Six Creative Principles from the Dubai Desert

I am visiting my husband in Dubai. I will go home this week knowing many things I didn’t know I didn’t know when I arrived. The people I’ve met, the customs I’ve observed and the limits I’ve confronted in myself have all revealed that life is as powerful a force in the desert as any of the places I live. If you find yourself struggling to maintain a creative approach to the problems you face today, read on for six principles of creativity from the Dubai Desert:


  1. Conserve resources. With temperatures reaching 47º C (116ºF), water, not oil, is life’s most precious commodity here. The green desert city of Dubai consumes 250 million gallons of water a day, 97% of which is desalinated seawater. On the other hand, a camel (once called the ship of the desert) can live for days without consuming any water at all, replenishing his supply at the next oasis at a rate of 100 liters in 10 minutes. Creativity at a sustainable level requires conscious conservation of that which keeps you going. What are your most precious resources? How sustainable is your supply?
  2. Respect diversity. The city of Dubai and surrounding areas are rich with cultural diversity. In my short time here, I’ve met people from Pakistan, Turkey, Syria, India, Sri Lanka, Italy, Argentina, Lebanon, England, the United States, Canada, France, and many more. While I might think I could not don a veil and live my life shrouded as many women do here, I also cannot know how uncomfortable it might be for a Middle Eastern woman to bare her arms and legs as I do. Diversity is the very essence of Life’s creative force; human beings express it like the rest of Nature. How open are you to diversity? How does it enrich your life and make it more beautiful?
  3. Expect the mysterious. To stand in the shadow of a sand dune many times my height is to recognize how much lies hidden beneath life’s visible landscape. To feel a desert wind blow up without warning and change that landscape reminds me how fleeting it all is. While you can prepare for life, you cannot predict its outcomes; and creativity always thrives outside the boundaries of what you know. Where is the mystery in your daily life? How do you make space for it?
  4. Adapt to the environment. Under the weight of the noontime sun, the 10-minute walk from my husband’s ship to the shuttle bus is almost more than my fair-skinned body can take. Locals here wear traditional clothing that protects them from the sun’s rays while allowing cooling air to flow freely. City streets are empty during daylight hours, but come alive after dark. These things make sense here; and if I lived here I would adopt them. Creativity is responsive, and takes cues from the locals – humans and animals alike – on how to make conditions work for them. What are does your current environment require of you? What do your neighbors teach you about adapting?
  5. Tread lightly. The pace here is slower, for good reason. People move easily through the day and take their time in making decisions. A culture as old as this one knows its roots run deep, the status quo has merit and change takes times. So, for me as a visitor here, the lesson is that the way I have always done things is not necessarily the best way for everyone. Creativity maintains a light and open stance, valuing more than one point of view for any problem. What other points of view might you learn from?
  6. Explore the frontiers. While most desert nomads live in houses now due to diminishing resources, the nomadic spirit lives on in people like Dubai-based British adventurer Adrian Hayes. Last year, with camels, supplies and Arabian guides, Hayes made a six-week trek on foot across the Rub Al Khali, the harshest area of the desert in the UAE, a journey originally made in the 1940s by explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger. Creativity is always looking for unanswered questions, unvisited vistas, new frontiers. What frontiers on the edge of your life hold answers you’ve not heard before? How prepared are you to visit them?

I love visiting other cultures. The threads that bind us together as human beings are diverse, and every culture has a myriad of textures and colors within it. Whether you are going to work today or visiting another country, envision it as an adventure.  C-R-E-A-T-E your life wherever you are.

Where are these principles of creativity asking you to venture forth in your life?