Friday, 7 June 2013

Dubai - the Essex of the Gulf

This here link got me to thinking many of my students have family ties in the UAE after all until not many years ago there was not much in the way of a border until the over-rich Emiratis bought some of the highest tech kit for too much money from The Very Big Security guys who got a suitably fat commission and doubtlessly did laugh all the way to the bank. They must have bought the updated Miserable Security Fucker staff training package too as they are truly the rudest and glummest border folk I have met and I have met many. Possibly this motley collection of portly torpid trout must harbour soul scraping resentment as Emiratis because they are of that rare and delicate species an Emirati who does actually have to work. It must be said the very rich aren't so good at having to do work  just look at our useless PM and his sidekick Gideon. Ho ho. Nonetheless, these brave protectors of the borders are doubtless being very well paid for the terrible imposition into their sleeping or shopping time.  In contrast the Omanis who do have to work are young and cheery and much thinner and give a friendly smile and never check the car on the way back which is just as well for me as it is loaded with the sort of grog I cannot find over the border. We will usually have a brief banter about football giving a mention of the Wigan keeper Oman's very own Ali al-Habsi guarantees safe passage who made the coveted No. 1 spot his own.

Anyway, a big weekend away for students and many teachers alike is to Dubai. Shopping and nights out do appeal to a certain degree but going to get ripped off in Dubai is something I have never quite got. Maybe it's just me.I have been there many times and lost much money there and yes, had an OK time the never ending champagne brunch with optional bad behaviour is always a self-indulgent but slightly grubby winner. However, the place is without doubt one huge grid-locked shit hole. Literally, well, sort of,  as there is (or was) no proper sewage system. It has a very tall building (cue Freud) which the world was meant to be impressed about until the money ran out and a bit of grovelling / fraternal support had to be sought from the not quite so cheesy neighbours in Abu Dhabi who must have quite enjoyed  baling out the overspending brash neighbours with $20 billion of aid laced with huge amounts of schadenfreude...and the Big Sheik got naming rights on the tower and as is the wont of such folks it was named after himself. There's original. Still, many folk are attracted by the sun, beaches and the very big very shiny malls which are great if you like very big very shiny malls.  They are linked by threads of blocked multi-lane roads full of loony drivers. Hard and easy work is done by expats and cash given away to locals to keep them onside just like the university degrees - certainly it was the case when I worked there. Now everybody has a shiny iPad to help their studies and, from what my sources tell me, the students still get an IELTS 5 but do very well on Angry Birds. As a South Asian working there you sell your life, as a western expat you sell your soul. Prostitution in 50 degree heat.

The cult of personality of the horse doping Sheik (he of Godolphin infamy) is quite an eyebrow raiser for someone from a culture where slagging off of self-serving scumball politicians is a given or indeed a must. The security is pretty good there too with folk being taken away as part of the paranoia of the fearfully unelected in the Arab spring and of course a self-censoring press and selectively blocked internet. Then again we in the west are pretty good at coming down hard on dissent too just consider young Bradley Manning before he gets disappeared in a super max hole for the remainder of his life and the spying carried out through Prism the sort of spying potential that would have made the hardest of Stasi blush. But these are US spooks so that's all OK then.  Well done Barack, how dumb we were to think you would be anything more than a tool for the interests of others. I digress, these arrests are something not much spoken of in the western press as naturally there are megs billion oil and weapons deals to be done.

Of course if everything is given to you  the need or desire to work removed why would you question the way the country is run? I wouldn't and probably neither would you. Huge advances have of course been made and the golden rule for some time, like Essex allegedly was in the 80s,  is mass consumption and excess and hypocrisy although in Essex there was probably less of the latter as no religious taboos were broken. Great bars and restaurants abound, a playground before the crash for footballers and those with more money than taste, these folk will continue to flock there like flies to the huge lakes of poo.

Fair enough in 40 odd years the whole of the UAE and Qatar have made tremendous economic progress, how could they not when they float on so much oil and gas with an endless reservoir of free / cheap foreign labour and chancing expats? Somewhere along the way they lost any soul they may have had was lost in substituting possessions, shiny stuff and the flaunting of extreme mostly unearned wealth. So much more  could have been and could still be done with a bit more tweaking of imagination and fairness. Just like everywhere else I suppose?


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