As a child, I always associated particular smells with the city I was in. We moved a lot, thankfully. Every new place I went to, I associated a smell with it. Seasons too. Every season has a smell…Delhi’s winters, Mumbai’s summers, Bangalore’s all-year evenings, Kuwait’s bone chilling cold, Budapest’s flowery June…
Every time I revisited that city in that season, I smiled. I related ‘where and when’ with the smells around me. As an adult, I thank childhood me’s curiosity for this gift I carry now.
The best part about winters in UAE is that I can finally associate smells to this country.
As I roll down the windows in my car, I take in what this city is made of. As I go through the last underpass on Sheikh Zayed Road towards Garhoud Bridge, I can hear the city buzzing and echoing – literally. The blaring music in my car is shushed by the zipping cars, screeching ahead, hazards flashing. I hear the slightest brakes being applied by trucks around me, as I cringe my nose trying not to inhale the ugly smoke they let out as they halt in the traffic. What does Sheikh Zayed Road smell like? Smoke. Metal. And finally, character.
I zip past the airport towards Khawaneej and hear the gentle roar of a flight about to land. A subtle gush of dust flies around me and I take I can smell the versitility of nature. I glance up, smile, and take it all in.
As I enter Sharjah, the smells around me become far more profound. As my C30 crawls ahead on Al Khan, I glance to my left. I smell grass, sometimes freshly cut, on the mini-hill asking me to smile because I’m in Sharjah. And involuntarily, my lips curve into a lopsided grin.
Rolla, smelling like tandoori chicken, shows me what it’s made of. My elbow on the ‘window sill’, if I may, and eyes all around, I see the transition that Sharjah makes from tandoori chicken to…well, manure. As I drive towards my house, the four lane road divided by a broad stretch of concrete screams to me in agony. And why not, when it is being overloaded with manure, forcing a man made chunk of land to suddenly turn fertile?
In a few months this smell will become more pleasant. The stench of manure will be taken over by a pleasant, flowery one.
Unfortunately, in a few months when I drive past the same road, all I’ll smell is my car.
With windows rolled up, the air conditioner on high, I’ll drive past everything around me, and miss out on all of UAE’s summer smells.