Dubai has undergone a massive transformation — from a fishing and pearl diving centre on the shores of the Gulf, to an ultra-modern city state — in a matter of just a few decades.
Modern Dubai is a cosmopolitan society with a wide range of attractions. Its architecture is entering the realms of impossible construction and the life of great opulence and grandeur it offers, seems almost unrivalled.
Dubai wished to undertake extremely interesting and intriguing projects in the past couple of years — Dubai Land, a vast landscape of leisure; Hydropolis, an underwater hotel and The Cloud, a city built on stilts were just a few on the list.
All these projects, along with other advancements — the relatively greater freedoms enjoyed by homosexuals, in this part of the Arab world, for example — give the place an aura of rapid development and ultra-modernisation. However, what is lost in all this appreciation and admiration is the gloomy part of Dubai. This place, which lacks any originality, seems almost plastic and fake, and is not without its flaws.
One can argue that problems exist in any and every state but what is interesting about Dubai is that not only are its problems concealed; they are also camouflaged under its apparent wonder and superficial transformation.
The entire modernisation hype with new buildings, whether they are to be built or have already been constructed is highly exaggerated. This is because the desert boom, the emergence and subsequent flourishing of the tourism industry, the spanking new, tall buildings, all come at a huge human cost that is never recognised.
Millions of migrant workers enter Dubai and are unable to leave the country since their passports are usurped by construction companies and they are paid half the amount of wages they are promised before signing the contract.
Furthermore, their living conditions are extremely deplorable. Workers are deprived of even basic sanitation facilities and live in tiny, dingy apartments, with at least a dozen other people.
While the city may be willing to sell a great deal and lure people to its magical land with all its great magnificent features, the facade of Dubai as an adult Disneyland, is now collapsing. People go there to live in amazing, big apartments, pay no taxes and live a wonderful life. However, very soon, the covert debt they accumulate piles up and the ‘do-buy’ drug stops lulling them into a deep sleep.
Very often, people quit their jobs to repay the amount owed but get less money from what is stated on their contracts. Their accounts get frozen and they are prohibited from leaving the country. The subsequent court hearings are held in Arabic, without any translation, which exacerbates the misery of these migrant workers.
Under the wonderful aspects of Dubai, lies a cruel and crushing world, which is not necessarily benevolent and definitely not ‘modernised’. The aspects of modernisation, as I understand the term, are seriously absent — evidence would include the lack of a fair judicial system for foreigners, the absolute dearth of any attempts at alleviating the ill-treatment meted out to migrant workers and the persistent violation of job contracts.
People are tempted to explore the opportunities but this process is done at an enormous cost to the people coming into ‘do-buy’.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2013.
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@fauji...... you nailed it on the head brotha or sista (for that matter)
@bleh Thanks for the original article and it seems that our so called prestigious institute LUMS is teaming with future noble laureates not only in physics but also in literature who are so original and creative. The only weakness it seems is a good well organised course on cutting and pasting.And only those who pass with high distinction should write anything in papers before moving onto the seqeuel "advanced methods in plagiarism ".
No Arab monarchy is an exception to what is stated here! Mentality of slave trader still continues among Arabs.
totally agree with bleh, this seems to be a poorly structured summary of "The dark side of dubai" written in the independent,
What has been written above might be true and Opinions should be respected but not without facts and figures and palagarised material.
The entire premise of you claiming that migrant workers live in the underbelly of a dark city is so wrong that it is on a completely different planet. When was the last time you visited the city and looked at the work the government is doing to eradicate labor problems or better yet ensure the city has proper governance? I say its far better than the constant bureaucracy and dimwititedness seen in South Asia recently.
Pakistani liberals love to bash Dubai despite the govt benefited lives they themselves enjoy in Pakistan and love spending their weekends in Dubai's lower-end neighborhoods because the Dubai upper-end is beyond Pakistani English class.
Coming back to the point, Dubai has really built a truly unique place in the middle of desert and it's truly admirable. sure there are always issues but the Dubai authorities has worked a lot over past 5 years to better align pays with the work - in fact skilled Pakistanis now get better pays than they have ever gotten there before. the glass is certainly half full when it comes to Dubai.