i met a friend for dinner a few days ago and noticed one of the restaurants waiters hand a street cleaner a large bottle of mineral water and a soft drink. the cleaner thanked him and went off on his way.
that affected me badly. there i was enjoying a 350 dirham meal (nearly $100) and this poor guy was probably earning that same amount, if not slightly more, from which he lived on and most definitely sent remittances back to his family. how fucked up is this?
I’ve been in Dubai for nearly 2 weeks now and hands down the best RnR i could ever have wanted especially post op. but though one feels they’re living in utopia (seriously how much more clean can this city get?) there’s this nagging thought that it’s all an illusion.
A few days ago my father asked why dont I find a job here? or rather he demanded I look for a job in this metropolis of an oasis. Now he’s the old school businessman, this freelance stuff i do just doesnt sit well with him – the fluctuating income, working from home, writing on my laptop…nope definitely not salt of the earth type of occupation he considers a job. I told him I wasnt interested in working in Dubai, and honestly I dont. A few years ago I was gagging to live and work here, the luxe life of a young, single, 30 something, media personality expat certainly appealed to me but it never happened.
Now though, am glad I didnt pursue the Dubai dream.
Dubai is a bubble. The life one leads especially if you’re a white collar expat worker is nothing like the reality of your life back home; and lets face it if you’re a labourer on any of the gazillion construction sites or one of the thousands who provides the essential but menial services this city depends on you see things completely different regarding life in Dubai.
Earn the crazy salaries and you can get caught up in designer labels, the high rise flat complete with a fantastic view, the lifestyle that numbs you from reality. Not begrudging anyone the right to live in this manner, heck I like my designer items too and who wouldn’t want a modern & sleek abode to call home? it’s just the difference between the have’s and have nots is smack in your face. there’s no grey area, no fine line. its there played out in front of you on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
i asked some friends how those who don’t earn the high salaries survive in Dubai? it sells itself as a tax free haven but the prices quoted for nearly everything are ridiculously expensive. seems those who are shop assistants, waiters, street cleaners, petrol station attendants, public transport drivers etc all opt for flat sharing – 7 or more cramped in a flat. and of course most of these flats aren’t centrally located and so to get to work would require a long commute (the introduction of the Metro is a god send, cuts down on commute time, is relatively affordable, air conditioned and spotless).
i just can’t seem to relate to the stark class differences that’s so evidently in view here. there’s no hiding from it. class differences isn’t new, I do come from Sudan after all and lived in Egypt where in both the middle class has all but disappeared and the poverty is smack in your face. but walking around the shiny high-rise buildings, the cars that seem like they’re fresh off the production line and the malls that are an Aladdin’s cave inviting you to come spend your hard earned cash it just seems too surreal. like someone dreamed up this Shangri-La playground and those who sign up to the dream do so with strict instructions to not look, acknowledge nor empathise with the worker smurfs** who enable everything to tick along smoothly.
i probably come across as hypocritical, after all I too live such a life as most of the Dubai-ans, but it bothers me. it bothers me that we can pretend, convince ourselves its better for them here than back home, it probably is financially wise but that still doesnt make it ok. it bothers me that we can so easily slip into this dream lifestyle and forget the harsh realities most live in and we know it. it bothers me that we fight for rights and yet conveniently forget those who are made to work in searing heat, with little reward and at times pay a heavy price all so we can enjoy a cocktail or two in a magnificent setting.
it’s not just Dubai though. a number of other cities are faced with the same scenario – the widening economic gap, the fat cats.. its an ugly picture and paints an even uglier future.
this article says it all really: The dark side of Dubai and this one too Dubai’s skyscrapers, stained by the blood of migrant workers
** disclaimer: smurfs is a term my sister used when she was living in Dubai due to the blue uniform most workers wore\
pictures all via google