After you have been dating someone for two years, you can, after the age of 30, be forgiven for wondering if things are ever going to move on "to the next stage". In Europe it is quite normal for couples to be together for years and in some cases, decades, without tying the knot. In many countries marriage is seen as an antiquated institution and you will very often hear "life partners" saying things like "we don't need a piece of paper to prove our love".
Well, I don't live in other countries. I live in the UAE.
You can't make someone marry you, however. Yes, I did drop hints - hints about as subtle as concrete blocks. I oooed and aahed about a ring I saw in a magazine and said that if I were to ever get engaged, that was the one for me. I shot him unrelenting stares when uncles and other well-intentioned people at weddings nudged us and asked "So is it you two next, then?"
But, he did not budge. So I stopped pushing it. I would try be relaxed about it. After all, wasn't this man the best person I had ever met in my whole life? He was my best friend and we loved hanging out together and that's all that mattered.
Last month, we decided to go out for dinner, as we hadn't been for ages. I got ready and phoned to see what time he would pick me up. "Erm sorry," he said "but I can't go for dinner any more because I want to go and hang out with the guys." I was livid but kept my cool. I calmly hung up the phone. He rang back a minute later and said "Only joking - I'll be there in half an hour."
We went out to the seafood restaurant at Atlantis. It was amazing - the whole three-floor wall on one side of the restaurant is part of Atlantis's aquarium. It's a wonderful place to have dinner, overlooking the aquarium with its huge underwater kingdom that's packed with a vast variety of sea life.
At one point during the main course I grabbed his hand to direct his attention to a shark that was swimming literally next to my chair. His hand was all sweaty. He is normally very cool and hardly breaks a sweat ever. "What's wrong?" I asked?"Are you not feeling well?" Then he said "I think we need to talk about our relationship."
My heart dropped like a stone. Had he brought me here to dump me? I turned around and stared into the deep blue to hide my shock.
All of a sudden, right next to me, a scuba-diver appeared. He was holding a sign saying, "Sooltoo, will you marry me?" Sooltoo is my nickname. I stared at the diver and then turned back to my boyfriend open mouthed. He was down on one knee holding up my dream ring.
Many tears were shed, and I had the best night of my life. It turns out that he had been planning the proposal for months.