Equine Haze
An Abstract Narrative of the 2014 Dubai World Cup

Location: Dubai, UAE
Story & Photos: Aaron Noah M.

Hats.

It is all about the hats.  Thousands of them.  Feathers, flowers, lace and other odd bits dangling from their heads.  The women of Dubai have been waiting all year to transform themselves into Victorian ladies and strut about this grand equestrian temple, Meydan.

We men follow along, suits, ties…not so many hats.  We’ve come here to stand in line at Irish Village.

The sun and the drink can melt you.  And it’s at least two furlongs to the nearest toilet line, swimming through a sea of hats.

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It all appears very English.  Or at least that is the charm we’re going for, all of us dressed up, parading around and inspecting each other.  A few drinks will help qualify you as a proper judge of fashion. What a lovely hat!  A steady stream of adorned girls wobble by, stopping here, stopping there, waiting for the next photo.  Click, Facebook.  Click, Facebook.

And somewhere out there…there is a horse race.

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But I can’t stop staring at the grandstand, an imposing mothership of glass and metal and lights, with its enormous centerpiece crescent hovering above the masses.  Those flamboyant hats are naught compared to that thing.  I keep peering over my shoulder at the vast architecture looming behind; at any moment I expect beams of light to radiate down upon the crowd and whisk us away to another planet.

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And then fireworks.  The English vibe is waning into the darkness.  The Arabs have taken over at sunset and have presented the crowd with a dazzling sound and light show.  Dunes, falcons, Bedouins, a desert oasis…but wait a minute, what is that music in the background?  Isn’t that a symphonic rendition of Led Zeppelin?  Yes.  And Pink Floyd.  Yes, perfect.  The English haven’t given up yet.

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Again, pillars of fire.  Ah, you can’t go wrong with that!  I’m starting to enjoy this gig; I just need more drink vouchers.

The music finishes and a thick grey smoke descends upon the stands and obscures the lights of the mothership.  I breathe deep, take it all in, the cool night air and the smell of gunpowder; one battle finished while another arises.

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The horses are running again.  Members of the crowd are chanting to the big screen.  Number 6!  Number 6!  Ladies and hats are falling to the floor more frequently now.  Madness spreads through the ranks and victory is palatable.  It’s out there for someone to grasp.  Not for the mob.  Victory is reserved for a tiny knight on a swift horse and an honored king.  Cheers go up and the prize is won.  We will all celebrate.

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There’s more I think.  A stage has been set up on the side of the track, with colorful beams of light dancing over the mass gathering of hats, enticing us away from the mothership.  J-Lo wants us over there.  I’m not having it.  She couldn’t possibly top Led Zeppelin, fireworks and the thrill of battle fought on the oval.

Time to finish these vouchers and wander off into the desert night.