Dubai is an interesting city. A thriving futuristic metropolis in the heart of the desert considered to be the crown jewel of modernity with indoor ski resorts, gulf courses, fully computerized metros, giant air-conditioned shopping malls, and the tallest skyscrapers in the world.
Built upon the oil money and over the desert’s sands starting from 1970s, Dubai is rootless more than any other city in the world. With a few thousands original natives, Dubai attracts millions of people today from around the world who come to live and work, or to just take a look at the legendary city.
The dispossessed, like yours truly, come to Dubai for work when all other possibilities are blocked. Some of the latter enter the city with the dream of doing big money. Some come out of desperation while the rest are forced into cheap labor or sold as slaves for the sex industry.
The possessed – those who have loads of money and are possessed with making more money and power, also come to Dubai. Most of them come to squeeze the life out of the first group for profit while some just want to show off their fortune or discover what the fuss is about.
The dispossessed sit on the bottom while the possessed sit on top. The hierarchy looks something like this: native Emirati men – specifically those possessing money, power and oil – sit on top, white western men sit right next or beneath them managing the growth of one of the fastest cities in the world. Some brown men, mainly from Pakistan and India, sit in the third row, and more whitish people and some Arabs sit somewhere in the fourth row making the middle management and landlords of the city. East Asians sit on the fifth row doing all the blue collar jobs, answering phone calls, making deliveries, and fixing air conditioners. And last a majority of Pakistanis, Indians, Bengalis and Sirilankans sit in the last row, building the city in the scorching heat, cleaning houses, and opening doors. In the shadows, an unknown number of women, from all nationalities of the third world are sex slaves, without passports or means to escape their slavery.
In any work, being a white westerner ensures you get a salary four or five folds the one that any person of a brown nationality would get for exactly the same job. An IT engineer of Indian nationality might get a salary of 1500 USD. A British would get 6000 USD for the same job in the same company, just for being white. This is how the system works. Everyone knows it; brown people make jokes about it. White people rarely laugh. In Dubai you discover that racial hierarchy isn’t a theory in a book.
The dispossessed, however, largely share an illusion absent amongst the possessed: the illusion that they can become of the upper class if they worked hard enough. The banks are especially fond for strengthening that particular illusion: it just takes a few weeks in Dubai to become eligible of a fat bank loan. Agents will knock your door, call your phone, and come to your office trying to sell you easy loans and premium credit cards. You can wake up a poor man in the morning, and walk afternoon from the doors of a bank with a small fortune.
And thus the mighty machine continues its march onward, greased by the sweat and blood of poor people… and by their dreams as well.
Being in the desert, everything in Dubai is imported and packaged in neat plastic or metal containers: water, food, cars, buildings, furniture, and people. The world’s most exotic fruits and foods are available at any supermarket year round, but everything tastes the same. High-tech electronics and the most sophisticated cars in the world are all here too. Even portable ACs, in case you wanted to sit on the balcony in the summer’s desert and you disagree with the temperature. One building in Dubai for example, Burj Khalifa, spends the equivalent of 29.000.000 lb (13.000 tons) of melting ice in one day on cooling. Dubai has 80.000 multistory buildings.
You don’t even have to go to the grocery store or any place else to buy your stuff; the bottom strata of the dispossessed class will cycle in the scorching heat to deliver anything you need to your front door so you don’t move your ass one inch from the sofa. The dispossessed then get a killing tan and skin diseases. The possessed get fat. Doctors and personal fitness trainers make more money.
People who spend a long time here speak of Dubai as a city designed to take back everything it gives to a person. If you don’t have what it takes, the attractions and the marketed lifestyle in the shiny city will invite you to put all the money you made on doing and buying stuff you don’t need before you step your foot again on a plane. Many people leave Dubai in debt.
Dubai is described as the highest expression of civilization, and it really is. It’s a money making machine, and it does a hell of a good job at it. The people who can see the truth, however, would call it for what it is: a monster. A monster devouring the desert, once filled with delicate ecosystems and countless animals and plants. A monster devouring the world, one packaged fruit at a time. A monster devouring its people, one broken spirit at a time.
Dubai though, is not an exception. If you really think about it, Dubai is every city in the world…