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Observing Life: 39 perfect age for UAE and me, The National, 16.12.2010

I share the same birthday as the UAE. Well, I am six months older, but it’s a source of great hilarity in our house that mummy is as old as a country. Yes, that old, and every year I have a visual reminder of the passing of the years with the National Day lights lining the streets of Abu Dhabi.

This year’s birthday is particularly significant, marking the final year of the still-young-enough-to-go-clubbing 30s, and the imminent start of the “fabulous” 40s. On a good day. On a bad day, it marks my decline into middle age with that big old Four-0 just waiting round the corner bearing a pair of slippers and a flannelette nightie.

So I felt like I’d slipped into a David Lynch movie the other night as a taxi drove me home down Khaleej Al Arabi Street and I saw those illuminated 39s zipping by.

Particularly so as I’d just been enjoying one of the capital’s marvellous “ladies’ nights” with some friends, chatting and dancing and enjoying each other’s company. Half way through the evening, however, one of our party suddenly blanched and sat down abruptly, pressing herself against the banquette in a futile attempt to hide. It turned out the friend, a teacher, had just seen some of her former pupils at the other side of the bar and they had spotted “Miss” letting her hair down.

Seeing these former students, the better side of 25 than us, was a jolt to the system. I was just about old enough to be their mother. There I was, having a great night out with the girls, and I suddenly felt like an interloper, that I was in their territory. They didn’t have a wrinkle or a stretch mark between them, and were dancing like the night was theirs.

Perhaps it was and we should really have been at home sewing in name tapes. Now, I’m not going to get all angsty and regretful or have a sudden midlife crisis (saving that one up for next year). I see this more as a time to reflect on what I’ve done so far and still be hopeful about what else I can achieve.

As for the UAE, so much has been achieved in the last 39 years, transforming it from a land of pearl-fishers and nomads to a place with cities of sky scrapers. Not forgetting, in the next few years, home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Guggenheim and the Zayed National Museum.

So as the taxi took me back home, slightly foot-sore and hoarse from shouting over the music, and the sum total of all my years flashed past the windows, I felt that yes, I might be leaving my thirties behind, but I don’t have to give up the dancefloor. Me and the UAE, we’re just coming into our prime. We’ll show them how it’s done and we won’t hang up our dancing shoes just yet.

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