A few more days and it will be exactly six months since I first came to the desert, to the United Arab Emirates, to Dubai. When it passed?!
Despite the fact that from the whole country the best known is Dubai, where I came to live nowadays, neither it is the strongest or the wealthiest Emirate. These honors holds the capital, which is Abu Dhabi, sleeping on oil. Dubai is the second. However is the emirate that has truly maximized its tourist potential.
Although it was not always so easy to find a patch of sky without a skyscraper, or crane building another ones. Sand, is what you would find here a few decades ago. Today, however, Dubai is full of Guinness records, ambitious building projects, sporting events, or world conferences. How it happened, that such a small patch of desert located in the Persian Gulf (in the Arab world is known as the Arabian Gulf) is located the tallest structure ever built by man, the world’s largest shopping center, ski slope, a 6-star hotel, Formula 1 track and many others? Oil! ..you’ll think.
Wait a minute, my dear. Let’s go a few decades back (no worries, I will not bored you too much with history). Dubai, which is one of the seven emirates forming the United Arab Emirates, for most of its history was a fishing village. Over time, when the pearl trade became more and more popular, the ships of Dubai traders began to sail to China and returned loaded with silk and porcelain, which were later transported to Europe. So that this small transit hub was functioning, until all of a sudden in the 60. oil was discovered.
So it began. Infrastructure, skyscrapers, beautiful residences, events with world-class stars. With the development of the city there was increased need for labor, which Dubai didn’t have a lot. At the end of the 60s when oil was discovered, Dubai had a population of less than 59,000 people. Today, more than 2 million, while, Emiratis represent only 15% of the total population. Saying “Emiratis” I mean those who were born here, and whose parents are also Emiratis. Because the local law does not allow any form of naturalization for foreigners. If Dubai were a 100 people, 15 people would be Emiratis, 54 Indians, 13 Pakistanis, 7 Bangladeshi, 2.5 Filipinos, Sri Lanka 1.5 and 7 of the Western civilization – from Europe, USA and Australia.
Multitude of workers mainly from South Asia are employed on construction of large skyscrapers, which probably you have seen in the Internet or some tourist folders. The highest of the highest is the Burj Khalifa with 829 meters. It is currently the highest building construction on land in the world. And NOTE, Burj Khalifa took this title from a radio mast in Konstantynów, Poland, which was 646 meters (survived until 1991 when it collapsed).
When my mom visited me in Dubai, we went together to the top of the mentioned before tower. Interiors of the building were filled with curiosities, models and photographs of happy team that built this record building. Employees of different nationalities holding their shoulders and grinning into the camera, showing viewers how happy they are participating in such a pioneering venture.
That would be all about propaganda. As it usually happens in life, the reality was not so rosy. March 2006 – saying that there was a strike is like nothing to say. Earning $ 4 a day immigrants mainly from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, working on the construction of this giant at 45 degrees in the shade, they had enough of low wages, or taking their passports by the employer until the completion of the construction, so their anger expressed by burning cars, shops and everything that was on the way. Losses were estimated at 20 million EUR. After negotiations, some of the employees returned to work, and some were sent home. In their place came new ones.
The UAE doesn’t have unions, and the reigning Sheikh can change the law overnight. In this regard workers, particularly in the construction sector or the service do not have too much ground for the discussion with his employers.
Noteworthy building is also a six-star hotel – Burj al – Arab in the shape of a sail, built on an artificial island. 321 meters tall is the tallest building in the world which don’t have office space and is the highest hotel as well. The apartments have gold fittings. Each hotel guest has a personal butler on call 24 hours a day. At the request of the guests there is also possible to receive their own cook, security, car and driver. The proportion of staff to guests is 6: 1. Prices per night start from $ 1,300.
Neither the Burj al – Arab, nor Burj Khalifa aren’t profitable. These are brand hallmarks, designed to symbolize Dubai. You could say that the Burj al – Arab is the Eiffel Tower of Dubai. Why such splendor? Flaunt the wealth? The construction boom began several decades ago based on income from oil and gas (it is expected that oil runs out in 20 years). Today, however, natural resources account for only 2% of the GDP of Dubai.
