This week, feast on a slice of life that makes for all the drama going on behind the veils of Dubai’s ‘Desperates’…
Desperate in Dubai: Oozing with men, money, and Maseratis, Dubai is the ultimate playground for the woman who knows her Louboutins from her Louis Vuittons. But for some, there’s a lot more at stake than a Hermes Birkin. Leila has been in search of a wealthy husband for over a decade. Nadia moves to Dubai to support her husband’s career, only to have her sacrifices thrown in her face. Sugar escapes the UK in an attempt to escape her past. Lady Luxe, the rebellious Emirati heiress, scoffs at everything her culture holds sacred. Until the day her double life starts unravelling at the seams.
Set against a backdrop of luxury hotels and manmade islands, Desperate in Dubai by Ameera Al Hakawati tells the tale of four women as they struggle to find truth, love, and themselves. Here is an extract…
Lady Luxe doesn’t mean to play mind games, but for some reason she just can’t help it. From a young age, every word she has uttered has held an underlying meaning—whether it’s negotiating for a new car, pleading for a new vacation, or asking for a credit card with a higher limit—she has always had to choose her words carefully to ensure the response she wants. Now, at twenty-three, it’s not just her father or her brothers she tests her verbal skills on. Every man (or boy) that comes in contact with Lady Luxe never quite knows where he stands, what she wants, or what she’s thinking. Most of the time, that’s exactly how she likes it, but occasionally she wishes that a guy would just read her mind and give her what her subconscious desperately wants: a stable, uncomplicated marriage. No cultural issues, no second wives, just love. But everyone knows that such a thing doesn’t exist. Not in an Emirati girl’s life at least.
‘Um, I hope so,’ he replies, his disappointment obvious.
She takes in his sandy blonde hair and dark brown eyes with appreciation, but then looks away. She’s not in the mood to continue playing with him no matter how attractive he is. It’s not worth the risk. No matter what she does in London—the bars she visits, the clubs she stumbles out of at dawn, the men whose bedrooms she finds herself in when the cold British sun seeps its way in through the cracks in the curtains—in Dubai, she is Lady Luxe, and with a surname like that, she just can’t afford to let her secret adventures become public.
She doesn’t care about tarnishing her reputation and becoming unmarriageable. However, what she does care about is risking her life. Honour killings may not make the headlines, or even trickle into community gossip, but after what happened to her cousin, she knows better than to flaunt her escapades. So in Dubai she continues her good girl façade when she has to, and when the cat’s away (in her case, her father) she plays. Hard.
It wasn’t easy for Lady Luxe to persuade her father to allow her to study Fashion at the Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, one of Britain’s most revered art institutions. It took her most of her life to make him accept that she wasn’t interested in business administration, and then a full year of cajoling, pleading, crying, arguing, and hypothesizing to make him agree to her studying abroad. Eventually both her mother and uncle had to step in, explaining to her father the importance of her learning about her full heritage, of spending time with her mother, the importance of studying at a prestigious, historic college rather than an unknown Dubai establishment, as well as the benefits of learning how to be independent.
Lady Luxe’s father was right to be concerned.
For three and a half years, his beloved daughter did everything she had only ever dreamed of doing, and more. Never particularly religious, God-fearing, or traditional, she utilized every minute of her freedom as if it were her last, knowing that eventually the time would come to an end and she would have to return home and continue living an unfulfilled double life.
‘Well, I would kind of like it if you would show me around,’ the Brit says hesitantly, the nervousness clear in his eyes.
‘Would you now?’ Lady Luxe replies, surprised. She had underestimated him. Against her better judgement, she pulls out a Mont Blanc pen, reaches over and takes hold of his hand. He freezes and she can sense that he has stopped breathing. She grins to herself. ‘Here you go. That’s my number. Call me if you need any help,’ she says, scribbling down her second phone number—the one that serves one very clear purpose—on the back of his hand.
‘Thanks. I will,’ he replies, staring down at the number as if he is afraid it will disappear before he has a chance to commit it to memory.
As the captain announces the descent into DXB, Lady Luxe untangles her folded legs and hauls herself off her seat. Ignoring the Brit’s bemused gaze, she scrapes her hair into a ponytail, rearranges her fringe and attaches a big, pink flower clip to the back of her head. Retrieving her Swarovski crystal encrusted abaya from the stewardess, she slips it on and loosely places her sheyla back on her head.
‘Bloody hell,’ the Brit chuckles, watching her in amazement. ‘You look completely different!’
