Was planning to poke around Dubai yesterday but the ‘sleeping’ pill Rachel gave me knocked me out for 24 hours. Went to bed at like 10 PM and woke up at 10 the next evening, having no idea what was going on. I also passed out during Goldfinger, which was too bad. I have now checked out of my hotel and have to kill time before going to the airport. I have no impression of Dubai, other than that there is construction everywhere (that being the 2 mile strip between here and the airport). Coming in all you see is cranes, and looking out the window I see a bunch of brown people building another money-dump hotel.
I have been watching an obscene amount of TV, seeing as I’m only awake at night. Al Jazeera is interesting and very professional looking. Condi visiting, some Israelis breaking things, people in head cloth talking. Nothing too offensive, but I can’t understand what they’re saying. Saudi Arabian TV, on the other hand, is offensively bad. It’s like watching someone slowly and laboriously click thru a website. Just text of the latest news, scrolling through. They also showed an explanation of the hijab (veil) like 40 times. There was also some scary ass Koran verse about liars and all being struck down by the viccitudes of the righteous and all. Saudi 1 is mainly the Royal Family’s photo album, gladhanding suits and doing ceremonial stuff. On another channel some dude was offering advice on when to let your children out of the house.
I’d have to say that, on the whole, my impression of the middle east is generally sour. I see all these Arab princes and princess on TV and in the airports, but all I see around here are brown people working everywhere. However,
Dubai is unusual in that its population comprises mainly expatriates, with UAE nationals (Emiratis) constituting the minority. The vast majority of these expatriates come from South Asia and the Philippines. The UAE government does not allow any form of naturalization or permanent residence to expatriates. Children born in the country to foreign workers are not granted citizenship.
It is common practice for employers to retain employees’ passports for the duration of the employment contract to prevent expatriate employees from changing jobs. This is an illegal practice and is not enforced by the government. On termination of an employment contract, certain categories of expatriates are banned from obtaining a work permit in the country for six months.
The United States Department of State has cited widespread instances of blue collar labor abuse within the city and in the general context of the United Arab Emirates  (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41734.htm).
The government has been criticized by human rights agencies such as Human Rights Watch for its inaction in addressing the discrimination against Asian workers in the emirate. Salary structures based on nationality, sex, age, and race rather than on qualification are common (Wikipedia)
The country is obviously developing, it’s just weird that nobody new can truly take part, even if they’re born there. Dubai is probably actually a good example, however. Only 5% of its income comes from Oil and the economy looks pretty diversified. Emirates actually owns Sri Lankan Airlines. The internal population situation is actually more odd than I thought, covered in more detail on a Bahrani blog.
In the United Arab Emirates as a whole, foreigners outnumber nationals 7 to 1. As of 2001, the population in the UAE was 2.5 million people with 1.2 million Indians, 600,000 Pakistanis, 100,000 Iranians, 50,000 Britons and dozens of other nations represented. Within Dubai, the second largest of the seven emirates in the UAE behind Abu Dhabi, the ratio of foreigners to nationals is estimated to be between 5 to 1 and 12½ to 1. The bulk of Dubai’s population is comprised of Asians (650,000), Arabs (130,000) and Westerners (40,000) who have emigrated to the city in the United Arab Emirates mainly because of the discovery of oil and Dubai’s free market economy. In a profile of the city’s demographics, a May 2004 article in The Economist characterized each population group, “In the business world, Brits, Indians, Iranians and Lebanese are prominent, while for the grunt work of building artificial islands there are plenty of job-hungry Indians and Pakistanis from across the ocean.”(USC, via datadubai)
Right now there are exactly zero Arabs in this Internet Cafe. I’ve seen maybe 4 since I got here, though I have been passed out in a hotel most of the time. It’s strange that a country could look so diverse, and yet be politically controlled by so few. Or, maybe not. The world is more feudal than I ever thought it could be. Going out to get my ticket stamped, find a copy of this Muslim erotic novel (inshallah), and look around before the heat gets to me.