When there was still plenty of oil in Dubai Sheikh from Maktoum family, ruling continuously since 1833, realized that oil will not always be the main source of income. And so he began so unimaginable ventures such as artificial islands shaped like palm trees, the tallest and largest buildings, shopping centers, and artificial ski slopes. The aim was to attract tourists. And so it happened. In 2013, Dubai was the seventh most visited city in the world. Today, tourism is one of the key economic sectors of this Emirate.
Moreover, benefiting from the perfect location on the map of the world, Dubai over the years built a transit center position for both aircraft and ships. Port Jebel Ali is the world’s largest man-made harbor. The airport in Dubai in December 2014 took the title of the most busy airport in the world from London Heathrow.
In Dubai are located also several special economic zones, free of taxes, which is home to some of the world’s largest corporations such as IBM, Microsoft, HP, Dell, Oracle, CNN, Reuters and many others.
However UAE is a Muslim country. Therefore, homosexuality is strictly prohibited under penalty of death. You can’t kiss in public. In shopping malls are hanging signs concerning dress code (shoulders and knees must be covered). It is also forbidden to live together for man and a woman without marriage. To be able to move, or have alcohol in your home, you must have a license. It is also prohibited to be drunk. Taxi driver carrying a drunk passenger is obliged to take him to the police station.
How to live? – you could think. The reality, however, is a bit different. Dubai to develop its economy, needed and needs engineers, managers, technicians, etc. from the West. For this reason, in order to attract them, the reigning Sheikh loose a bit moral law. Saudi Arabia calls even Dubai the Europe. On Sheikh Zayed Road, the main avenue of the city, there is a lot of clubs and pubs, which pours alcohol frequently and heavily. All discos are in hotels, because they have licenses for alcohol. For larger events, such as the recent New Year’s Eve (where of course I’ve been), where the star of the evening was, inter alia, Pharrell Williams, there were a few points of Heineken, as at other festivals around the world.
In general Emiratis are a tolerant nation. In Dubai, you can find Christian churches (I went for a midnight mess on December 24 in the Catholic church surrounded by several thousand Filipinos and Indians) or Hindu temples. They tolerate the western lifestyle, but of course, there are some limits which, coming to Dubai, you have to keep in mind.
On the end I will share with you some reflections on life itself in Dubai in terms of urban planning. Dubai is extremely stretched. There is not respect for the surface whatsoever, and this is due to the fact that the desert is almost endless. I currently live almost at the end of the city, near the airport (Al Qusais district). To the other end, that is, to the port of Jebel Ali is almost 75 km! This is almost the same distance like from beginning from Staten Island do the other end of New York which is Bronx! Therefore travelling around the city is very time consuming. The city is subordinated to the cars. It crosses the motorway network. And so next to my block, eg. is the highway, three lanes in one direction, making gets on the other side of the street, quite a difficult task. In the center of the city pedestrian crossings are very few. In most cases, pedestrians are pushed to the footbridges over the streets or tunnels under. Of course, the motorway network does not mean that there are no traffic jams. Because Dubai is often a very congested city, Sheikh is trying to prevent it by expanding metro system (the world’s longest fully automatic metro – without the driver), and recently opened the first tram line and announced the construction of more than 300 km of cycle paths.
Before moving to Dubai, I had an opinion that I wouldn’t come to Dubai for holidays. My opinion hasn’t changed, because I love nature, but once someone gets here it will definitely not complain about the lack of entertainment. Dubai has an incredibly lot to offer. Apart from the exclusive range of accommodation, there are theme parks, water parks, the aforementioned ski slope, nice beaches (which, due to the UAE climate, you can enjoy all year round), a lot of places to party, shopping in the world’s largest shopping malls, horse racing, and all the cultural and entertainment events with the participation of world-class stars. Maybe I wouldn’t recommend to come here for a two-week vacations, but if you are flying on holidays to Asia, Australia or Africa and you will have transfer in Dubai, it’s worth to extended it at least to 24 hours to develop your own opinion about this unique city.