I went to Dubai in 1993 and stayed there for four years. I went to find myself and ending up losing myself!
Although Dubai was a shadow of what it has become, the same basic qualities where in place: A small local population, a majority expatriate population, joined together in the pursuit of wealth. There was only one bookshop, one english speaking theatre I think, and not much to do except drive out into the dunes. Then as now there was little respect for human rights, no democracy and vast inequalities of wealth, it was and is a capitalist’s heaven. Yet, in the 4 years I was there , I met a greater number of spiritually wise people than anywhere else. I am not talking about “spiritual teachers” either, but people like Mohydin who was in charge of a group of Indians at the first Architectural practice I worked, or a young man I shared a Taxi with once between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, or the Manager of a Contracting firm I had dealings with, even the then Minister of the Economy. All people who somehow had an air of wisdom about them that I have not encountered elsewhere. Even the man who became my best friend, a dynamic and talented businessman, possessed a spiritual wisdom and qualities of perception that I have not found among the friends I have made since.
Of course all this is not discernible to the casual visitor, and in Dubai everyone is a visitor, or to those whose path does not take them beyond the malls and nightclubs, but it is there. In the building sites, the taxis, the boardrooms, a product of the great mix of people and energy that has built a city of 4 million people in just a few decades. So after leaving Dubai and living in Europe again for almost 17 years, what I miss is not its financial allure, but the depth of its spirituality.