Loving Dubai is like being in love with a rich, sexy, handsome man with a dark side. It’s hard to resist someone like that, especially when that someone is doing its best to charm you. I love the gigantic malls, the fancy cars, the decadent spas, the fantastic food. Seriously one restaurant I visited served cuisine from 80 countries….
It is not the Dubai I remember from childhood. It’s grown taller ( literally taller ;)) with its Burj Arabs and Burj Khalifas. But when my sister and her husband drove me to Jumeirah and I could see the same ocean with its ‘bathtub temperature’ waves from older days. I could feel the soft sand under my feet, the warm salty air on my skin and it was like being 10 years old again. My heart melted. Contrary to popular belief, the city even has a soul.
The problem is as I hinted in the first line. This attractive, hot city’s soul has a dark side to it. And I cannot help see it, now that I have grown a conscience.
Dubai is the type of guy that will tease your senses into submission in its large indulgent homes, but the Filipino maid’s room in that large decadent home won’t be larger than a broom closet. He will spend hundreds at the fabulous restaurants, but won’t pay the Pakistani taxi guy taking your there a fair wage. It will treat you like a princess but when you are not looking, mistreat those it employs to serve the city and you.
A taxi guy in Dubai makes 1200 Dhs before commission. There are no labor laws, no medical benefits, no flights home. The non-air conditioned buses pick up workers at 0500 to work towards building the tall towers and sends them back at 2100. Again no benefits and no minimum wage. The Filipino woman at the spa earns 3000 Dhs, and can’t afford to let her children live with her. The maid’s rooms in houses that are 1000 square meters in size, literally are less than 3 square meters without space for a bed.
I know that despite the harsh conditions, workers would rather work here than their home countries, where conditions are worse. I also know that Dubai is slowly waking up to its dark side, and trying to bring about positive change for the poor that build his city. For example, you can’t force someone to work when its hotter than hell. Don’t even let me begin on how hot it gets…
I just wish it would do all of this faster.. you know. I really want to come home. But come home with a clear conscience.