Expats urged to look beneath Dubai’s glitter and glitz

Published:  4 Sep at 6 PM
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Tagged: Dubai, Jobs

Is there a sinister side beneath Dubai’s glitz and glitter?

Dubai is one of the all-time expat favourites for its high salaries, its luxurious lifestyle and its glamorous residents, but some long-term expats sense there’s a sinister undercurrent below the trappings of wealth. Those who’ve ‘made it’ in the city are there to see and be seen, with its exclusivity drawing famous names as well as top talent. What isn’t discussed, or even noted by new arrivals, is the coverage of every square metre in the city by the closed-circuit surveillance cameras set up on every corner, all of which are programmed with facial recognition technology. Dubai’s international airport alone is home to some 3,000.

Given the constant feeling of being watched, it’s no surprise that a good number of expats feel uncomfortable about being seen in public, a feeling which eventually results in the urge to escape. In 2009, at the height of the financial crash, a large number of expats in the financial sector lost their jobs. Overloaded with debt due to their luxury lifestyles and fearing debtors’ prison, many headed straight for the airport, leaving their luxury cars in the car park awaiting collection by the loan companies. Long-stay expats understood exactly why so many headed back home in a hurry, as most were aware things could go very wrong very quickly when the status quo was disturbed. Expats love their lives in Dubai, but the majority are well aware of the truth behind the grim stories.

For those now considering reassignment to the glittering desert city, it’s best to remember life is lived close to, if not on, a cliff edge as Dubai’s rule of law hasn’t yet caught up with its economic and social development. One young female expat admitted she’d been well aware of the city’s darker side and was concerned about the lack of free speech, the debtors’ prisons and the desert-based labour camps. Another admitted expatriates are living in ‘little bubbles’, unaware of the truth about total government control until well after they’ve left. Expat life in Dubai, it seems, is easy as long as the downsides are ignored and the show goes on.
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