Dubai - A Persian Gulf Emirate

A strange oasis of fantastic skyscrapers emerges from the desert floor. The city sprawls over the sand and creeps out to the sea, man-made islands dot the coast line. Tourism, business and construction keep the city busy, even at night. Dubai, once a Bedouin outpost displays capitalism at its peak.

The discovery of oil in 1966 turned the city from a quiet fishing and pearl-exporting town to a rich oil sheikdom. But because its oil supplies are slowly running out, the royal family has decided to make the emirate a financial centre and tourist destination. Since the 1980s they have been investing and pouring money into Dubai. The strategy has worked. Today the emirate gets only very little money from oil but its gross domestic product has exploded.

Dubai is perhaps best known for its seven star hotel, the Burj Al Arab, a sail shaped luxury accommodation which only has suites. In 2008 the construction of the Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world, will be completed. It consists of a palm-shaped island of apartments and villas that extend out to the Persian Gulf and even can be seen from space.

Soon Dubai will boast the world’s largest mall, longest indoor skiing slope and the biggest theme park. There are even plans to build a group of buildings that look like chess pieces on a chess board.

Sheik Mohammed has extended his vision past gold, ski runs and oddly-shaped islands. He wants Dubai to become the Middle East’s number one financial centre, something like a mini New York or London – ready to store the vast wealth of the Persian Gulf.

 

Dubai - Persian Gulf

 

 

In order to attract businesses and banks Dubai has its own Financial City that has its own courts and economic laws - independent from the emirate’s more old-fashioned bureaucracy. Nearly every bank in the world has a branch there. Dubai also owns 20 % of NASDAQ, the American stock exchange. The country is America’s strongest ally in the region and hosts more Navy ships than any other country.

 

However, despite all of these positive aspects, there are also dark sides of this Middle East wonder. Only one eighth of Dubai’s population are citizens of the Emirates. The nationals stand out with their white long sleeved robes for men and black gowns for women. They represent the wealth and own the property of Dubai. The others are expatriates and migrant labour workers. With so many foreigners in the country people ask if Dubai has traded culture for profit.

Migrant labourers make up 60 % of the population. They are promised well-paid jobs in their own country and often have to pay a high fee to get them as well as plane tickets and visas. When the get to Dubai employers often seize their passports and withhold two months pay as security.

 

When they finally get their money it turns out to be very low – not even 200 US dollars a month. They often have to live in labour camps outside of town. Sometimes employers make them sign contracts that keep them at the same company for a few years and don’t allow them to change.

Building skyscrapers and man-made islands is also dangerous work. A few hundred deaths related to work are reported almost every year. Although the UAE has labour laws companies are not punished if they don’t obey them.

But in spite of this, Dubai has also has a dark side – that of money laundering, prostitution and smuggling rings. The city’s migrant workers, mostly from southern Asia suffer from low pay and dangerous working conditions .

 

Migrant Workers in Dubai

Migrant Workers in Dubai - Paul Keller

 

 

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Words

  • accommodation = a place to stay or live
  • ally = a friend
  • although = while
  • attract = here: to make people and companies come here
  • boast = to talk very proudly about
  • branch = here: a local bank
  • bureaucracy =complicated sytsem of rules in a country
  • chess = game for two players who move pieces across a board
  • chess board = board on which you play chess
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • consist of = made up of
  • construction = building
  • contract = written agreement
  • court = place where a trial is held
  • creep = move slowly
  • despite = even though
  • destination = place to go
  • display = show
  • dot = point, mark
  • economic =everything about economy and business
  • emerge = come out of
  • employer = the person who gives you worker a job
  • expatriate = someone who lives in a foreign country
  • extend = reach out
  • fee = price
  • gown = long dress
  • gross domestic product = the goods and services that a country produces in one year
  • host = to be the home of
  • in spite of = nevertheless
  • independent = not owned or controlled by something or someone else
  • indoor = inside a building
  • labour = work
  • labour camp = a place where workers live
  • law = set of rules that a country has
  • long sleeved = a part of clothing that covers your whole arm
  • mall = shopping centre
  • migrant = someone who goes to another area to find work there
  • money laundering = when you get money illegally and put it into a bank so that it is difficult for people to find out where it came from
  • national = the people who are born there and are citizens
  • obey = to do as you are told
  • odd = strange
  • outpost = colony, station
  • peak = best
  • pearl = a small white object that is inside an oyster; it is a jewel
  • piece = a figure in a chess game
  • profit = money
  • property = land
  • prostitution = the work of prostitutes
  • punish =to make someone suffer because they have done something wrong
  • related = linked to, connected to
  • robe = kind of coat; piece of clothing that goes down to your feet
  • royal = the king or sheik and his family
  • security =safety
  • seize = take away from someone
  • sheikdom = a country that is governed by an Arab prince or ruler
  • sign = to put your name on a document
  • slope = piste
  • space = from outside the earth
  • sprawl = spread out
  • stand out = you can recognize them
  • stock exchange = a place where you can buy stocks and shares of companies
  • store = save, keep
  • supplies =raw materials
  • vast = big, large
  • visa = a mark that is put into your passport so that you can enter a country
  • wealth = riches
  • wealth = riches, money
  • withhold = to keep from