It’s funny how some of the greatest moments in life come from unexpected opportunities. I had always wanted to travel overseas, exploring the castles and cathedrals of Europe, the ancient wonders of the Middle East, the majestic temples of India, and beyond. But travel on the scale I had in mind is expensive. Little did I know that I would be experiencing all that and more on grander scale than I had anticipated – and so much sooner.
While I had plans to teach history or English at a high school stateside upon my graduation from college, it seems God had bigger plans for fulfilling my dreams and expanding my horizons. A seemingly chance encounter with a travel-minded classmate led to an equally unlikely series of events that saw me – a fresh college graduate with no formal teaching experience or training, save for a few months of subbing at area schools – land a two-year contract with a premier international school eight thousand miles away in one of the most up-and-coming cities on the planet: Dubai.
A major tourist hub centrally located between Europe, Africa, and Asia, the city was a perfect spot to launch my international travel adventures. But while I traveled to more than a dozen countries across all three of those continents during that chapter of my life, my new home base was an equally fascinating place to live.
Dubai, as I saw first-hand even before the final 14-hour leg of my long-haul flight from Tallahassee had landed, is a city of superlatives. If it’s worth building, it’s worth building bigger and shinier than anywhere else on the planet. From the world’s first seven-star hotel (the Burj Al Arab) to the tallest building in the world (the Burj Khalifa), from the largest building in the world (Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3) to the largest mall in the world (the Dubai Mall), the city is renowned for its biggests, tallests, firsts, and mosts.
It’s also a complex city, one where histories, cultures, and dreams often knock heads with one another, sometimes resulting in new bouts of creativity, other times resulting in more destructive ends. I myself was honored to teach students from more than four dozen nationalities, while the school as a whole played host to more than seventy national backgrounds. Of course, any classroom dustups stemming from cultural differences paled in comparison to what other cultural clashes wrought.
Ultimately, it was a tremendously inspirational city for me. I finished my last complete draft of my first novel, From the Ashes, in my Dubai apartment, and the city itself inspired my next book, THE DUBAI BETRAYAL, which launches May 10.
This is the first of several posts I’m writing to share some of my own experiences in Dubai, offering an insider’s perspective to one of the most unique and intriguing cities in the world, as well as the personal stories behind pivotal scenes and locations in THE DUBAI BETRAYAL. I hope you enjoy taking this journey with me as much as I enjoy reflecting on my time there and everything it has inspired.