From oct 2010 my educational posts are published only on Pip

18 sep. 2011

Dubai starting it's own new culture

Dubai is hot as a sauna. And humid. When being in Sweden it’s completely impossible to imagine what it feels like to always be surrounded with such heat and the first day you’re just amazed by it. This state of amazement strikes me again and again the following three days. Most of the impressions from Dubai are impossible to imagine before you experience them.

Dress code attitude
Already at the airport I get amazed by the tricky attitude of 10 customs officers in kanduras in their saunter in front of the passport check. Kandura is the classic arab style white ankle-length white shirt that at least half of the men you see in Dubai wear. These guys are holding a show of power in front of us. Only when they want to they will staff a counter to speed the service of the squiggeling queues of dead tired travelers. It is 6 in the morning and we’ve been stuck on a plane at Qatar airport for hours.

The mixed dress code of the airport is remaining also when going in to Dubai. Many women wear an abaya, a black over-garment covering most parts of the body. Just as many are covering their head with an hijab. Again as many cover only their hair with a shawl, but I would say that the biggest part are western styled – not provocative, but proper and stylish. The total overview reminds me of New York.

The land before Mad Max
In the taxi my company asks the driver if he is originally from Dubai and yes, he answers… Later I am thinking that we must have met the only native driver in all of Dubai. Who can be from here? There seems to be no original town, no history, nothing before these skyscrapers. I learn that there have been people living there since early 1800 and it was formally established in 1833. The modern Dubai was created after the UK left the area in 1971. I am almost right though – this taxi driver is a rarity. 84% of the population of metropolitan Dubai was foreign-born, about half of them from India. I still guess that most of the city has risen from the desert as a strange construction of concrete, shiny facades and futuristic lush designs. Entering the Sheik Zayed road makes me pretend I’m in the world before it turned to the apocalyptic set of the Mad Max movie.

A country of free, well educated, wealthy men and women
The next morning I learn at the School of Government that there are 22% women in the Dubai Government, 59% women in the work force and 70% women at the university. These are interesting figures considering that the population is 1,7 million, of which 24% are women.

Later I am taking a photo of one of many walls decorated with the current ruler, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, also the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE. I find it amazing that his family has been the constitutional monarchy since 1833, but an Egyptian friend working in Abu Dhabi informs me that the people love him. This Sheikh sees to that everyone in this country is wealthy. The people building and falling down the skyscrapes are all guest workers – free to go home if they want to.

A fictive reality
I had a coke at the top of my hotel, enjoying the view of Burj Khalifa- structure in the world (321 meters), but only that height 40 floors up is enough to make me dizzy. I was wandering about in the redoubtable Mall for an hour, thought I would never get out and get some fresh air again, passing an ice rink, an enormous water fall and a gigantic aquarium. I felt dizzy all the time from constantly changing temperature from outside 40 degrees to inside 18. At night time the city is fully illuminated, shimmering, sparkling, glimmering. It’s beautiful but you just keep wondering how much energy is used to make this fictive city become real. I also start to hunger for the real people, the real Dubai, the real air. But there is nothing else. The air in Dubai is air condition, the habitans are bankers making money and the culture is futuristic buildings and concrete floors. This is a new culture, in it's very beginning.

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