April 7th, 2009


The Dark Side

Despite cairmen's lousy taste in cinema, he redeems himself with both activism and interesting links.

The Dark Side of Dubai is one of those links. Oh hell it is. Read it. Link it.

I'm having a hard time picking out excerpts. The article is bigger in scope (and wordcount) than most people are used to, but it's a bloody good read. Perhaps this tale from one of the slaves used to build the city:

As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat – where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees – for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised. If you don't like it, the company told him, go home. "But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket," he said. "Well, then you'd better get to work," they replied.

Or a liberal Emirati, on the plight of those slaves:

I pause, and think of the vast camps in Sonapur, just a few miles away. Does he even know they exist? He looks irritated. "You know, if there are 30 or 40 cases [of worker abuse] a year, that sounds like a lot but when you think about how many people are here..." Thirty or 40? This abuse is endemic to the system, I say. We're talking about hundreds of thousands.

Sultan is furious. He splutters: "You don't think Mexicans are treated badly in New York City? And how long did it take Britain to treat people well? I could come to London and write about the homeless people on Oxford Street and make your city sound like a terrible place, too! The workers here can leave any time they want! Any Indian can leave, any Asian can leave!"

Or the attitudes of the expats:

With the exception of her, one theme unites every expat I speak to: their joy at having staff to do the work that would clog their lives up Back Home. Everyone, it seems, has a maid. The maids used to be predominantly Filipino, but with the recession, Filipinos have been judged to be too expensive, so a nice Ethiopian servant girl is the latest fashionable accessory.

It is an open secret that once you hire a maid, you have absolute power over her. You take her passport – everyone does; you decide when to pay her, and when – if ever – she can take a break; and you decide who she talks to. She speaks no Arabic. She cannot escape.

This article gives just a taste of someone finally going deep into Dubai and exposing the lie for what it is in a major British newspaper. I've suspected a lot, but having had someone do the research and conduct the interviews and put it all together into an eminently readable piece exposing the rotten, stinking core of the UAE's ultimate playground for the rich that I can link to is a boon.
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