‘That’s the point,’ she answers, sitting back down, this time folding her legs delicately, her gold Jimmy Choos peeping out from beneath the abaya’s long hem. She looks across the cabin and sees a pretty girl with silky black hair perform the exact same ritual she has just completed. Their eyes connect and they smile wryly at
Alighting from the plane, Lady Luxe says a quick, halal goodbye to the Brit, grabs her luggage that has been prioritized to come out first, and heads out into the humid Dubai night. The airport is freezing cold but the weather outside, despite it being the middle of January, is pleasant enough for light sweaters. Only in Dubai do you wear your jacket indoors and remove
Enjoying the warm breeze and the familiar smell of petrol by the taxi stand, she looks around for the chauffeur driven white Bentley Continental that usually picks her up from the airport. Instead, all she sees are the beige taxis waiting to pick up naïve passengers who are unaware that riding a taxi in Dubai is tantamount to suicide.
‘Need a lift?’ The Brit is back lugging a large, new suitcase, beads of sweat appearing on his forehead as he is confronted with the warm winter’s night; his thick woollen polo neck and leather jacket completely inappropriate for Dubai’s stuffy climate.
‘Thanks, but I’m expecting someone,’ she says,
edging away from him and looking around quickly, hoping no one will notice the Emirati girl conversing with the foreign boy.
‘A boyfriend?’ he asks tentatively, taking off his jacket and slinging it over his suitcase.
‘No. My driver,’ she laughs, relaxing upon realizing that no one is looking in her direction.
‘You have a driver? As in, a chauffeur?’ he asks incredulously.
‘A bit precious don’t you think?’ He looks into Lady Luxe’s hazel eyes, amused as they narrow in annoyance.
‘You’ll understand in a couple of months,’ she says, a little peeved at his impertinence. ‘Anyway, shouldn’t you be catching a taxi?’
‘Are you trying to get rid of me? Fine, I can take a hint. It’s been a pleasure.’ Giving her no time to react, the Brit leans forward, pecks Lady Luxe on the cheek and walks away.
Shit. She looks around, ignoring the disapprov-ing gaze of the security guard, her heart pounding as she prays that her eyes don’t fall on anything white, be it a candoura, guttra, or worse, her car.
Then she sees it. A hundred metres away, a white Bentley is waiting for her. Her heart thudding against her ribcage, she waits for the driver to step out and walk over to her, praying he did not see her with the Brit.
‘Hi Mahboob,’ Lady Luxe greets the Pakistani driver with a shaky smile as he hops out of the car and relieves her of her Louis Vuitton luggage.
‘Salaam,’ he replies abruptly, loading her bags into the car.
Without waiting for him to open the door for her, she yanks it open and sinks into the plush red leather seats. She wonders if she should say anything to him, implore him not to mention anything to her father or brother, or if she should pretend that nothing happened in case he hadn’t actually seen anything. She opts for silence.
Mahboob skillfully manoeuvres his way through the lanes of traffic, over Garhoud Bridge and into Jumeirah—one of the most exclusive areas in Dubai, where only the nationals are at liberty to own property. Lady Luxe stares blankly out of the tinted windows at the blur of mismatched villas as they make their way to her sea-facing villa. It’s only when she feels the wetness on her cheeks does she realize that she has been crying.
‘Miss X, we are here,’ Mahboob states the obvious as the gates of the villa glide open and he drives around the fountain and into the garage lined with a fleet of glistening luxury cars. He opens the door and sees the tears rolling down Lady Luxe’s face.
‘What’s wrong, beta?’ he asks kindly, handing her a tissue, which she accepts gratefully.
‘Nothing, I’m fine.’ Embarrassed, she climbs out of the car and rearranges her sheyla so that it sits perfectly over her head.
Mahboob opens his mouth to say something and then closes it.
‘What?’ Lady Luxe asks, walking over to the huge Berber style front door and looking back at him, ‘I said I’m fine.’
‘I…’ He looks at her, his eyes filled with concern. ‘I didn’t see anything, okay?’
Lady Luxe says nothing, but thanks God silently for saving her…once again. Although she knows there will come a day when He will stop. And when that day comes, she doubts if she will be ready.
Ameera Al Hakawati, the enigmatic author of Desperate in Dubai, has always known that she was born to be a writer. A natural storyteller, her career began at age three, when she told her very first story to her mother that explained the ‘truth’ behind the missing chocolate biscuits.
Numerous writing projects and a creative writing degree later, the twenty-something year old Ameera moved to Dubai from London. Inspired by the fascinating lives of the women who dominated the glamorous city, she put pen to paper and created Desperate in Dubai, a blog that soon became an internet sensation among the expatriate community in Dubai.
Desperate in Dubai is Ameera’s first novel published by Random House India and available in book stores at Rs. 299. Join in the fun at http://tinyurl.com/3w5cvrf and buy the book from http://tinyurl.com/3brhxs7