has pretty much cleaned us out.  So you would be wise to wait a few months and then until October when the worst of the summer heat will be over.

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