A girl and a cat in Abu Dhabi

An ANBA journalist recounts a late afternoon spent in a public park in the emirate.

Isaura Daniel

Abu Dhabi – It was late Thursday afternoon and I had finished my work in Abu Dhabi. I decided to do something we seldom have a chance to do on ANBA’s trips to Arab countries: I went walking across the city. Apart from the more central, tourist-friendly areas, Abu Dhabi is a city with few people on sidewalks. In fact, there’s almost no one on the sidewalks, and lots of people in their cars. Is it the heat? Maybe. Even though I was aware of how famously safe this place is, I got a bit apprehensive. I guess that as someone who lives in a crowded city like São Paulo, I’m more afraid of empty places than crowded ones. But I set out on the empty sidewalk.

There was a rather big public park near the hotel I was in, and I went on that direction. I walked some and jogged some, going around the park. And then I realized mine wouldn’t be such a lonely stroll. On the opposite end of the park, a group of men were having a lively chat, and one other man was jogging. Then a couple sat down on one of the benches, and a woman and started playing on the grass with a baby and a girl. And there was also a cat. I saw one cat, two cats, three cats. It was a cat family.

I sat on a bench near the cats and the woman with the kids. The bigger cat came closer to me, meowed and lay down. The second cat did the same – with no meow. The third one, which must have been the youngest, gave me a frightened look, but a few minutes later it was showing off in front of me, climbing to the top of the trees. I watched the cat as the evening came. That was something I’d always wanted to do in an Arab country: to take the time to watch life unfold, to look at everyday things, at what happens after work, after the business meetings.

But the cat came down from the tree as soon as it realized the girl had something in her lunchbox. She had biscuits! He came closer. She gave the cat one, two, three, several biscuits. Left the little thing stuffed, I guess. This cat was probably turned on to the little kids who show up at the park with biscuits in their lunchboxes. The biscuit ran out and the cat headed back near me and up the tree. “Sorry cat, I don’t have any biscuits,” I told it.

The girl also approached me, slowly. She came closer and closer, looking at me, and soon she was sitting on my bench, talking cheerfully about that cat. Her sister, a smiling grownup, and her brother, a baby, joined me too. The girl was quite the chatterbox. She spoke and spoke, asked and asked. Her sister told me that the park is busier on weekends.

And as I sat there near the cat and the girl, I watched a bit of the sunset as daylight left Abu Dhabi. From what I could gather, no one else came to the park while I was there. I listened to the Muslim prayer that radiates from a sound system to the entire city. It was night and I said I had to leave. I walked away hoping that that cat would always find girls with lunchboxes stuffed with biscuits in the park – and that that girl would always have a cat to feed her biscuits to.

Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

Frederic Soreau/Photononstop/AFP

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