In the mid-18th century, a small village was built here, in the lower Persian Gulf, where people would dive for pearls off the coast.It soon began to accumulate a cosmopolitan population washing up from Persia, the Indian subcontinent, and other Arab countries, all hoping to make their fortune.As they scuttled away, Dubai decided to ally with the six surrounding states and make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
This is a city built from nothing in just a few wild decades on credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery. Every time she starts to tell her story, she puts her head down and crumples.
Dubai is a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing – at last – into history. She is slim and angular and has the faded radiance of the once-rich, even though her clothes are as creased as her forehead.
They were largely illiterate nomads who spent their lives driving camels through the desert – yet now they had a vast pot of gold. Dubai only had a dribble of oil compared to neighbouring Abu Dhabi – so Sheikh Maktoum decided to use the revenues to build something that would last.
Israel used to boast it made the desert bloom; Sheikh Maktoum resolved to make the desert boom. Every evening, the hundreds of thousands of young men who build Dubai are bussed from their sites to a vast concrete wasteland an hour out of town, where they are quarantined away.
If you have any outstanding debts that aren't covered by your savings, then all your accounts are frozen, and you are forbidden to leave the country."Suddenly our cards stopped working. We were thrown out of our apartment." Karen can't speak about what happened next for a long time; she is shaking. Daniel was sentenced to six months' imprisonment at a trial he couldn't understand. "Now I'm here illegally, too," Karen says I've got no money, nothing. They lure you in telling you it's one thing – a modern kind of place – but beneath the surface it's a medieval dictatorship."II.