My Introduction to Dubai
The cat-food-beige carpeting of my hotel room floor is damp. It wets the bottoms of my bony feet when I enter and banish my germ-ified airplane socks to the irrevocable exile that is my laundry bag, forcing me to take refuge on my bed. At least it is dry. I sit crosslegged on the white duvet and survey my surroundings. All pretty standard: a tv; a coffee table spread with pamphlets of attractions here in Dubai (a city whose futuristic architecture has quite impressed me, but whose sprawling inaccessibility and commercial corniness have not); one large, dirt-streaked window looking out at a facade of similar dirt-streaked windows with a close, hazy, sandstorm sky behind it; a nightstand occupied by a single black card bearing a slightly disconcerting message on it all in caps: WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?
Straight off the plane this morning I went to my fitting for Public School, the brand that has brought me here for their pre-fall fashion show. And who should walk into the fitting room while I was standing half naked with one person measuring the width of some black drop-crotch pants on my waist and another unlacing my boxy leather boots? None other than the princess of Dubai herself. With warm honest eyes, she was young, pretty, and talkative— speaking English as naturally as a Jersey housewife (and with the same accent, too)! She wore plenty of makeup and was dressed head to toe in a flowing black wrap that resembled a burka but was more modern, made of chiffon and flaunting a hot pink hemline. Like me, you may wonder what a princess and all her entourage were doing at the makeshift office of a young and contemporary New York brand in a hotel on the outskirts of Dubai. But it is really quite simple: she came because she is a faithful client of theirs and is unable to attend the actual show tomorrow due to customs barring her from having her picture taken, or so I was told. Instead she had shown up to preview the collection privately, try some pieces on, make a few purchases on the spot, and even get a personalized mini runway show featuring items that she selected and which were worn by me, two other models, and the princess' humorous middle-aged cousin who had asked us to tutor her in "the walk." We all got dressed in the chosen looks, the designers turned on the show music, and in a row we walked up and down the length of the dressing room with the royal cousin tagging along behind and the royal audience watching delightedly from the side, their royal iPhones poised for action.
After my fitting/debut as runway-coach, I at last came here, to my hotel room with its distinct carpeting. But despite of the musty smell my floor puts off and a pervasive lack of sleep pooling behind my eyes, there’s no place I’d rather be right now. Who else can say they flew around the globe and met a princess all in one day— and all in the name of work, too! I flop onto my pillow. And there’s that sign again, staring me in the face… “What are you thinking?” Well, let’s see: Right nowI’m thinking I’m ready for a good long nap. I’m thinking I might have to wear flip flops in this room. I’m thinking of getting my laptop and writing a bit, and of what a joy it is to be traveling once more. I’m thinking that gap years are brilliant.