The depths of Dubai-ity

October 17, 2008 at 2:40 pm (capitalism, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, Middle East, Racism, Slavery, workers)

I’m afraid I can’t summon up much sympathy for Vince Acors or Michelle Palmer, the British couple sentenced to three months in prison for having drunken sex on a Dubai beach. This isn’t because I have any objection to drunken sex, and it’s certainly not out of any misplaced ‘respect for local social mores’ – the corrupt, reactionary and racist sheikhdom and its hypocritical ‘mores’ have no right to claim the ‘respect’ of anyone.

No: it’s just that every Brit I’ve ever met who has visited Dubai through choice, in whatever capacity, has invariably been an asshole, an airhead, or (usually) both. This disgusting place embodies all that is worst about modern turbo-capitalism, combined with a semi-feudal Islamic code that, for instance, makes public displays of affection illegal. The Brit ex-pats and tourists who have descended upon the place for a millionaire lifestyle on the (relatively) cheap, deserve all they get when they fall foul of the barbaric laws that are usually reserved for those at the bottom of the pile in this authoritarian and racist state.

The people who really deserve our sympathy are the mass of migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Ethiopia and elsewhere, lured into a life of squalor and super-exploitation by the ruling class of the United Arab Emirates and corrupt employment agents in their countries of origin:

“Like the rest of the Gulf region, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are being built by expat workers. They are strictly segregated, and a hierarchy worthy of previous centuries prevails.

“At the top, floating around in their black or white robes, are the locals with their oil money. Immaculate and pampered, they own everything. Outside the ‘free zones’, where the rules are looser, no one can start a business in the UAE without a partner from the emirates, who often does nothing apart from lending his name. No one can get a work permit without a local sponsor.

“Under the locals come the western foreigners, the experts and advisers, making double the salaries they make back home, all tax free. Beneath them are the Arabs – Lebanese and Palestinians, Egyptians and Syrians. What unites these groups is a mixture of pretention and racism…

“Down at the base of the pyramid are the labourers, waiters, hotel employees and unskilled workers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, the Phillippines and beyond. They move deferentially around the huge malls, cafes, bars and restaurants, bowing down and calling people sir and madam. In the middle of the day, during the hottest hours, you can see them sleeping in public gardens or under trees, or on the marble floors of the Dubai Mosque, on benches or pieces of cardboard on side streets. These are the victims of the racism that is not only flourishing in the UAE but is increasingly being exported to the rest of the Middle East. Sometimes it reminds you of the American south in the 1930s.” 

Read the rest of Ghaith Abdul-Ahad’s report here.


  1. Golden Garcon said,

    This was in the Observer Magazine on 5 October:

    I asked my friend who worked there (Dubai) for about 15 years until two years ago what he thought of the article and he thought they had got it spot on, about the situation there. He also thought it would all collapse as all the construction and development on steroids was financed by highly leveraged schemes. It’s worthwhile reading the article.

  2. Lobby Ludd said,

    Normally, Jim, when you go off on one I tend to wonder why.

    In this case, I am afraid that I have every sympathy with you.

    I have in-laws who live in Sharja but work (hard, to be fair) all over the UAE. They have been very kind to my children who have enjoyed their visits there (courtesy of their grandmother in common paying the air fare). However they are, despite their generosity, ugly people.

    They despise their sponsors (to do business you need an Arab sponsor) because they are Arabs, but cannot understand they are second in the pecking order to them, and as such are dispensable.

    They have no thoughts about the various skivvies that keep them in relative luxury other than what they are paying them. No understanding that the person looking after their children, and sending meagre wages home, might miss their own children

    You may well imagine that my enjoyment of family festivities like Xmas are tempered by who makes it home.

    They are ignorant and empty-headed petit-bourgeois. I cannot talk to them.

  3. Southpawpunch said,

    Yeah, just about every expat I ever meet from there has that pith helmet colonialist mentality (save a couple of ultra reactionary Brit Muslims I knew who went to work there so they could get their kids away from the ‘cesspool’ (e.g. dating) that they saw Britain as being – and where you can rape your Sri Lankan maid with impunity).

    The article on the UAE is good but an important fact about there (and other places e.g Qatar) is that in, for example, South Asians form a majority of the population – I’m not in favour of a single official language or racial group but if there should be one it would be Hindi/Urdu and they are more Asian states than Arab states.

    After a very long struggle, Asians in places like Fiji, the Caribbean and other places achieved parity e.g. with Fijians.

    I look forward very much to the day that they rise in the Gulf and wipe out the Arab rulers (and it must be bloody – or the reaction would be genocidal) and then along with Arabs, Thais, Filipinos and the rest – and even a few Westerners – give the expats fleeing back to Tunbridge Wells at least a good kicking as the Brits scramble towards their BA flight.

  4. Will said,

    Sunny Hundal — who is a mate of both Osler and Voltaire’s Priestly Incantations thinks Dubai is Brilliant. And that.

    I think he is a cockend and a fuckwit.

    Same here:

  5. Voltaire's Priest said,

    You’re like Hundal’s Cable Guy, aren’t you?

  6. Will said,

    Wot do you think of Hundal’s thoughts on Dubia?

  7. Will said,

    And why did you delete comments by me previously a while ago? I thought you was one of them bloggertarin types — you stupid cunt.

  8. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Coming from someone who deletes (and edits, and alters) like Lenny Lenin on crystal meth, that complaint really does have the stench of rank hypocrisy.

  9. Vicky Francis said,

    In fairness, there are few expats passing through this “global hub city” for whom the systematic discrimination rankles (see and See also Andrew Spooner , “Arabian Nightmares” in The Journalist, March 2008.

  10. duct said,

    Vintage Panties, “the stench of rank hypocrisy” comes from your swamp. Will is quite unequivocal about the fact that he deletes shit. You, on the other hand, have justified your swamp becoming a breeding ground for racists, cranks and other forms of pond life on the basis that you’re upholding “free speech”. Yet when it comes to a few posts that offend your personal sensibilities you disappear them (and then pretend that you haven’t).

    It’s this disjuncture between your self-styled bloggertarian credentials and your deleting of comments that forms the basis of your hypocrisy – laid bare and exposed for all to see. Your counter-claim of hypocrisy doesn’t hold up.

    As for Hundel, would it really hurt you just to come clean and admit that his personal love of a decadent feudal shit hole for western playboys singles him out as a bit of a dick? Or would that upset your cozy little blog alliance?

  11. voltairespriest said,

    Say, shithead… what’s a “bloggertarian” and how to they get “credentials”?

    Sweet to know that shite still attracts flies though, no matter what pseudonym they’re using today.

  12. duct said,

    Pseudonym? The shock, the horror! I suppose your parents chose to name you “voltairespriest” then – bloggertarian dimwit. At least you admit your blog’s shite tho.

  13. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Errm no, that’s not the “shite” I was referring to, as anyone who can read would tell you. And I was referring to your multiple pseudonyms.

    Again, my cognitively-challenged friend, kindly define “bloggertarian” (a term beloved of pro-war left keyboard warriors) and then tell me how you think I fit the category. Or alternatively go and suck on an exhaust pipe. Whichever you’d prefer.

  14. charliethechulo said,

    It all does make you think, though, what people like the the SWP and the CPGB would have to say if this sort of thing was going on in, say… Israel?

  15. voltairespriest said,

    Can you actually be prosecuted for drunken shagging in Israel? I think we need to know…

  16. DubaiHolic said,

    Thank you for the great post. Keep the good work comin’

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