x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Some say we are all doomed in 2012 - sounds like a great party

We have just entered a year Hollywood, and supposedly the ancient Mayan calendar, have been touting as the time when the planet will blow up.

Here we are then: 2012. The apocalypse is upon us. Or should be, soon enough, anyway. Outside, the sun is shining, the birds are singing their feathery little hearts out and there are cars clogged up in a traffic jam. It's as typical a Dubai morning as you can get, and it's interesting to think that we have just entered a year Hollywood, and supposedly the ancient Mayan calendar, have been touting as the time when the planet will blow up or whatever.

I popped along to a "concept party" the other day, those awful things that are growing inexcusably popular. This one was a "pre-2012 party" and involved playing games where you tell each other what you've always wanted to tell them because you'll be gone in a couple of days anyway, and stuff like that.

Concept parties are, of course, merely good old-fashioned theme parties in disguise, like the "clean-up at the beach" party someone in the class was invited to last month. Intentions of environmental goodwill were rapidly forgotten; the "cleaning-up" involved putting the KFC wrapper you'd been eating out of into the bin.

What I have never understood is the reason for the inordinate number of New Year's parties in the desert in the UAE, so many of which involve an activity I can't stomach - literally or metaphorically.

Having had the misfortune of counting action-seeking adrenalin cravers among my friends, I am forced, every December, to endure an hour-long nightmare where we hurtle through mounds of sand in oversized cars.

All there is to be done is resolutely to clamp my hand over my mouth and turn my mind away from the direness of the situation by thinking about how there must be more horrible places to be than here, like perhaps at the bottom of the sea being eaten by a giant squid.

Initial ordeal over, we arrived at the camp, which was in effect a massive carpet with a dance floor in the middle and ringed by henna and food stalls. Having all safely congregated in the camp, looking decidedly windswept, it was decided that the first step was to get into the spirit of things.

"Right," declared Jo, the host, enthusiastically, "Now, as we all know, the world's ending this coming year." She was positively beaming, considering the world was ending so soon, grinning from ear to ear as if she were toasting someone whose birthday it was. "I thought it would be fun to skip resolutions and that sort of nonsense, because we won't be needing them, and have a Truth or Dare sort of game instead."

The catch was that there were to be no dares, just confessions on what you would do or how you would spend your time if you only had a few days to live, which was what was supposed to make the party a themed one. One of the things about teenagers is that we don't in the least mind chattering away, picking a topic threadbare, even if the topic's as bizarre as envisaging Harry Potter without his scar.

Pretty soon, Ryan had confessed whom he had a crush on and, goaded by the rest of, was persuaded easily enough to make a quick call and tell the unfortunate girl (because we weren't going to be around for much longer, were we now?).

"But what do I say?" he mumbled nervously, and someone thrust the results of a swift Google search for love speeches, on a Blackberry, into his hands. "She walks in beauty like the night ..." he read out loud and looked up. "Mate, I think 'Will you go out with me?' should do."

Rachel had since wandered back from one of the numerous trinket shops set up in every desert safari camp, having wound something glittery about her head. She'd bought a spangly belly-dancing scarf, the kind with gold circles dangling off it that tourists love to snap up. She was looking very smug having everyone admire it, too, until someone told her it was meant to go around the waist, like Esmeralda's one in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, not round her head.

Toby, in the meantime, made up his mind to eat as many falafels as he possibly could from a nearby stall, maintaining the somewhat twisted logic that if he didn't finish a lifetime's worth of falafels he wouldn't be fulfilling what destiny had in store for him.

"But if destiny wanted to have you pop it now then it knows it's a short lifetime, so you shouldn't get as much," Michael piped up, and had a falafel chucked at his head by way of response.

Our attention was diverted as the sword swallowers and whirling dervishes took to the stage, kick-starting the countdown to the last moments of 2011. Contentedly full of kebabs and pitta bread and basking in the general sense of bonhomie, as the mass whooping and dancing began, it felt nice to know that Hollywood usually gets it wrong.


The writer is a 16-year-old student in Dubai