I arrive in Dubai. The next day I hook up with my Emirati friends that I met during my previous trip. We meet on Jumeirah, the large artery that runs along the sea and where people drive to watch and be watched on weekends (Friday to Saturday). The appointment is set in a mall. Alaawi and Hamdam arrive one hour late (“we don’t really have a sense of schedule here”) in Hamdam’s lifted Jeep; efficient for being noticed.
One Thousand and One Nights
First, we head to the barbershop; Alaawi shows me his three-day stubble and explains that you just can’t mess around. Alaawi, who is a Juve fan, comes out with an Arturo Vidal haircut. Hamdam, sticking to basics, comes out with a layered-cut beard after a full steam facial. As for me, an Albanian-style haircut.
We go back in the Jeep. The huge UAE flag, hung up for the national holiday, slaps me in the face when we’re going too fast, but luckily it ‘s time to cruise at 10 miles an hour like in the streets of Crenshaw. The radio is at full volume, the bass is saturated, and on arrival at the waterfront (crucial moment for flirting), ads begin playing on the radio. Both burst out laughing (sour) and decide to go buy a national music CD: girls dig it.
We arrive at the shop. Alaawi curses at first because the CD now costs 100 dirhams (20 euros), and then because Qataris cut across our way at the parking lot exit: “They’re less educated than us and take themselves for the kings of the world…” I ask them to go to Dubai Mall (the largest of the United Arab Emirates) because I want to take pictures of the Sheikhs’ cars, because over there, like at the Costes, they park the most beautiful ones in front.
Along the way, Alaawi takes out his secret weapon: when we reach the height of a car full of girls (who are cruising along either as a family or in a group of girlfriends), he takes out his phone, the size of an iPad, on which he has written “Marry me.” If the girl laughs, he then writes his phone number and waits for it to ring. It often works. I find him more timid than last time. He explains to me that he’s afraid of bumping into his girlfriend’s girlfriends: the whole country is out for the first night of a four-day weekend. Then I remember that he was to be married to his Saudi cousin this summer. I congratulate him, but immediately he tells me: “my girlfriend, not my wife.”
At the Dubai Mall, two Bugattis Veyron are parked side by side, I mess up the picture because Hamdam is driving like a madman. We get flashed by a speed camera. Hamdam says he’ll cry later, on the way back. We come across a car of girls who seem wilder than the rest. We engage in conversation. One of the girls explains that she’s from London, I’m about to put into gear my three years spent there (all of this from car to car on a highway…) but Hamdam accelerates. “What the fuck dude?” They tell me that they’re liars, that they’re Indian. And yet they were cute, but I think they’re not big fans of Indians. We finally stop to eat a burger. Hamdam nervously tries to make some phone calls. Alaawi explains to me that the night before, his cousin had slept with Hamdam’s girlfriend (“not his wife”). They had broken up two days earlier, but Hamdam, even if he was playing it cool, was clearly upset…
We set off again. We get stopped by the cops because the car is obviously unregistered. Hamdam, who works in the army, shows his card and everything is quickly straightened out. On the way to the hotel, we cross a Range Rover plated “C.4” in Dubai and Alaawi tells me that, given the code and the number, it must be someone big. Apparently someone in Abu Dhabi would have paid 32 million dirhams (7.4 million euros) for the plate “A. 5.”