Published in Al Huda Magazine
One stormy night, as my husband and I, in deep conversation, contemplated the future, an idea was born. We explored the possibility of relocating overseas, for a short period, to experience life in another country. Four months later, our home was packed away in storage and we were on a plane, headed to Dubai, the city of dreams, with no jobs, but a lot of hope.
The first two months proved to be challenging, in that my husband and I found ourselves suddenly having to fend for ourselves, away from the nests of our parents’ home. Finding a job turned out to be easy, Alhamdulillah. I soon landed a teaching post, providing English language instruction to adults. Every day was an adventure, from learning the roads to buying groceries, and even carrying out household chores. From the community I come from, simple acts like making the bed or mopping the floor are usually delegated to others, so I relished the opportunity to learn how to be truly independent. Schooling adults allowed me to make many new friends, and being immersed in teaching and learning languages; which is one of my passions, was very satisfying.
From Dubai we were afforded the opportunity to travel throughout the Middle East and some parts of Asia. Travel has always been one of our passions, and to be able to accomplish what we did in one and a half years, I will always be grateful to the Almighty.
As I mentioned before, I grew up in a rather sheltered environment and being exposed to the good and bad of the real world out there has been invaluable. Dubai, with its complex social strata is made up of the poorest of the poor from the most downtrodden countries, who come to work as builders, domestic helpers and drivers; as well the super wealthy from around the world, who come to enjoy the lifestyle which Dubai can provide. Meeting people across the board, of all colours and nationalities has been very personally rewarding. The world really is a huge place, and people have so much to offer of their knowledge and experience. I relished the freedom that Dubai offered, in terms of safety. Being able to drive far and wide without me or my husband worrying, no matter how late at night, and being able to go anywhere, without fear, are feelings I will definitely miss! Of course, like any place, Dubai is riddled with challenges and problems, like exploitation. The poverty is different from that of South Africa, but as startling, and I constantly questioned if I could live in the midst of such man made desperation. That said, I feel I made the best of the place, and thoroughly enjoyed all the good it had to offer.
Islam has many faces in Dubai, and all Muslims, no matter their affiliation are welcome as long as they do not upset the political stability of the country. I was able to pray at any masjid, adopt hijab in any fashion, and eat halal food everywhere. I much enjoyed these benefits, but still felt a void, where community spirit should have been. In that respect, I am happy to be home, where I can and will Inshallah, be involved in a number of community initiatives, uplifting the lives of those less fortunate.
As a couple, living abroad was one of the best decisions we could have made. My husband and I learnt not only to become independent, but also interdependent. Our decision to move back to South Africa, as the global recessions caught a firm grip in Dubai and as we realized that our long term goals of contributing socially and politically to society were not being met, has brought us to a crossroads, where we now need to decide the way forward, either here or abroad, and I am confident that as a couple, we have learnt, on our yearlong sojourn, to face that path together.
I believe that I have returned enlightened, Inshallah. I am no longer trapped in the web of small mindedness that ensnares our community. I have put racism, sectarianism and classism behind me, and I am ready to embrace the world, in all it colours and manifestations. I have seen a bigger world, and I hope to show that world to the people around me.