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The Dark Side of Dubai – Midde Eastern Slavery

An expat paradise run on slave labour.

When we posted our 10 Worst Cities to Visit in the World some people got really annoyed that Dubai was on the list.

One guy wrote:

This is a stupid list and it makes me want to punch the author in the nuts.

Dubai. This city rocks. Sure, it’s super crazy and in the middle of the desert, but it’s so trippy that if you put yourself in the Disney state of mind, you will love it. I spent a week there in December and was like ‘This place rocks.’

But as this excellent article from Johann Hari reports, Dubai is so dazzling that it blinds people to the despotic regime which masquerades as a Middle Eastern Disneyland. Hari interviews an expatriate reduced to living in the street because of debts who says:

“The thing you have to understand about Dubai is – nothing is what it seems,” Karen says at last. “Nothing. This isn’t a city, it’s a con-job. They lure you in telling you it’s one thing – a modern kind of place – but beneath the surface it’s a medieval dictatorship.”

Why Dubai is Such a Disgusting Place

HereĀ“s how it goes: Before oil was discovered in the region, the United Arab Emirates didn’t exist, the area was ruled by whichever tribe was strongest at the time. A few small towns traded on the coast and the interior was left to the Bedouin who eked out a living as best they could by smuggling, hiring themselves as mercenaries and raising and raiding camels.

Having endured thousands of years of this threadbare existence, the Gulf was turned on its head by the revelation that unimaginable wealth lay beneath the sands. Foreign companies came in, luxurious contracts were signed and in the space of a few years, no local ever needed to worry about working for a living again.

In fact, not many of them ever worried about working again, period. Millions of Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos and Africans were brought in by labour contractors to do all the dirty work for them. Today in the U.A.E, all the cooking, cleaning, serving, construction, retail and general dogsbody work is done by immigrants. Yes, the same could be said of Mexicans in the US or Polish in the UK but in the U.A.E, the immigrant workforce often amounts to slave labour – their passports get confiscated by their employer and they cannot even leave the country, much less get paid.

An Expat Paradise?

What Johann Hari brings out so well in his article is that it’s not just the Arabs who display such astonishing callousness, but also the expatriates who rely upon immigrant maids to do everything for them.

`I asked a British woman called Hermione Frayling what the best thing about Dubai was. ‘Oh, the servant class!’ she trilled. ‘You do nothing. They’ll do anything!’

I used to know smugglers who made their living from taking out suitcases full of pills for expats to party in Dubai and it sounded like a fun place to hang out. And it probably is, provided you get drunk every night, hang out only with other expats and never think about how the whole slave society works.

But anyway, go and read the original article which should leave you in little doubt that Dubai is, without doubt, one of the worst cities in the world.