The Problem Of Dubai: It’s Not A Melting Pot

I’ve been in Dubai for almost three months now (oh, how time flies by), and being the highly adaptable person I am, I have managed to fit in rather comfortably very quickly, and I have to say that I really like it here and am enjoying my time a lot.

One of the things I love about Dubai is how mixed it is, and how you get to meet people from all over the world every single day; That is always a great thing to me and a very enriching experience.
A friend of mine called it a World City (Global City) because of that, and I agree. 

There is another side to that coin though, which is behind the problem of Dubai. Unlike other global cities, Dubai is not a melting pot, and that’s where its problem lies.

If you take any of these other cities, you’ll find that the majority of people have moved there to settle down, build a life, invest in their future; and as a result of that they work hard, they blend in to the fabric of the multi-cultural society, they build strong personal relationships, they develop a sense of belonging, they care about the city, and the country, and they contribute to its growth and its cultural richness; because it is home to them, and their lives and those of their children are closely tied to it.

Dubai, on the other hand, is just considered a station by the majority of people living in it; they come here and they’ve already decided that it’s going to be only for a few years, and then they’ll be moving on to somewhere else, or back to their home countries. That means that they’re not as involved, they don’t develop a strong sense of belonging, they don’t really invest much into personal relationships, they never really care enough.

And that makes a world of difference, and everyone visiting Dubai feels it. Not everyone knows how to put it in words, but some of the things I’ve heard most, from before ever setting foot here, are that it feels ‘fake’, that it’s too materialistic, that it lacks identity …etc.

And why is it this way? Simply because it’s almost impossible for expats to be granted citizenship, and so sooner or later they’re going to have to leave, if not at their own free will, it’ll be because a point in time will come when they’re no longer allowed to stay.

And so people plan it in advance, they don’t let themselves get too attached, they don’t invest more personal effort than they have to, they don’t feel they have any obligations towards the city or the country, and their time is reduced to revolve around a main mission, which is in most cases acquiring money; which all explains the feeling visitors get.

Of course, I understand the point of view of the government here, and that opening the door to immigrants from all over the world, from different backgrounds, cultures and religions, will permanently affect the country in many ways; and of course it is a choice, and one where there is no absolutely right or wrong answer.

Personally, as with every other expat in Dubai, I know that I’ll be here for a few years only before I move on, but as with every other place I’ve lived in throughout my life, I’ll be blending in, I’ll be building friendships, I’ll be playing my role and contributing whatever I can, and I’ll be enjoying myself along the way.

Home to me is where my little family is, and where I lay my head down to sleep at night; and for these coming years, my home is Dubai.

  • Slim Amamou

    I never been in dubai, but I think you nailed it.

  • mohamed

    Exactly the same as Qatar. Although I much prefer the comparison to an airport or shopping mall (given how much life in these states revolve around consuming…I mean, what else is there to do!)

  • UmZayd

    Can’t say it any better. I think exactly the same.

  • Mai

    It’s hard to care about and invest in a place that doesn’t care about you. I was born and raised here. I’m still living here. And I have just about the same rights as the next person who arrives here tomorrow.

    So, in some respects,it’s difficult to have a strong emotional bond with Dubai. But in others, I have built a life here, with a solid circle of friends that I grew up with. It’s the only home I know. And if one day Dubai decides it doesn’t want me, I wouldn’t know where to go. So it’s quite scary.

  • sami

    I visited Dubai in 2007 for Hamdi Qandil’s show on Dubai TV. I had the chance to have a sightseeing, with an old friend, Youssef Zouaoui, who was soccer coach there, through the most “beautiful” parts of the city.

    Honestly, I didn’t like Dibai: no real “old city” or medina, too much malls and building without soul, and consumerism seems to represent the main “cultural” activity there.

    I don’t know if things have changed since the, I really hope.

  • Aouni

    I am using this program and it seems working very well:

    Etisalat and Du sucks!

    I hate blocking websites like flickr.

  • mssmotorrd

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    p.s. You have a very good template for your blog. Where did you find it?

  • za3tar

    Very nice article and analysis. As you said, there is absolute right or wrong way for how the government of Dubai should behave. I would like it to be more open, but it is understandable why it is not. Good luck with your work there.