The Mysterious U
I moved to Tecom from Jumeirah a little over a month ago. The two environments couldn’t be more different if they tried. While Jumeirah is a quiet, suburban area with little construction and impeccable roads, all lined with lush, green grass and growing palm trees, Tecom is a dusty, harsh metropolis, with tall buildings blocking out the sun and barely finished roads. Of course, Tecom has been built up extremely quickly over the past few years, but much of it is still a construction site, meaning that, to walk anywhere, you’ll no doubt be forced to navigate cones, sand tracks and quarries, all the while dodging diggers and pick-up trucks.
There’s another big difference between Jumeirah and Tecom, and it’s found in the graffiti that’s plastered across the two areas. In Jumeirah, you’re lucky to see anything more cerebral than profanities scribbled hastily across back-alley walls, probably by bored, middle-class kids. But in Tecom, the graffiti artists have taken on an entirely different mentality.
I use the word “artists” loosely, because in neither place will you find the amazing and impressive word-art that adorns the railway lines of London. Nor will you find anything resembling the likes of Banksy. But in Tecom, you will find evocative quotes written across walls and building site boards, most of them in the same handwriting, signed only with the letter “U”.
There are others, of course, which I suspect are done by copycat graffitists (is that the word?), but U’s works are unmistakable. Quite what his (or her) motives are is anyone’s guess, but I reckon he or she is facing that same love/hate relationship with Dubai as many expats do. They despise living here and yet they couldn’t bare to live anywhere else. Perhaps they’re just trying to get people to slow down and think about things.
I’m sure I’ve seen an overzealous report in one of the newspapers over here about Dubai residents being furious over this graffiti, and maybe people are getting ticked off about it. For my part, I quite enjoy walking through the half-constructed landscape and being given these little idioms to read along the way. Here’s a selection of the ones I could find on a short walk back from the bank, though I’m sure there are more. Thanks for the material, U.
All images copyright Tom Paye. These photos are my own work and as such are not to be printed, reproduced or re-used without prior approval.