So I had a quick business trip to Dubai – so many over-the-top buildings that it’s almost like Las Vegas only it’s Muslim and there’s no gambling (among other things). Well, they’re both in a desert anyway. We’ve all seen TV shows on it – the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world; the Palm Jumeirah and World Islands, the man-made island developments. There are even vending machines that sell gold bullion with spot prices updated every 30 seconds.
Everywhere you turn, you’re told that it’s the biggest, tallest, deepest, largest, blingy-est, expensive-est: then insert building, shopping mall, marina, hotel or even parking lot, I suppose. Also throw in hottest and dustiest on any given day. Of course, Las Vegas does have a few advantages over Dubai. As far as I know, the following things are not really a big deal in Vegas but are illegal in Dubai and can be punished severely: drinking alcohol without a license, illicit drugs (even weed), girls riding in a car with unrelated boys, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, public displays of affection and a host of other things that make life worth living.Taxes seem to be the attraction for many westerners to live and work there for a few years beyond the sheer novelty of it. While it doesn’t hold true for Americans because Uncle Sam lays claim to our wages wherever we work, workers from other countries can do an ex-pat gig in Dubai, make loads of cash, and pay no taxes at all. A few years of that isn’t all bad. Gas is about 25 cents a gallon and the costs of other things seem to be relatively typical for an expensive city.
Overall, Dubai felt like many hot and dusty southeast Asian cities recently swamped with cash and development. Completely overbuilt with skyscrapers, more apartments than you can imagine and filled with foreigners. Seems like you barely see local Emiratis – unless you’re at the Mall of Dubai. The local population is mostly Indians and Pakistanis, with a smattering of southeast Asians such as Filipino or Malaysian, Arabs from other countries, random westerners and only about 10% local Emirati. Of course when a few large extended families seem to own the whole place, everyone else is basically an imported indentured servant. Overall, I’d say it all seems better on TV.