Dubai, goodbye Dec 02 2009
Photos of Dubai in decline are the new photos of Detroit in decline.
A long and damning article about the dark side of Dubai. Many of the rich foreigners who live there love it:
Ann Wark tries to summarise it: "Here, you go out every night. You'd never do that back home. You see people all the time. It's great. You have lots of free time. You have maids and staff so you don't have to do all that stuff. You party!" They have been in Dubai for 20 years, and they are happy to explain how the city works. "You've got a hierarchy, haven't you?" Ann says. "It's the Emiratis at the top, then I'd say the British and other Westerners. Then I suppose it's the Filipinos, because they've got a bit more brains than the Indians. Then at the bottom you've got the Indians and all them lot."
As for "all them lot"? Not so much.
Sahinal Monir, a slim 24-year-old from the deltas of Bangladesh. "To get you here, they tell you Dubai is heaven. Then you get here and realise it is hell," he says. Four years ago, an employment agent arrived in Sahinal's village in Southern Bangladesh. He told the men of the village that there was a place where they could earn 40,000 takka a month (£400) just for working nine-to-five on construction projects. It was a place where they would be given great accommodation, great food, and treated well. All they had to do was pay an up-front fee of 220,000 takka (£2,300) for the work visa - a fee they'd pay off in the first six months, easy. So Sahinal sold his family land, and took out a loan from the local lender, to head to this paradise.
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.
I didn't watch the clip he links to but I can't imagine anything is more entertaining than David Galbraith's scathing goodbye to Dubai. He opens with:
Short of opening a Radio Shack in an Amish town, Dubai is the world's worst business idea, and there isn't even any oil. Imagine proposing to build Vegas in a place where sex and drugs and rock and roll are an anathema. This is effectively the proposition that created Dubai - it was a stupid idea before the crash, and now it is dangerous.
What's the biggest problem with Dubai? It doesn't have the cultural bedrock needed to support a destination city.
It looks like Manhattan except that it isn't the place that made Mingus or Van Allen or Kerouac or Wolf or Warhol or Reed or Bernstein or any one of the 1001 other cultural icons from Bob Dylan to Dylan Thomas that form the core spirit of what is needed, in the absence of extreme toleration of vice, to infuse such edifices with purpose and create a self-sustaining culture that will prevent them crumbling into the empty desert that surrounds them.
Nobody knows how tall Burj Dubai is going to be when completed later this year, only that it will be the world's tallest building by a comfortable margin. Of the mystery height, the builder has only this to say:
If you put the Empire State Building on top of the Sears Tower then it's reasonable to say you'll be in the neighbourhood.
Architecture idea: a skyscraper with a single floor. See also the tower to be built in Dubai where every floor rotates.
Things Magazine reports on The Pentominium, a 1670-foot luxury residential building planned for construction in Dubai. "The building's concept (penthouse + condominium, you see) means that each apartment spans an entire floor, meaning that chance meetings with the other occupants, save in the blinding lobby areas, are out of the question."
Dubai is the fastest growing city on earth and wants to be the most important place on the planet, "what London was to the 19th century and Manhattan to the 20th".
There's a new indoor skiing area in Dubai the size of 3 football (soccer) fields. Photos here and official site here. Dubai is the new Las Vegas.
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