The sun lumbered over the horizon like a fat jujube. In the distance was a layer of shimmering haze that I realized was desert sand. Many years, ago, I saw the Imax film about Kuwait burning, after terrorists had set fire to oil wells – that’s what the sky reminded me of. I’d thought the air would be pristine, but in the east, those layers of pollution hovered like soiled tissue throughout the day. Close by, a pair of the glazed towers that symbolize modern Dubai was being cleaned by gangs of window washers suspended from spindly ropes. In the northwest, though, just beyond the long shadows of our hotel and the clusters of low, dirt-coloured dwellings, the skyline was a clear blue.