Returning to ‘new normal,’ GCC residents reflect on lessons from lockdown

Returning to ‘new normal,’ GCC residents reflect on lessons from lockdown
Men walk at the Dubai Mall after the Emirati authorities eased some of the restrictions that were put in place. (AFP)
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Updated 30 May 2020

Returning to ‘new normal,’ GCC residents reflect on lessons from lockdown

Returning to ‘new normal,’ GCC residents reflect on lessons from lockdown
  • As Gulf countries gradually lift containment measures, Arab News spoke to residents who shared their experiences and reflected on life under a lockdown

DHAHRAN: Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia announced that it would be easing the national lockdown measures implemented to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), including relaxing curfew hours and resuming commercial activities and domestic travel. Dubai also announced the reopening of retail and entertainment businesses and the easing of restrictions on movement.

As Gulf countries gradually lift containment measures and return to a “new normal,” Arab News spoke to residents who shared their experiences and reflected on life under a lockdown of nearly three months.

Basima Al-Johani, a researcher and PhD candidate who lives between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, said that the pandemic has helped her to realize the importance of being content with what she has and of developing mindful consumption habits. While under lockdown, Al-Johani took to altering old dresses, rediscovering outfits in her closet and recycling and reusing products before buying new ones. She also took to cooking instead of ordering takeout.

Similarly, Iman Ahmed Farid, owner of Ailuromania Café in Dubai, said that the past three months made her realize how privileged she is to have access to facilities and services.

“Little things that I had previously taken for granted were no longer available,” she said. “I think the pandemic has given everyone a renewed sense of appreciation for simple things like food, socializing, even breathing fresh air.”

Having recovered from COVID-19, Rebecca McCabe, an MBA student in the Kingdom, expressed her gratitude for healthcare providers and the tireless efforts that have gone into making sure patients and residents are well looked after.

“I cannot image how stressful and exhausting it has been for frontline workers. While I was quarantined, I had so many people offering to help me in any way that they could,” McCabe said. “I am astonished at the amazing sense of community that has come out of this whole experience, and I hope that it’s not quickly forgotten.”

Adding to the importance of community, Saahil Mehta, an entrepreneur and executive coach in Dubai, said that the pandemic has helped people reach out to others and has strengthened relationships.

“We have all come together to extend support to the community. By understanding the importance of time and doing away with the superfluous, we have positively impacted one another,” he said.

Derek Downey, a leadership coach in Saudi Arabia, echoed a similar sentiment.

“The biggest takeaway from all of this has been that family is what really matters. During the lockdown period, we spent time with each other and deepened our most important relationships.”

Mehta believes that the pandemic has also highlighted the need to build better health and has led people to reevaluate their food habits and strengthen their bodies to ensure physical and mental fortitude.

Arshiyan Bhure, a cybersecurity analyst from Bahrain, spent a lot of time reading health-related articles and participating in COVID-19 awareness campaigns, which provided him with a new perspective and prompted him to take extra care of his and his family’s health.

Rowena Nurel H. Rahman, an HR analyst in the Kingdom, found solace by remaining positive throughout the whole ordeal. Even though she was separated from her teenage sons, Rahman was grateful for her physical health, for the opportunity to work from home and for the quality time she spent with her visiting parents. After recovering from the disease, she expressed a positive outlook for the future.

“In spite of this ‘new normal’ that involves social distancing and increased vigilance, I am grateful to still be alive and be able to see people at all,” she said.