I’m sure I’m not the only person who was taken aback by the recent news that the UAE (along with Egypt) had secretly bombed Libyan militias. There we were settling back in from the summer, dusting off the Lilo after six weeks in cooler climes, when it hit the press that the two countries were responsible for airstrikes against Libya.
Every now and then, someone back home asks me if it’s safe where we live. And I always reply: Yes! Absolutely. Apart from the roads, I feel safer in Dubai than I ever did in London. But, I’ll admit, the UAE’s decision to deploy its air force in Libya left me wondering if the intervention would escalate hostilities in the region.
The air strikes were hugely significant in heralding a more muscular foreign policy out of Abu Dhabi (which has traditionally always taken a conciliatory, mediating role). It was a new, more assertive – and as yet untested – position for the UAE.
Then I got sidetracked by the children starting school and forgot all about it.
Until the other night, when, at precisely 4.40am, it sounded like World War 3 was breaking out right above us.
The next day, there was a thread about the low-flying plane on our community’s forum, and I learned that the disturbance had woken hundreds of people up. One mum, who was feeding her baby, said she held on to her infant for dear life; another described her baby as wide-eyed with fear. A two-year-old woke up screaming. (See! To all those who slept right through it, I’m not exaggerating – it really did sound like a plane about to screech into the ground.)
Or was it a fighter jet? On a mission? Of course, the speculation started: “The Australian air force is now based at the military airfield behind our compound. They’re flying to north Iraq to attack Isis,” one post declared.
I carried on reading with baited breath. And finally got to the bottom of it: it was an old Russian cargo aircraft. We hear them frequently in our patch of the desert, but this one sounded even louder than usual because it was becoming airborne very cumbersomely in our direction.
Just the Russians rattling our villas, then. Phew!