Dubai Creek, Ramadan by Isobel Dixon

Dubai Creek, Ramadan

We haven’t fasted, but have eaten iftar fish, cooked Asian-style,
“as you prefer”, marvelling at boori, barracuda, shark,
dorade, laid out on ice, a sameways-facing glass-eyed fleet.

But now, outside, the air’s as hot and thick as soup.
My glasses mist up when I step out of the air-conditioning’s
grip, and beyond the parking lot, the four-by-fours

(one equipped with extra jerry can and spade for sand),
we see the men, stripped, shining, to the waist, unload
the cardboard cartons to the quay. Peak Performance, Adidas,

a sporting wharf. They are barefoot, and their daytime clothes hang
spread out on the decks’ carved balustrades, in the hope of drying
in the night’s humidity. Further on, work done, men look up

from their huddles – I imagine cards – but don’t know enough
and don’t dare to stare or photograph. But they stare back,
challenging and curious: few tourists walk this heat, this late.

Outside the boatmens’ mosque, the congregated bicycles,
each one festooned: the ornamental everyday of plastic bags,
more damp draped cloth. A tall man stoops out from the light, lays

his wrung-out kurta carefully on the box-clipped hedge that skirts
a flitch of lawn. There will be a garment harvest here at dawn.
A line of trucks wait for the morning load, reliable Toyotas,

regulation white, but on the flatbed railings, metal cutwork,
simple filigree – heart, diamond, butterfly – hand-fashioned
blazoning and cadency. There’s a sudden whiff of za’atar

and a dhow lies heavy in the water, heaped with fat, stitched
sacks. The herb is overwhelmed by cinnamon, a heady war
of spice. Above the blue-and-white balconies tethered

to the quay, gargantuan ranks: the gleaming towers – pinnacles
of sheer design, dune-mastery – breathe their expensive chill.

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