International writer and author, Zvezdana Rashkovich, writes about her multinational and traveling upbringing, and her residence in the United Arab Emirates, as the backdrop for her novel, Dubai Wives.
I grew up in an eclectic mix of cultures. My mother is Croatian, my father Serbian and my stepfather, a Muslim Sudanese. Being multicultural is what I know.
What would it feel like to have lived without the intoxicating, exotic mix of languages, cultures, religions, and races? As a child I craved the normalcy of my Croatian friends’ lives and the assurances that they took for granted: attending the same school every year, living down the street from their best friends for decades and going to Grandma’s for lunch every Sunday.
It was by good fortune that I was born to an adventurous, brave woman who was not afraid of…anything it seems and who had embedded the love of travel in me. A woman who challenged conventional Balkans of the seventies by marrying an impoverished, African Muslim student, and then following him to his far away country. Her zest for travel and thirst for learning about other cultures led her on a series of impulsive travels across Asia, Europe, and Africa with my equally free-spirited stepfather…always, my sister and I, in tow.
Due to them, I have lived in Tripoli, Libya, a country of magnificent Roman ruins, white beaches, and stunning Mediterranean waters. We spent months in Baghdad, enjoying kebabs and kofta by the murky Tigris. We drove across Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey.
In Greece, we boarded a ship to Africa, drove across Egypt, and after days on a train through the Sahara, arrived in Sudan.
My parents’ favorite means of transport were by car, by ship, and by train.
Since becoming an adult, wife, and mother of four, I inexplicably found myself following my parent’s footsteps.
The steady parade of vibrant characters that I met through growing up in Africa, being a foreign student in the US, and an “expat” in the Middle East, dazzled me. Inspired by their colorful variety and hard-to-believe life stories, I started to record them in my teenage journals and stacks of now-yellowed copybooks.
This lifelong fascination with writing and all things multicultural resulted in my first novel – ‘Dubai Wives’. Set in a city that defies the norm, I recorded the trials and tribulations of a group of women whose lives intersect here.
A metropolis that teems with complex characters and baffling personal evolutions, Dubai is an ideal backdrop for a multicultural tale.
Here, my imagination seemed timid in comparison to real life events. The stories my characters share are universal. Betrayal, friendship,love, faith, lost innocence…these themes abound in every corner of the globe.
Dubai with its unique blend of old and new, wealth and exoticism gives the plot certain elements exclusive to it alone. An intangible aura of mystery surrounds its towering skyscrapers built on shifting sands, its lavish lifestyle, and its hodgepodge of culturally diverse inhabitants. Unique but yet familiar to all, the novel attempts to bring some clarity, understanding and maybe even compassion for these ambiguous ‘Dubai Wives’.
We all draw from our lives to write, for some it’s the mundane that gives it richness, for others it’s the exotic. What do you draw from your life when you write?