Monday, April 15, 2013

tuesdays not in turkmenistan: dubai edition

This post is a lie, sort of. It’s not actually Tuesday, April 16. In fact, it’s more than 10 days later. However, I have been busy and my time has been better spent pursuing other endeavors of which will largely not be discussed here. Despite this, the contents of this post are quite true. And be true, I mean filled with conjecture, opinion, and hearsay.

I was not in Dubai long. All told, it was less than 80 hours on the ground there. And I did not see all that much of the place either. However, it essentially conformed to what I expected. Perhaps I only saw what I wished to see and my assessment will simply reflect all my preconceived notions, most of which were negative. My preconceived notions about Dubai were that it is basically Las Vegas without the gambling and strip clubs (but it does have hookers [or whatever term you wish to use]). Sand? Check. Hot? Check. Lots of shopping? Check. Lots of restaurants? Check. People from all over the world working there? Check. Interesting architecture? Check. Wide roads but oddly bad traffic? Check. No soul? Check. That’s basically what I saw. Perhaps there is a vibrant local culture where all the locals are contributing to fantastic advancements in the arts and sciences. However, I could not help but notice the city was powered by expatriate labor. (Perhaps this is an ironic comment from someone who has worked as an expat for the last four years, but at least everywhere I go our workforce is overwhelmingly local in content.) As I noted earlier, I did not see much, but what I saw was this. Locals were working government jobs. Things like immigration officers and police. But nearly everyone else was an expat. Every taxi cab I was in was driven by a foreigner (though that would arguably be true in much of the world), the hotel staff was an interesting mix of more non-locals, and the restaurant we had the course dinner at was staffed by additional foreigners.

A side note for now. I was in Dubai for a training course for work. Hence my presence there in the first place and why there was a “course dinner” when we all went out as a group and had dinner together. Ironically enough, in true Las Vegas fashion, we went to a buffet. And it was not even a very good buffet. I would say it was distinctly worse than any decent Vegas buffet I have ever been too. To further add to the Vegas comparison, the buffet was at a big hotel and resort. A few guys in the course who had been there before basically compared it to Disneyland. You can even swim with dolphins at the resort part. I can only assume they are chronically depressed dolphins.

Back to all the foreigners at the hotel. We stayed in a nice business hotel and also had the training course in one of their seminar rooms. The coordinate that our instructor interacted with was either from the U.K., Australia, or South Africa. I realize that it is terrible I could not distinguish her accent, but I only her heard speak a few times and not very clearly at that. Regardless, she was clearly a “professional” of sorts. Meanwhile, other hotel employees like the housekeeping staff and the people who stocked the little room outside our main conference room with food and water (waiters I suppose) were all either African or Southeast Asian. No kidding. There was a bar in the lobby area where we had some drinks after the last day of the course. Staffed by more expats. I cannot recall a single instance of seeing a local doing what could be called blue-collar or service work.

Dubai is a strange and magical city in this regards. It is also totally unsustainable.

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