DUBAI – Heaven or Hell?

P1160370Dubai is not one of my favourite places, but it’s a place that fascinates me. The most blingtastic city in the world, it outdoes anything you can think of. The excesses of Las Vegas or old Hollywood are as budget ventures besides the seemingly untold wealth on which Dubai runs.

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A Bit Over the Top?   Pure Gold Necklaces

This is so very obvious on its streets and in its architecture, whether you are walking through the gold souk or one of the outrageously expensive Malls, from the Bugatti in a roped-off area to the £105 it can cost you to reach the Top of the Burj to gaze out on the desert below.

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Behind the Bugatti. Daimler? Bentley?
Bugatti: owner shopping in the Mall

How many of the thousands who ascend the famous ‘fastest lifts in the world’ having paid a couple of week’s salary of a local immigrant worker to do so, think that what they are looking out on is what was actually here before the ‘miracle’ of modern Dubai – desert. Is someone having a laugh?

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Horse-racing, motor-racing, tennis and athletics featuring the world’s top sportsmen regularly amuse local and visiting wealthy patrons, operas featuring singers from the MET and the ROH are constant events, and pop concerts where mega-stars rock up to perform for astronomical sums of money, mean that Dubai is no longer an isolated desert kingdom but a major player in the entertainment field.

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In Dubai, no one is further than a 5-minute walk from a Mosque

Do you want to go skiing in the middle of a 45-degree summer? Dubai can accommodate that. Do you want to go Wadi-bashing in the desert in a 4WD at night? Ditto? Or how about sleeping under the stars (glamping, of course), eating in a restaurant with exotic fish swimming by, sailing along canals as though in Venice, or ballooning with a falcon? All of these Dubai can offer.

But if you can turn away from the glitz and glamour for a moment, there are quieter pleasures to be had. Swimming in the beautiful Arabian Sea (admittedly not so nice now that they have built The Palm and The World in the said sea), surfing, crisscrossing the Creek on Abras and just wandering, fingering the silks and satins and bartering with the shopkeepers in the old part of town, and watching the porters carry the heavy loads to the boats in the Creek getting ready for the journey across the sea to India.

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Arinatucs

Judge for yourself. You’ll love it or hate it, or like me be fascinated by it while being depressed by the knowledge that all this is built on the shoulders of immigrant workers from India & Pakistan, poorly paid and poorly housed. The argument that they might otherwise be starving in their home countries is used a lot in Dubai to justify the continued expansion of the city. That’s not a valid argument in this day and age, is it?


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Spices, dried fruits & nuts.

Things are improving – somewhat. Only about 20 years ago, there used to be camel races where little boys of 4, 5 and 6 were velcroed to the saddles as jockeys. A great scandal rocked the kingdom when one of the camel owners left a boy to die in the desert (he’d become too old at eight to be light enough to ride the camel). Laws now state that no one under the age of 14 can be employed as a camel-racer but rumours abound that there is still illegal racing in parts of the UAE.

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Dhow on the Creek – Old Town
Re-exposure of Commuting on the Creek
Workers Crossing the Creek in an Abra

And finally, an irresistible selection of ceramic lavatories.  Spoilt for choice, aren’t you?P1020468

20 thoughts on “DUBAI – Heaven or Hell?

  1. It’s definitely worth a visit just to be amazed. I was lucky enough to go there on business a few times, otherwise, it was merely a stopover between the UK and S.E. Asia (before long-haul managed to make the trip in one)..

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    1. Agreed. It’s the same all over the Middle East though, but at least in Dubai, they are more exposed to the public gaze and their plight does get publicised, occasionally. Once can’t help but be aware of the fact that our comforts are bought at a cost.

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  2. I’d go out of curiosity, if someone else was paying, but I’m far from a bling worshipper, and my husband would faint clean away if you charged him that to ascend a lift. 🙂 🙂 Having said that I’ve always thought the old side would be worth a look. I wonder what those old guys on the market think of it all? Customers for them, I suppose.
    A good friend’s son is a regular visitor because he has a friend who works there. He thinks it’s wonderful, but he’s young and sells insurance for a living. I might too, in those circumstances, but it’s morally wrong, isn’t it?

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    1. Sometimes, Jok, one has to close one’s eyes to the moral side of things just to exist in the modern world. It doesn’t mean that one has to approve of things, but one must be aware. Life today is much more complex than it was for our parents, it is all a moral maze. I’ve also got a friend who works there but he’s teetotal for his sins (or those of his father, I think!) and without drinking, the life of an ex-pat is pretty boring as you don’t get invited to parties and that’s the only thing going. But if someone pays for it, go!

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  3. Loved your photos…I remember visiting a couple of years ago and your spice and bling photos makes me remember staring at the windows displaying all the Gold…incredible

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  4. Someone put it really well…Dubai is a Hotel. As long as you can pay the bills you have everything. So you can stay as long as you want to remain entertained by it’s services and luxuries. The staff is their country men who have to be paid.

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  5. Definitely Dubai is a hell only driven by money and oil. When you have seen Bahrain, Kuwait-City or Ryadh like me, you do not want to visit Dubai, these cities look all quite the same with its skyscrapers and shopping malls. Normal Arabic countries with the old metropoles are much more interesting indeed (culture, counry-side, archeological sites, etc. pp.).

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  6. I quite agree, one is sometimes aghast at the display of wealth, especially when set against the poverty of the ‘guest workers’. But it’s like the old Hollywood, we can gaze on its wonders in disbelief, knowing it’s not quite of this world!

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    1. If you would reply to my comment directly, I could see this also in my blog. Now I have again checked your post to see the answer, very unpractical and time-consuming

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