Staying at home for big occassions does have its benefits

This year though, something marvellous happened. Something that has forever changed the way people will think about our preference for a laid-back start to the New Year: thousands of would-be New Year’s Eve revellers got stranded on and around the Palm.

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There are certain things one inevitably ends up doing as a UAE resident. Things like booking a room at one of the city’s five-star hotels for one’s anniversary. Having observed that this is apparently the done thing for anniversaries in the city, my husband and I — many years ago, as newlyweds ourselves — proceeded to do the same.

We stood in the marble lobby, handed over our passports for check-in, and accepted the keys to our very expensive hotel room. Once inside it, we weren’t really sure what to do.

To be perfectly honest, we felt like fakes: we lived just down the road and here we were in some hotel. But we also wanted to be a part of this whole “we spent our wedding weekend at such-and-such hotel” thing everyone seemed to be doing, so we powered on.

We ventured out to the beach. We came back with sand between our toes and seashells weighing down our pockets. Dinner was a strange affair, wedged between tourist families orange from too much sun in too little time. Fathers, balding and middle-aged; mothers equally aged and enormously endowed; teenaged children seemingly bored to death. I remember being glad mine hadn’t been the kind of parents who took along the kids on holidays in a foreign country that were spent going orange on the beach.

We tried to get some shisha after dinner, but the hotel apparently only offered shisha 5 and 7.30pm. Who has shisha between 5 and 7:30pm? Our anniversary weekend was rapidly going downhill.

Back in the hotel room, we flipped channels on the television and then flopped down on the bed, flat on our backs, looking at the ceiling and giggling at each other. This was so not us.

“You know what?” I said, finally throwing in the towel. “Let’s just go back home. Let’s just fire up our shisha and chill at home.”

“Let’s,” my husband enthusiastically agreed.

We quickly packed back whatever little luggage we had brought and proceeded to check out. Embarrassed to be checking out so early, we pretended I was sick and needed to go see a doctor. We had lasted a total of four and a half hours.

I think that that was the last time we followed a prescribed or prevalent formula on how any significant occasion should be observed or celebrated. Not that there is anything wrong with splashing out on a hotel room for one’s anniversary weekend, but just that maybe it wasn’t for us.

It is with the very same sentiment that we generally give New Year party invites a wide berth. Big party at some club on The Palm? No, thank you. Cosy, house party at someone’s flat in the Marina? No, thank you. Anything the requires any amount of driving is forgone in favour of staying home, spending time with a few close friends, followed by home-baked brownies and watching the fireworks on TV. Not because we’re old and boring, but because we can think of better ways to start the new year than being stuck in traffic for two hours trying to get back home. For the past few years, this stance of ours has forced our friends to roll their eyes at us in dismay.

This year though, something marvellous happened. Something that has forever changed the way people will think about our preference for a laid-back start to the New Year: thousands of would-be New Year’s Eve revellers got stranded on and around the Palm. For hours, they stood in line, waited on buses or trudged around in high heels and short skirts.

I watched it unfold on Twitter … in my PJs, on my couch.

The writer is an honest-to-goodness desi living in Dubai