A window on Dubai

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A slice of the city, viewed from the balcony of our hotel room  at Palace Downtown Dubai. It’s one of the hotels owned by a Sheikh (naturally)  who also owns a mall and another top end hotel, known simply, as The Address. Legend has it that the entire  Dubai was a fiefdom of four Sheikhs who developed a  desert into a tourists delight, with a sprawl of malls and high-rise hotels.

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Such was Dubai’s landscape less than five decades back. Today, tourists are driven some 50 odd miles in a  safari to get a feel of the desert

.Dubai’s  economy today thrives on  its real estate , financial services, and oil.  But, unlike in some of the other Emirates, oil  isn’t Dubai’s prime source of revenue. It accounts for a mere 5 percent of GDP. Real estate development is an ongoing affair. The blank space in the landscape between the high-rises in the photo (above) would morph, within  the next few years, into  design city

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Another city view, from the hotel complex. You see that early visitors for after-dusk  music and light show on the lake  have already taken vantage positions.. As a tourist from a chronically power-short India I was somewhat amazed at the excessive lighting and general power consumption. The city’s roads and buildings are so lit up after sunset that the place looks as if its ‘Diwali’ for Dubai  round the year.

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Taking this picture (nothing picturesque about it) I had in mind the Sheikhs  who might be owning these yachts, the tall buildings behind, not to speak of the expensive cars parked in front. Many of our ‘desi’  brethren, in contrast, make a living as shop assistants, hotel room-service staff, and cab drivers. They  make good money, though.  Expats – representing 200 nationalities – account for 80 percent city residents. They  keep the place ticking.

The natives of Dubai, 20 percent pop. – don’t need to work, it appears. The govt. provides them with houses – five to seven bedroom, with swim pool – with free power and water supply thrown in. Foreigners can’t own property in Jumeirah , an upscale locality where most natives live. The local property owners may well be making a packet renting out residential and commercial space to foreigners.

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And the city appears so flushed with  wealth  that the municipal authorities in tax-free Dubai  make even mundane  fixtures as a  trash bin look classy.  Littering  is  an offence that  attracts severe punishment.

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Quite a few  ‘desi’  journalists  work in newspapers. As someone who had spent his working life in  journalism, I was particularly interested in  discovering  a Journalists Association in Dubai. Media isn’t something with which I associated the city.   UAE is not particularly known for its free press.

My wife, reminds me, though, I was once desperate enough to seek a newspaper  job a job in the Mid-East. It must have been during my earlier days in journalism when  I had struck a lean patch in career. She tells me she had prayed that I shouldn’t succeed in my attempt , She had funky notions about the Arab world, I didn’t  get the placement I had sought in ‘Khaleej Times’.  Considering that press freedom was a relatively recent development in that region, it was just as well that my wife’s prayers  were answered, and I continued to slog it out in a Delhi newspaper.

Read on the Net  that UAE journalists  observed their first Press Freedom Day as recently as  in 2008.  At a majlis   held on Sept.23  of that year  Mohammed Youssef,  the then head of the UAE Journalists Association gave a call for more openness in the media and further legal protection for reporters and editors.  He held there was growing acceptance by government officials and businesses that the media needed to be free, but that there was a long way to go before journalists could get the same access to information as their counterparts in other parts of the world.

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Our city tour guide –  I could catch her name when she introduced herself –  bought our entry ticket  at the Dubai Museum.  In her three-year stay in the city, she would have done the museum  so many times that she preferred to stay out in the bus while we went around the place.

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Most ‘desis’  think  gold  whenever someone mentions Dubai. And the city has an  entire  bazar  for gold.  Shops there retail gold ornaments and diamond , as traders  do , shoes or saris in  bazars elsewhere. Was surprised to notice a prominent Indian presence in Dubai’s gold souk.

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A visitor to the city nowadays would notice  Joyalukkas hoardings featuring Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan  located  on strategic points in the city.. The Bollywood star figured in a  sponsored newspaper supplement  brought out by the leading Indian jewelers .  Bollywood celebs, they say, are favourties with Dubai Sheikhs. One of them is believed to have gifted a villa in Dubai to Shahrukh Khan.  Salman Khan  is  hosted by a Sheikh,  who places a chauffeured Rolls  at Salman Khan’s disposal during his regular visits to the town.

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No blog post on Dubai can be said to be complete without a reference to  Burj Khalifa. Its iconic status is so tall (in physical terms) and towering that you can’t miss the tower, world’s tallest till date,  wherever  you are in the downtown Dubai.

2 Responses

  1. I found this extremely interesting. Were you holidaying there?

    • I am glad you liked it. Your comment prompts me to inflict on you more posts and photos on our Dubai trip..Yes, we had a family get-together organised by our daughter-in-law and son, who had come to Dubai for a conference.

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