A soft breeze played gently with her hair as her gaze traversed the sky-blue waters of Dubai Marina dotted with yachts anchored at the piers. She looked down at her son Ryan sleeping soundly in the pram unmindful of the quacking ducks fighting for the crumbs of biscuits some children were throwing at them,unmindful of the sign in English and Arabic asking not to feed the birds.
Samira loved taking Ryan for an evening stroll whenever she came early from work and though things had returned to normalcy after the virus ordeal in early months of the year, the pace at work still had to pick up. She looked up at her duplex apartment on the 36th floor and almost heard the wind-chimes hanging in the balcony. She and her husband Khaled had saved over the years to buy an apartment which they moved into the same day as the lock down began in Dubai.
Samira pushed the pram up the ramp to have a cup of coffee at her favorite Starbucks perched right on the pier. She was about to enter the cafe when she saw a young girl coming out and walking towards here. The girl, her eyes on her wristwatch, suddenly asked, “Is there another Starbucks nearby?” Taken a back by her abrupt approach Samira took a while to say, “Yes, there is another one two blocks away by the Metro station”. The young girl glanced back at her watch and walked briskly in the direction shown by Samira. Watching hermelt in the crowd Samira was flooded with memories of a similar scene at a Starbucks in New York few years ago in 2016.
Samira recalls the scene vividly. She is sitting in a café. She checks her watch again, for the third time. Surely, they had agreed to meet today at 6pm. It was already 15 minutes past the hour, and to double check her location she walks out and looks at the street name. Oh God, she was at the wrong Starbucks. She reads the message which says, 6pm Starbucks on the 36th and 7th. She had read it as 39th and 7th. As she hurries to the right meeting point, she recalls the scene from an old English film she had seen as a teenager. In the film, two lovers separated for many years set up a rendezvous to meet at a subway station. The girl lands up at the wrong subway and by the time she reaches the right station, the man gives up and walks away never to meet her again. Samira dreads that it should not happen to her and she runs wildly piercing the throng of office goers returning home.
Samira rushes into the revolving door of the café she sees a man walking out through the same door. He looks like the person she had come to meet. Khaled spots her first and follows her back inside. “Hello”, he says, stretching out his hand, “You must be Samira”. She remembers taking his hand in hers, as he continues, “I thought you had changed your mind”. They had met each other for the first time, after having exchanged a few messages on a match making online portal.
Samira smiles thinking of the first time she met Khaled and how they liked each other and got married after a few months of courtship. Ryan had started to stir as she entered into the familiar surroundings of her favorite cafe and ordered her favorite drink,a double espresso. Life was good. She worked for a multinational company in the payment sector. Her husband Khaled, a successful architect runs a company in Africa. Ryan came in their life a couple of years ago. She was experiencing the bliss of motherhood in the cozy environment of the duplex apartment overlooking the Dubai Marina, that she moved in the night of the Dubai Lockdown. She with her spouse had, saved money over the years to buy anapartment in the city she calls home. A city that has recognized her talents, given wings to her aspirations and rewarded her merit.
Ryan was now smiling. Samira started preparing his evening meal when she her eyes spied a young girl deep in conversation with someone on the phone. He accent was too pronounced to be missed and one that she had not heard for a very long time. Undoubtedly,the girl talking on the phone to her mother was from her own community. She overheard her telling her mother about an interview that she was hopeful of getting selected.The conversation she eavesdropped to her back to the first call she made to her mother when she arrived in Dubai.
It was 2005 and Samira had just arrived in Dubai. She had left Beirutwhen attempts to find employment on her own merit did not bear fruit, and she was against the idea of asking her father to pull some strings. Having completed her Bachelor of Science with flying colours she felt she was qualified and smart to land a job on her own steam. She believed that the country must offer equal opportunities to all on pure merit, but this was only an ideal vision and not the stark reality in her country.
Samira’s elder brother was already in Abu Dhabi and emboldened by him she came to Dubai to seek a career. After a short stint with a local company she landed a good job with a leading payment technology company and her hardwork and talent were opening the doors to bigger roles. She was sent on international assignment to America for two years and that is where she met her life partner. Hailing from a small sect in Lebanon, it was her family’s desire that she stay within the fold of her community and traditions and marry inside their sect. Although she met Khaled in America, their marriage was solemnized in Beirut in 2017, in the presence of both their families.
Samira said a small prayer for the girl talking to her mother and gave her an approving smile that encouraged the girl to walk to her table. Ryan was awake and the young girl who spoke the same dialect enquired about his name. “Why did you name in Ryan?”, she asked rather innocently, a little bewildered by an English sounding name.
“It means Little King, but that is not why we chose to name him Ryan”, Samira answered. “I was looking for a name that transcends regions, religions, sects, and language, and we found a perfect two-syllable name that could never be pronounced wrongly and would always be memorable”.Samira asked the young girl if she’d liked to join her for supper, to which she agreed.
As they entered the lobby of her building, the security guard asked her guest for a thermal scan, a procedure that was now common in almost all residential towers. Samira enters the lift and whispers her floor number. Buttons were no longer required to be pushed inside elevators.Travelling up in the lift Samira’s thoughts flit to the first day that she moved to her new apartment. It was the day when she became a fan forever of the relocation company E-Movers.
A close friend had moved home with the help of E-Movers was highly impressed at their professional methods and manner. She had recommended them to Samira. It was the month of March 2020, and precautionary measures to combat the pandemic were already in place. The survey was done remotely, and she was asked to take a video of her furniture, appliances, wardrobes and kitchen. The quote she received was competitive for a move lasting two days and she had approved and paid the advance. It was decided that on the first day they would move the furniture and material for the lower floor, and on the second day for the upper floor of her duplex apartment.
The first day move was completed as planned and the E-movers team crew left her place not knowing that a lockdown would be announced that evening putting in jeopardy the next day move. Amidst warning of heavy fines,radars in the city started flashing violators bringing all activity to a standstill. With half her stuff lying in the old apartment, including her kitchen cutlery and utensils, Samira was at her wits end. She had managed to stay overnight in the bedrooms on her second floor, but to be locked down with a baby and without a functional kitchen was a terrifying ordeal.
E-Movers needed special permission to complete her relocation and after making unsuccessful attempts to reach the authorities helpline, Samira took a drastic step of driving down to the police station herself. Dubai police went above and beyond to call E-Movers and give them a verbal permission to complete the relocation.It was mid-day by the time the permission was obtained,and it gave very little time before the night curfew.
E-Movers doubled the number of packers and trucks to move her remaining stuff to the new house and completed the task on the same day. Working swiftly and safely they complete the relocation and left the site just before the night curfew.
The elevator comes to halt on her floor. Samira walks out of the elevator pushing the pram and her nannyal ready has the door open for her.The young girl walks into the apartment and tears fillher eyes. She is visibly touched, not only by Samira’s kindness but also by aroma wafting from the kitchen that reminds her of her own home in Lebanon.
“I have worked in corporate world, where the service standards are extremely demanding, and where customer experience is measured constantly. Yet to see a local company to take charge of the situation and go out of their way to make a customer happy, was indeed an eye-opener. I can recommend this company with my eyes closed after having seen their incomparable feat.”,says Samira.
Disclaimer: The stories are a work of fiction based on facts. Identies and details may have been altered to suit the narrative.