x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Hello DXB Challenge made me see Dubai differently

No matter how much time you spend in a place, and no matter how much you pride yourself in your keenness to seek new experiences, there will always be something more to see and do.

The longer you live in one place, the more you fall into a rut. You go to the same places and see the same faces. There’s a certain comfort in familiarity but in a world full of so much to see, to not see what else is out there is almost a crime. That thought inspired Sarah Jones and Sahar Fikree to come up with the Hello DXB Challenge – and is also why I got up at 9am last Friday and, groggy-eyed, turned up at Jumeirah Beach.

A friend and I were participating in the second edition of this all-day activity designed to shake Dubai residents out of their comfort zones by making them run around the city completing various tasks balanced between the familiar and the unknown.

Our journey started with a solid reaffirmation: desi people are lazy people. Out of the 30 odd participants, there were only two desi people besides us.

Focusing on the task at hand, we had 20 challenges to complete between 10am and 6pm. It was up to us to choose which tasks we wanted to do and in which order. A short list of rules required us to check in at 1pm sharp for lunch and at 6pm for the finish line, and to tweet a picture after completing each task.

Seven hours of frantic racing through the city took us to some pretty amazing places. If nothing else, it made me realise that no matter how much time you spend in a place – and no matter how much you pride yourself in your keenness to seek new experiences – there will always be something more to see and do.

Despite being in this country for more than a decade, this was the first time I bukhoored up my clothes. I learnt what nakanek with daqqous is – hot dog with hot sauce. After several years of procrastinating, I finally visited the famed Thai restaurant Smiling BKK. I climbed on to a Harley, rode a horse, lobbed a ball around a tennis court, chatted up the general manager of a private sailing club to get on to a yacht, posed in botanical gardens, scaled the gates of a closed facility to toss a coin into the fountain inside, climbed on to a sculpture on the side of the road, wrote on the biggest blackboard in Dubai, took in a view of the Palm Deira from the Dawar revolving restaurant, sipped saffron tea, served up an espresso as a waitress, served myself some authentic gahwa and saluted the largest UAE flag in the city.

Despite all the tasks we managed to accomplish, there were people who managed to do more. We secured third place out of eight teams. Considering we were the only two-person team with a single vehicle – the rest were four people with two vehicles – I reckon we didn’t do too badly.

Several days after completing the challenge, my body is still protesting. The gym might not have been on the list of places Jones and Fikree asked participants of Hello DXB Challenge to go to, but all signs definitely point to that direction.

Ujala Ali Khan is an honest-to-goodness desi girl living in Dubai