Khaleej Times - - OPINION - — Laila Jafri, Canada

What was once a small vil­lage of pearl divers is now a prime model of the global city. grow­ing up in mod­ern dubai meant hav­ing friends of ev­ery na­tion­al­ity. in 2016, i spent eight months in dubai and com­mit­ted to only us­ing pub­lic trans­port. i found that the buses were never full, there were never any chil­dren on board and most peo­ple were in uni­forms. the tran­sit sys­tem has evolved to ac­com­mo­date the needs of its largest user group: blue col­lar work­ers. this means that the sys­tem is in­cred­i­bly com­plex and in­ter­con­nected, with stops from al­most ev­ery res­i­dence com­mu­nity to ev­ery com­mer­cial area in the city. i trav­elled 50km ev­ery day to work and while the heat was un­com­fort­able, chal­lenge breeds cre­ativ­ity, and i adapted by car­ry­ing an um­brella. that was the first time i re­ally saw the city; catch­ing the first bus meant see­ing who tied the nets around the bunches of dates on palm trees, the men who cleared the street lit­ter be­fore every­one woke up and the con­tract­ing com­pa­nies trans­port­ing hun­dreds of labour­ers to work sites be­fore peo­ple started driv­ing out to work. i no­ticed the trees be­cause i chose my walk­ing routes ac­cord­ing to the path with the most shade. i learned, for the first time, that they were da­mas, neem and ghaf. i learned that the sun stings if i leave at 2pm but only smol­ders closer to 3pm. what once was just the space be­tween my home and the next des­ti­na­tion be­came a se­ries of places and net­works, each with a unique value that had al­ways ex­isted but only re­cently be­come ap­par­ent to me.

there is no doubt about the con­ve­nience of cars, mo­bile maps and all the other tech­nol­ogy de­signed to make our lives easier but we must ask our­selves why we al­ways choose con­ve­nience over a chance to learn. our sen­si­tiv­ity to the world around us is what em­pow­ers us to think about it more cre­atively and with a greater sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity for its preser­va­tion. for a small city like dubai, the first step is sim­ple: take the bus, use the metro. do some­thing dif­fer­ently to recog­nise the space around you, who you share it with and what it needs to live on and grow well.

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