The overused but helpful adage, “all good things must come to an end,” has a dual meaning in this article. My time as an expatriate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) concluded in 2016 after three years of sand, sun, and assimilation. My first (and hopefully not last) East Africa adventure concluded in January 2023 with a layover in said UAE. This brief interlude afforded me a few hours’ time to reacquaint myself with the hospitality, luxury, and cosmopolitan flair that only Dubai can offer (even from the glass-paneled confines of its airport!).

Although I rested well the night before at Jinja Backpackers, I remained utterly exhausted following a week of safari and sightseeing. For a reasonable price of USD40, I reserved a plush sleep pod, one of Dubai International Airport’s (DXB) amenities catered to long-haul passengers. Despite the din above us of babies crying, luggage rolling, and people stomping their trainers against the linoleum floor, those in the pods heard much of nothing except classical music and felt much of nothing except a gentle breeze once our time elapsed. (As I know what to expect of them by now, the architects of the “Dubai experience” think of the details right down to something like a rousing, yet considerate, air current in lieu of an alarm clock.)

Once refreshed after napping, I overloaded my senses with floral perfumes, rich colors, and textured fabrics. If I hadn’t been so tired upon disembarking, strolling DXB’s many designer shops would have been my first order of business. Though I am a self-described shopper, I dared not buy anything; I wanted to maintain the fiscal discipline that inspired a no-frills safari itinerary. UAE does not disappoint, even the fashionphile watching her finances. Immersion in luxury is simply unavoidable in Dubai.

Dubai is a melting pot, not unlike many cities in the United States. Walking past the stores and kiosks in Terminal 3, I heard a plethora of languages coming from people wearing a plethora of garments. During my first visit to UAE in 2011, I was enthralled watching people from all walks of life - some in long robes, some in yoga pants - at Dubai Marina. Different families and nationalities did not mix per se, but they co-existed at least and appreciated each other at best. Observing this snapshot of diversity at the airport (where both Dubai residents and transitory passengers like me were gathered), I once again sensed mutual respect and tolerance.

I could (and may) devote a second MEER series to expat life in UAE. A story about a DXB layover simply does not do justice to the totality of my experience. For those already familiar with parts of my UAE-based story, they know that its apex is adopting my best friend, Manhattan, the cat.

Manhattan and I headed for the city of his namesake seven years prior to my pod power nap. I couldn’t help but compare the two transatlantic journeys as I once again boarded an Emirates Airlines flight headed to JFK International.

In 2016, I was accompanied by both Manhattan and crippling uncertainty, unsure of where Manhattan and I would live and what I wanted to do for work once I resettled in the States. In 2023, I was returning not only to the company of Manhattan and his sister, but to an established career, to a new flat in a new city (Philadelphia), and to the rigors of my first manuscript project.

My East Africa adventure in the books, my first task in Philadelphia: putting my Kenyan Golfing Girl sculpture in a prominent position on my writing desk. My second task: telling everyone and their mother (whether they asked or not!) about the beauty of East Africa and her people … and about the beyond-satisfying snooze I took at DXB.