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Impressions of a mirage

It’s been quite an education on several levels being here in Dubai.

In the words of a Talking Heads song – How did I get here?

Well I’m here with a couple of friends, one of whom is competing in a veterans rugby competition which is going on at the same time as the Dubai Rugby Sevens.

I got the chance of coming for the price of the flight so decided to see a country and culture that I wouldn’t normally have visited.


Want to misbehave or make an arse of yourself? Here’s the list of costs to do that!

As with everywhere there are positives and negatives. There are very strict laws on how one should conduct ones self in public. I don’t have a problem with that really as the most obvious results of this are a litter and graffiti free environment. No drunk people stoating about either. It was Union Day on Thursday and there are UAE flags everywhere. The leadership is not slow to build on this national pride:


Because of several reasons, (Road/pavement layout/the heat) one travels everywhere by taxi or public transport – All of which are excellent. The taxi drivers are polite, friendly, informative and courteous. Many of them are from Pakistan and Bangladesh and have moved here for a better life. As Khalid our driver the other day said “I brought my family here because it is safe. Pakistan is not safe thanks to the Taliban even though 70% of the people are against them”

You can buy an all day ticket for the trains and buses for about £2 and they are all spotless – as are the stations.
There may be 40,000 taxis in Dubai but there are NO TAXES. Everything is paid for through oil and state-owned enterprise (The afore-mentioned taxis and public transport are a case in point).

The down sides?

Well the whole place is consumerism gone bonkers.

You know the Palm Tree Island?


On the ‘trunk’ alone there are currently more than thirty five star hotels being built.

The numbers and sizes mentioned are mind-boggling. Six hundred room hotel here, tallest building in the world there. This is a seven star hotel. Seven million tons of sand was used to build each island etc.


The Burj al Arab. Seven stars and probably an extra ‘w’ in the web address. Tallest hotel in the world incidentally.

I said there was no graffiti but I did find one bit on a boarding at a hotel currently under construction:


Off for a desert safari this afternoon.

Will report back.


6 Responses

  1. And 75% of all those new buildings, marinas, and hotels, are lying empty … and the wonderful transport system is still too expensive for the huge mass of “almost” slave-labour, who incidentally live outside the city limits in camps which are hovels btw

    The new Pharohs building their pyramids, and ski slopes, in the middle of their population’s poverty

    It’s stunning, isn’t it?

    Dis you visit the Atlantis?

  2. I have of course seen the construction workers buses filled with the forlorn. In amongst all the Hummers, Landcruisers and luxury coaches they provide a stark contrast right enough.
    I watched a documentary on Youtube before I came here about their conditions and ‘pay’ and it was a disgrace quite frankly.
    I was looking for being poor as one of the crimes on the sheet above to see what fine would be imposed!
    The opulent and ubiquitous wealth on show is extraordinary. I did see the Atlantis as part of an open top bus tour but I didn’t stop. I hear its a tenner a pint.
    Was out in the desert last night for the wacky landcruiser races – that was fun. Back home today.

  3. Not just “almost slave labour”, but imported… Emiratis make-up under 1/5 of the population.

    On a lighter topic, how was the fog?


    • I have heard it suggested that how the UAE avoided the Arab spring shitstorm was a combination of factors that you alude to. There is a huge immigrant population and they have, by and large, a very good standard of living. The almost slave labour that Stu mentions are there and visible but I hear that their passports are held by their employers and at the first sign of any ‘nonsense’ it’s a return ticket from whence they came.

      The taxi drivers (mainly Pakistani/Indian) give the impression that they are fairly happy with their lot despite a monthly salary of only £60 and their accomodation paid. They say they get fairly generous tips which dwarfs their salary and are much better off and safer than they would be at home. They are the most well turned out, polite and pleasant taxi drivers I’ve met anywhere and if that ain’t genuine they hide it very well.

      The taxis are all beige Toyotas and I was told that the colour of the roof of the car denotes the nationality of the driver. One Pakistani driver said to me “Do not take a red roof taxi – they are Bangladeshi and very bad.” We found the red top drivers just as good as the rest so I suppose the divide and rule priciple is working well.

      No mist or fog when I was there Alec and a very pleasant 25-28 degrees with a breeze most of the time.

  4. As regards that Flinstones joke, for reasons unknown I was last week selected to be interviewed on camera as part of a film being made to celebrate 50 years of Aggreko, my employer.

    The lady interviewer, a chum of the CEO, was frightfully pukka but asked me to share a joke, presumably to demonstrate that in the welter of dull chaff about temporary power generator design there exists a waspish wit.

    Dubai being the company’s international service hub, I duly chipped in said joke, only for it to be met by complete and utter incomprehension by my interviewer. Hopefully this will be my first and last corpsing on any film.

    The guy with the furry mike did however go into a kink of laughter.

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