Dubai, built to be a dream, a monument of the success of Saudi Arabia, all in the mirror of the best things taken from the West capitalist culture. Sheikh Maktoum used the revenues from oil to transform the little village from the 18th century into a real estate boom, intended to be the center of the travel and finance industry in just 3 decades. With aprox. 1 million visitors every year and only 5% of its population native one has to wander if it is real or just a dream after all.
There have been quite a few articles taking and detailing of how, under the beautiful, flawless surface of Dubai there lies exploitation of the poor, some even comparing it to slavery. In this striking article published in the Independent Johann Hari goes above and beyond in trying to discover all sides of the story of what happens in Dubai.
The article starts by presenting the face of
Sheikh Mohammed, ruler of Dubai, on the skyscrapers among international figures. A picture similar with Manhattan, featuring the tallest building in the history of man, a huge compound built in 1000 days for 1.5 bn dollars and so on. But there seems to be something going on as some of the buildings are only half finished and some have already started to break down. Are the dark secrets creeping out from the cracks ?
The 1st part of the article is about expats
, people which have come from all over the world to live in Dubai under the mirage that Dubai is a amusement park for adults. Karen Andrews talks about how they came to Dubai, bought 2 properties, and how their glamorous life in Dubai turned to hell when they started to mismanage their finances. Little did she know that in Dubai there is no concept of bankruptcy so if you accumulate debt which you can not cover you go to prison. If you are in debt and you quit you job while not being able to cover your debt your accounts get frozen and you cannot leave the country.She is doesn`t have anything anymore and is trying to hold up 9 months until her husband ( sentenced after a trial held in Arabic with no translation available) gets out of jail. She says that in Dubai looks are deceiving, things are not what they seem to be . Dubai is in her opinion a con-job.
Another of the hidden issues of Dubai is presented by detailing the lives of the workers who build Dubai.
The hundreds of thousands of people working on raising Dubai to the sky, mostly come from poor countries
. They are given less than the wages they were promised there, they live in horrible conditions and most of all they cannot go back home
.The worker interviewed by Johann describes it as being similar to Hell. And everybody else is used just to ignore them.
Another part of the article emphases on the wealthy and their lives, the malls as well as the native Emiratis
which, unlike the expats and the working class ( slave class in author's own words) are extremely hard to approach. A young Emirati, 23 year old
Ahmed al-Atar talks about how good it is to be young in this place, of all the benefits and facilities the government gives them: free education, healthcare, free house, nanny, maid, Driver... and they don`t need to pay taxes.They see the expats as a necessary bad to be able to sustain their current life style and they are proud of the way Dubai rose from desert to being the best place in the world for them, in just a generation'` s time. For them it`sthe best place in the world to live.
Sultan al-Qassemi, a 31-year-old Emirati columnist thinks that the state has gone to far, that the people are turning overweight and lazy. However he points out to the journalist that Dubai has problems like any other state in the world, and that for most of the developed countries it took an extremely long time to come to terms with them ( see the problem of slaves, Mexicans, etc). He than very helpful points out that Dubai being a modern Muslim country,
Middle East will be a LOT more dangerous for the West world if Dubai fails , as their main export from his point of view is not oil but hope.
The article also talks about people considering what goes on in Dubai as a dictatorship, the country itself being a place with no freedom, built on credit ( the country has a 107% credit compared to its GDP), where the Sheikh is the law, a country where all is split in two, rich and poor, glamour and deserted areas, best tourism facilities and toxic waters, a place where people live between hope and fear.