Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Dark Side of Dubai: Part 1

Dubai has been in the news for a long time now for various reasons. Many a times we hear about the “city with the tallest building in the world”. At times we hear things that tell us that there is a city in the Middle East that was built “unlike any other city in human history”. The tales are told of Dubai. Dubai is used as an example to be followed.

There is no doubt at all that Dubai has transformed itself into a 21st century city in no time. However, this transformation, though it looks amazing and awesome, does not feel that great when you look at the reality on ground and that’s what I want to emphasize with this post. But I don’t want to write about something that has already been covered in great detail and the writer has done a far better job than I am even capable of doing. So please read this very insightful article by The Independent’s writer Johann Hari (it is, of course, illegal to read or publish either this article or Johann Hari’s name in the UAE).

Along with this article I also want to share a little story of my own just to add more weight to the above mentioned beautifully written article:

About a couple of weeks ago I was having dinner at the mall and I noticed the guys who clean up the trays in the food court. After I finished my dinner I went up to one of the guys and asked him how he was doing. He looked a little confused like, “why the crap is this guy talking to me?” I didn’t even wait for his answer and I asked, “How much do you earn every month?” He told me he earned 800 AED ($217) a month. As the conversation went on he further told me that he was from Bangladesh and he was only able to talk to his family once or twice every 2 months as he didn’t have enough money to buy phone credit. I pulled out 25 AED ($6.8) and told him, “here, take this and call your family tonight.” The guy almost broke in tears while looking at me in disbelief. To me that amount of money didn’t really mean much but it seemed that to him it was something really huge. After he took the money all he could manage to say was “thank you sir.” I said, “Don’t worry about it” and I walked away.

That’s just a little story of how only about $7 can do so much for someone here. This guy, who works as a cleaner at the food court of a mall, actually earns more than an average construction worker whose wage is about 650 AED ($176) a month. These are the people who make up a huge chunk of the population of Dubai and these are the people you never hear about when you hear about Dubai.

I will soon write part 2 of this post with another story that reveals more about the UAE.

Cross-posted on PI.


Judith -Slayer of Holofernes (aka Madame Scherzo) said...

After reading that article, PI, I came away with a feeling of impending doom. Dubai is a microcosm for the rest of us. What an insane place. God help us all.

Elisabeth said...

I have read and reread this article. It is so true, every single bit of it. Having lived in Kuwait myself, I'd like to add a story. I worked at the Austrian Embassy, and every day, no matter how hot (55°C or 15°C) a Bangladeshi would sweep the streets. I felt so bad and guilty for being able to sit in the air-conditioned office, making tons of money while he was forced to do menial work without the faintest chance of ever being paid.

So everytime I heard his broom whoosh up and down the street, I would get up and grab a 5KD bill (nothing for me) and run outside. The look on his face - "What the hell is she doing?" - is one I will never forget.

Let us not forget how lucky we are. Let us never forget that there is still slavery going on. I certainly will not. It was appalling back then, in the 1990s, and it still is today, more than a decade later.

andre79 said...

Dubai's dirty little secret:

revereridesagain said...

"We are showing how to be a modern Muslim country". Indeed.

That is what we have to look forward to if we lose this war. Except that it won't last. It will inevitably collapse for the same reason Dubai is collapsing. You cannot rebuild New York City in the desert if you have no idea how New York City was built in the first place. Hell, you can't even rebuild Vegas right. Instead of the Mirage, you get a mirage built with slave labor where the ceilings leak, the beaches are full of s***, and you attract the likes of Lindsay Lohan.

As Islam swallows the West it will sink back into what it was before the West came to it for oil. Back when it produced the sort of countries and cities made inevitable by its own theology and hatred of Western values. And it will drag us down with it.