Welcome to “new” Dubai


This week I’m in Dubai, covering the first ever Gulf Film Festival for Variety. But I’m actually staying in the newfound metropolis known as “new” Dubai, an odd title for a city that was only built over the last two decades. The towers pictured above were actually almost non-existent four or five years ago. The pace of development is unreal. Newspapers here are filled with full page ads glorifying the latest, greatest, tallest and most luxurious residential and office towers. As I type this, I can see a giant silver dome that contains a ski lift, which is part of the local mall. Another even larger snow dome is planned as a part of Dubailand, slated to be the world’s biggest theme park. Many of the new developments include partnerships with big name brands such as Dreamworks, Universal Studios and a Tiger Woods branded golf course development. The investments have drawn hundreds of thousands of expatriates, from Europe and Asia, who now call Dubai home–a curious sociological experiment in the heart of conservative Arabia.

But all is not perfect in this city of the future. Ask any cab driver or migrant worker from India, Pakistan or the Philippines and they won’t hesitate to express how “very bad” life in Dubai really is. Most live in crowded housing and complain that the cost of living has doubled over the last couple of years. Many say they share 2 bedroom apartments with up to 8 persons. They live in shifts with half working throughout the day and the other half working at night. But even if many Indians and Pakistanis say they won’t be staying much longer, the Dubai machine plows forward, expanding ever deeper into the desert with no shortage of cheap labor in sight.

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