With a week off and a ticket to Dubai in hand, Hassan Hassan was prepared for the vacation he felt he deserved. What could go wrong? Everything.
Spring break is my favourite time of year. Since January, I have talked to everyone about how we get two weeks off but it will only be like five days in our vacation balance-timeline-sheet-whatever. It serves as the best time of year to get a base tan. A time when wearing nothing but shorts and drinking for a week is completely acceptable behavior. It’s my favourite holiday because I’m all about Sinai Liberation Day and Labour Day and whatever the fuck else Egyptians find the need to celebrate (I say this with love and admiration for my people. One of the few things keeping me in this country is the abundance of days off. Sure we won some war on that day, but is it a long weekend or does it fall in the middle of the week? A3mel bridge waro7 El Gouna?) It’s fucking amazing.
Now it’s been since like Christmas that I haven’t relaxed. It was literally ages since there was a surprise holiday in the middle of the week/I had taken a sick day. I had to do this right. Should I follow the masses to Gouna? Never. Should I rough it in Sinai and repeat last year’s stubbed toe/being shot by a Bedouin (the lighter exploded, but it sounded like a gun)? No. I definitely need a bathroom this year. What else? I would get out of Egypt, but funds and friends were preventative. Not to mention visas. After feverish conversations with best-friend-that-lives-in-Dubai, it was concluded that I would go to Dubai for a week. I would shop, I would drink and I would be merry. Most importantly I would be tanned. Come hell or high water, I would be tanned.
I booked my flight, applied for the visa, got the visa, told best-friend-that-lives-in-Dubai to prepare the apartment and we discussed who would buy the alcohol (“Don’t get Bailey’s, mad calories”). It was all set. I was travelling on the Wednesday before spring break because it was a LE600 difference in the ticket and I thought of all of the things I would be able to buy in Topman (a t-shirt). The Tuesday before leaving started with a meeting in Smart Village, picking up a cheque in Zamalek, cashing said cheque in Agouza and then running to six different currency exchange places before I had to settle for buying $200 from the ba2al by my house. I also taught a class at The Fashion Studio, packed and did everything I could to ensure that the following two weeks would be stress free.
At around 11pm, I was patting myself on the back for doing everything without yelling at anyone or having a breakdown. I was proper chuffed and smiling smugly as I got ready for bed and flipped open my laptop to send a few work emails and schedule a few things. My laptop decided it had enough of me, didn’t feel like travelling and crashed. Like, Windows-is-over-your-bullshit-and-isn’t-doing-this-anymore crashed. Then I panicked. Then I passed out and woke up at 7am when my flight was at 9:25. I did a mad dash for a cab and was in the street at 7:15. I would make it from Zamalek to the Airport in 15 minutes easy. I didn’t.
I ran breathless into the airport at 8:55am and it was deserted. Not a soul in sight. There wasn’t even an LCD screen with Dubai on it. So I paid LE900 for the 10:30pm flight and hauled ass back to the city trying not to cry that I was still in Egypt. The cab driver was twitching because the conversation he was having with himself was getting intense. He was also listening to an instrumental tape, so the tinny instrumentals of The Police’s Every Breath You Take and Abba’s Thank You For The Music were making me twitch as well. I went to office, fixed my laptop, lost all of the information on it and went home to nap/kill myself. Unfortunately, the school in front of my house was holding its annual end of year celebrations, which naturally involved Nancy Ajram’s ShaterShater and, my favourite jam, Ana Spongebob no less than ten times each. I had no choice but to order Xanax.
I made sure to leave my house at 6pm to get to the airport by 8:30pm (I got there by 8:45), hightailed it through airport security, found the bar and then found myself alone with three seats at the back of the plane. Things were taking a turn for the better. I slept in the fetal position on all three chairs and was somehow in Dubai at 4am. At which time best-friend-that-lives-in Dubai was very inebriated excited to see me. We woke up at 11am the next day and immediately hit the beach and I spent the entire day drinking tequila and pretending I was in St. Tropez. I would be tanned! The weather was amazing! Just look at this picture!
Then this happened:
I had managed to transport doom and gloom for a week to the fucking desert. It rained consistently. But it was still hot? Did I go to London? DID I!?!?! AMAZING!! No, no, still Dubai. But it was silent. It was calm. I could order things in – albeit slow and clipped – English and people understood me. No sun? Go to the tanning salon around the corner. Here’s the view from the 69th floor apartment I was staying in:
Also, the internet was first world standard. The Voice loaded in the time it took to make a cup of coffee. Things were clean. Nobody is as nice and efficient as a Filipino telling you ‘Hello Ma’amsir’. I wasn’t annoyed for the longest time. Despite the rain, I could wear what I wanted and no one really stared at me or gave me attitude (except for one Russian in Marc Jacobs, who I would have punched if it wasn’t for the Bloody Mary I had for breakfast. She wasn’t even hot, so I don’t know why she thought her attitude was justified) and I was super chill.
Surprised by my pleasantness, my friends decided this should be my permanent frame of mind, thus Dubai should be my place of residence. Why didn’t I just move there and get it over with? It was close, it was fun, basically all of my friends had moved there after university. I could get a job and an apartment on the 69th floor. I would be able to go to dinners in places with themes likes bulls and have fantastic flatbread and drink Argentinian wine and everyone would call me sir in an accent. I could carry on with the rest of my life not all that annoyed. I didn’t have to be irritated.
The truth was I wasn’t irritated because there was nothing to feel. Everything was almost perfect. Not quite because you had to walk for a mile to get a cab when you’re leaving the mall. Also, the malls kept giving me panic attacks. It was super overwhelming and I had a moment with a hangover in the Topman dressing room and ended up buying white pants like that was okay. Then there was the other time I ate four doughnuts in a row and then went home because who does that before trying clothes on? So I don’t know if I’d be a good person in Dubai. Also how does everyone stay thin with all that food? And everyone is thin. And everyone is put together to a standard I could never even want to achieve. Slicked back ponytails and shorts and toned legs and serious accessories at 1pm. And that’s just the men. Going out for lunch. Relax.
Despite the super-fast internet and the doughnuts and the southern fried chicken and the lack of annoyance, I am forever frayed around the edges. I only know how to function when I am missing flights or yelling at a cab driver. You don’t feel anything in Dubai. You keep running around the mall trying to find something that will make you feel anything. A pair of shoes, a Marc Jacobs messenger bag or someone that gets the joke you’ve been making all day. I don’t know if it is Cairo that ruined me or if I couldn’t make a connection to Dubai. But you feel nothing. Not one thing. You’re not annoyed because you’re not happy. You’re doing stuff, but you’re just not feeling it. Maybe it’s because I’m used to feeling too much. Maybe I’m just stupid. I don’t know what the fuck my point is; maybe it’s just because everyone had a flat stomach. Who the fuck cares? Missing my flight was just a really funny story that I wanted to share.