Sobriety In the City: In a Place Fueled by Alcohol, What Do You Run On?

It only takes a few months of being a 21+ adult in Dubai to realise that the answer to the standard end-of-the-week small talk question: “Any exciting plans this weekend?” is a tediously repetitive one: “Drinking.”

While this is also standard behaviour in nearly every other city from London to Lisbon and beyond (who wouldn’t do with a pint after a hectic week?), drinking elsewhere in the world seems to be an accompanier to much more chat-worthy plans. It’s the obvious choice of drink on the weekend, one not even worth a mention.

“I’m going on a countryside walk with my partner and the dog” then going to the local pub for a few. It’s an afterthought- not an event. Mentioning the drinks would be as ridiculous as saying “I’ll be smashing 4 litres of water this weekend!”

This phenomenon is in no way a product of the multicultural hive that Dubai’s citizens are comprised of. Or maybe it is. But more so, it is a product of the apparent lack of other activities to engage in during the two days of heaven off from 5 days of hellish passive-aggressive email exchanges. With weather as hot as that aforementioned hell and a near-ridiculous rate of reproduction of bars, pubs and brunch spots akin to that of rabbits, the only apparent solution (or haven, or escape, or whatever you want to call it) is to run into a pub and do what is best known to be done in pubs: drink.

Except when you’re sober.

While I was raised on sobriety, I actively chose it in my first year of university. I chose it when, on my first ever night out with my flatmates, I was the only girl sober enough to carry the passed out member of our too-young-to-know-better group back to our dorms (she ended up peeing on a friend’s shoulder who tried carrying her after me). But most of all, I chose it when, the morning after meeting a cool guy at a flat party (and then running off and leaving him stranded in a kitchen full of strangers), he texted me saying “sorry I was too drunk and acting silly last night” when I’d actually thought “this guy is totally on my level of energy!”

Luckily, I love vibrant atmospheres, loud music and even louder people. That’s God’s very own way of looking down at me, sober in a sea of drunk people, and saying: “I got you, girl.” Somehow, my extraversion makes socialising with diet 7-Up in hand while everyone downs their Peroni’s my very own idea of heaven.

But my extraversion strikes again in a way that opens up my eyes to a whole other side of Dubai: the need for inclusion. Because no matter how loud, happy and drunk-like I may get on one-too-many red bulls, I’ll still have a big fat proverbial “SOBER GIRL” slapped on my forehead, making everyone around me progressively more aware of my intact memory the more theirs slips away.

So I started seeking activity in a city perpetually hungover. I channelled the energy I had witnessed on my trip to Cape Town and made going out to breakfast at underground cafés a ritual I share with my favourite people. I signed up to obscure workshops to build terrariums and made tasting coffees from different coffee shops an unbeatable adventure. I found people who, despite viewing my activities with a questioning raised eyebrow, were ready to dive head-first into them with me.

Most of all, I learned not to be afraid of going against the current. Soon enough, the wind you whip up will create your very own direction.


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