One day, when I was trawling the internet for previously unknown information about myself* I found a review of a journal in which I had been published. The reviewer summarised my piece thusly: “Tracy Crisp on Dubai”. For a few days after I read that I was somewhat annoyed at the injustice of being reviewed in a somewhat dismissive tone by someone who hadn’t even read the piece closely enough to notice that I live in Abu Dhabi and had not once, in the entire piece, even mentioned Dubai, but what can you do, and life goes on, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be needing therapy to recover from the experience. Call the wah!mbulance and so forth.

While I have recovered from the injustice of it all, I am reminded of that review every time I go to Dubai, because the trip never fails to do my head in, and I find Dubai even more incomprehensible than I find Abu Dhabi (sorry if incomprehensible is an absolute state, of which ‘even more’ isn’t, technically, possible, but if you want to argue the toss about it, I challenge you to come and stay for a while, and I will take you down to Dubai, and then we’ll see what you think).

The distance between our house and the first place you might want to get to in Dubai is about 130 kilometres and the trip takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half depending on who is driving. The drive is mostly along Sheikh Zayed Road, four lanes each way (eight in all).

Sheikh Zayed Road is home to the world’s largest traffic accident. It’s on youtube if you want to see a 200 car pileup. I’m not linking to it. I try not to think too much about the accident side of things because the mister makes the trip a couple of times each week, and it doesn’t do to dwell on things.


So much for SMART goals (achievable, realistic and so on).

The difference between the two cities is simply described as the difference between Canberra and the Gold Coast. Abu Dhabi being Canberra and Dubai being the Gold Coast. If Canberra had more money and the Gold Coast had more steroids. But this doesn’t really do the difference descriptive justice.

I have spent a lot of time trying to think about how I could describe what it is that distinguishes Abu Dhabi from Dubai, but it’s going to take a bit more work. I’m having trouble with it, probably because I’m trying to describe degrees of incomprehension.

For now, all I can really say is this:

it’s not so much that in Abu Dhabi you wouldn’t see the world’s tallest building

an indoor ski field

or go through a gate to get to a mall that traces the steps of Ibn Battuta:

No, no, that hole leads to Atlantis, this is the one that gets you to the lands of Ibn Battuta (sorry):

And it’s not so much that you wouldn’t see a shop that specialises in pink camels

or, erm, these

it’s just that in Abu Dhabi you don’t.


*side conversation had during the composition of this blog post
‘Have you ever googled yourself?’
‘No.’ True and actual surprise on his face at the very thought.
‘I only asked you to confirm what I already knew.’
Seriously, that man is so fucking well-balanced it wouldn’t surprise me to learn I’ve been living with one of Earth’s as-yet-undiscovered magnetic poles.