I was 18 when I visited Dubai for the first time. My aunt took me with her as an alias to go visit her boyfriend. We were young (we’re still young but in a try-hard way, back then we were sincerely young) and I couldn’t be happier about being an alias for somebody. Dubai then had started to flourish. I had heard many things about a city rising from the desert. Sheikhs, green bills, nightlife. As a young Lebanese, I grew up witnessing these people come to my country, dump their money, enjoy what the most liberal Arab country could offer -women, beaches, clubs, and food- and leave with a hope for the next summer to come back soon; because “ma fi ahla men lebnan”.
I sat in my bed and cried for an hour the day I came back from that trip. My mom had chosen to get my room walls painted in green while I was in Dubai and I thought they looked horrible. The truth is I was crying because I didn’t want to come back, regardless whether the walls were turned into green, purple, or yellow. Dubai had had me at hello.
Ten years later, I landed here again (Yes, seriously it took me ten years, I still don’t know what I was thinking).This time for a job.
To put it this way, finding a job in Dubai as a Junior-to Mid-level professional is not as easy as it sounds. It’s all about who you know, don’t bother with the LinkedIn application. Unless a company attracts very few mediocre applicants, nobody will call you via the system. But who cares. I finally moved to dubai, and let the fairytale begin.
Life here is too fast. My weekends come and go in a jiffy. So far, I like it, but it’s a reason why a lot of people here lose it. My neighbour, for example, committed suicide the other day by jumping from their 14th floor. Let’s call him Jim Rambalon. Jim Rambalon had lived in Dubai for seven years. The first year, he dated like crazy, women from all around the world, rented houses here and there, got a new porsche, and then… lost his job during the economic crash. He refused to leave the country because he had hope in the comeback of the economy. Well the economy did come back, and Jim Rambalon got another job, and a couple of hundred grands in credit cards to pay back. Between the increasing debts, the work life imbalance, the high maintenance porsche, the increasing rent prices, a playground of young pretty and unfaithful girlfriends, and the parents that kept asking to come visit to see how life has been treating him, Jim lost it. Why would he care anyway, he lived in a country with little history and little attachment to him. One less Jim Rambalon would not affect the statistics, he was an expat anyway, and will always be.
Everyone is on the go.
Dubai can be so homey. At least for a middle eastern girl like me who found haven in this place. But the truth is, even if you have lived here for ten years, made babies, bought a house, established a business, there is always something missing, and a feeling that you might just leave it all one day. I think it is the lack of roots in this country, the fact that you would never become a national, and the nascency of the economy that keeps you on your toes fearing a possible downturn at any time. ‘Everyone is on the go’ is an across-the-board mindset, and it manifests itself deeply on Dubai’s society. People look for short term fits, whether on the job side, in friendships, or the romantic life. Everyone seems just looking for a quick fit; I love to call it ‘my temporary Dubai fit’.
The Lebanese living here with no passport other than the Lebanese one keep dreaming of moving and settling one day in a country like Canada where they can finally get a passport worth the fight; westerners mostly think of coming back to where they came from after making a nice little fortune they were promised in the desert land; and crazy single ones (those who have no plans of settling), have a hidden dream called New York or Paris, hanging in there, and ready to be unleashed at any minute. But who cares, we all live in Dubai now.
The land of convenience.
I live in the land of convenience. You know It’s what made you come here in the first place, that love at first sight, is mostly due to a luxury you can’t that easily afford back home, no matter where you come from. Call the laundry guy at any time and you will find them at your door step. Groceries? ‘We deliver”. House cleaners, they might do it for free just to retain you as a client. Taxis, bell boys, waiters, happy ending massage, everyone is right at your service.
It’s not a luxury as inexpensive as it sounds though. We pay for it indirectly in the value chain, namely through the real estate, the entertainment activities, and many others hidden forms of taxes. The economy benefits from those transactions, and business owners benefit from the availability of workers who can deliver such services at low wages. And people keep flocking in the search of convenience. It’s a chain. And it will only stop the day low wages model can no longer work. But by then, the country would have hopefully established alternative and more stable revenue source industries.
Why are you not happy?
You keep nagging about racism and labor workers treated unfairly; Things are never suddenly perfect. It takes time and sacrifices to rise from ground zero to the top. It is the ugly truth my friend; if anything, Dubai is offering a job for people who might not have one back home. You nag about the lack of culture, the lack of roots, an unstable economy, mercenary expats, people unhappy; well you don’t have to be here. You’re here for a reason, it’s called a better life. And you know you’re getting it. If you can’t hold yourself from buying things beyond your financial means it’s your problem not the country’s. Everyone will make you their victim if you don’t have firm stance and barriers. And Dubai isn’t any different.
Dubai is offering the world and mostly the Arab youth a lifetime opportunity to come and thrive. It’s certainly a risky economy, a shaking ground as an emerging city, a playground, and a city where people got the idea of a brunch all wrong (brunch in Dubai starts at 2pm and ends at 6pm, a.k.a linner), but it’s also what neither New York nor London offered me that easily, a visa to live, a reason to be happy about tomorrow, a hope to help my country when I couldn’t be there anymore; a home away from home.
So, Thank you Dubai, and although I hate you in such crazy heat times of the year, but you have totally been the one for me.
And one last word about Emriati people, they rock; they rock with their culture, vision, and respectful attitude. I rarely mingle with Emiratis; but when I do, I make sure to get the best out of it.