Dubai

Dubai: Gilded Cage

SYED ALI
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 360
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npd1m
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  • Book Info
    Dubai
    Book Description:

    In less than two decades, Dubai has transformed itself from an obscure Gulf emirate into a global center for business, tourism, and luxury living. It is a fascinating case study in light-speed urban development, hyperconsumerism, massive immigration, and vertiginous inequality. Its rulers have succeeded in making Dubai into a worldwide brand, publicizing its astonishing hotels and leisure opportunities while at the same time successfully downplaying its complex policies towards guest workers and suppression of dissent.

    In this enormously readable book, Syed Ali delves beneath the dazzling surface to analyze how-and at what cost-Dubai has achieved such success. Ali brings alive a society rigidly divided between expatriate Westerners living self-indulgent lifestyles on short-term work visas, native Emiratis who are largely passive observers and beneficiaries of what Dubai has become, and workers from the developing world who provide the manual labor and domestic service needed to keep the emirate running, often at great personal cost.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16816-7
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-xv)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-13)

    Dubai is:

    ‘Manhattan-on-speed’

    ‘A skyline on crack’

    ‘Capitalist dream on steroids’

    ‘Part Disney, part Scheherazade’

    ‘A hallucinatory pastiche of the big, the bad and the ugly.’

    These lines are from recent journalistic meditations on Dubai, a city that has become central in the global imagination as the soaring cost of oil from 2001 to 2008 fuelled its latest economic boom, and the plummeting cost of oil since 2008 has just as dramatically ground its construction projects to a snail’s pace. In just a few short years, Dubai has morphed from being a Middle Eastern/Indian Ocean regional city into a global...

  5. CHAPTER ONE THE ROOTS OF DUBAI
    (pp. 14-31)

    Dubai’s transformation into a brash, upstart global city has occurred in a breathtakingly short time. This was largely made possible by the aftershocks of 9/11 and the second Gulf War. But that is getting ahead of ourselves. Here I lay out the foundations of modern Dubai in its pre-9/11 incarnation and before it had acquired global cachet – its history as a trade and smuggling centre; the building of a tourist infrastructure where none reasonably should exist; and the short-term visa system that regulates how foreigners go about living their lives.

    Dubai’s modern history dates to 1833, when eight hundred...

  6. CHAPTER TWO BECOMING A GLOBAL BRAND
    (pp. 32-80)

    On my first night in Dubai in June 2006, I went to meet a friend at the Mall of the Emirates. Driving down Sheikh Zayed Road (the main highway in Dubai) at night was eerie; all the half-built skyscrapers with their white and red lights looked like ‘Transformer’ action figures. Once at the mall I was overwhelmed by the number and variety of high-end stores and its size: at the time it was the largest mall in the Middle East, until it was overtaken by Dubai Mall, one of the largest malls in the world, which in turn will be...

  7. CHAPTER THREE IRON CHAINS
    (pp. 81-109)

    The bulk of the population of Dubai today has been imported to service the less than 10 per cent of the overall population that are citizens of Dubai, as well as the middle and upper classes of expatriate labour. The massive labouring class in this city consists of people in a wide variety of occupations: construction workers; lower-level service sector workers including store clerks, security guards, taxi drivers, hotel staff, restaurant workers, hawkers and car cleaners; domestic workers including maids, houseboys and gardeners; and of course sex workers. These expatriates know full well that in Dubai, indeed throughout the Gulf...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR LIVING IN ‘FLY-BY’ DUBAI
    (pp. 110-134)

    Michelle Palmer a thirty-six-year-old publishing executive who had been living in Dubai for three years, went to an all-you-can-eat-and-drink Friday brunch in a posh hotel where she met Vince Acors, a thirty-four-year-old businessman who was visiting friends in Dubai. After twelve hours of heavy drinking at various venues, these Britons strolled onto the beach and began to fool around. They were stopped by a policeman for kissing in public and let off with a warning. The same policeman came back later to supposedly find them having sex. They were arrested. Allegedly, she called the policeman a ‘f****** Muslim ****’ and...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE GUESTS IN THEIR OWN HOMES
    (pp. 135-163)

    My friend Wilbur had come from New York City to visit me while I was doing research in Dubai. We went to dinner at a swank restaurant in the Madinat Jumeirah mall, a fake Arabsoukcomplete with non-functional, traditional wind towers. We met up with Vishul, a thirty-something analyst who was born in India and raised in Dubai but had studied and worked in the US for almost ten years before returning. Wilbur asked Vishul where he was from, to which Vishul answered, ‘Delhi.’ ‘Delhi?’ I said, taken aback since we had known each other for a few months...

  10. CHAPTER SIX STRANGERS IN THEIR OWN LAND
    (pp. 164-185)

    Throughout this book I have argued that the key to understanding the intertwined stories of Dubai’s history, economy, and culture has been its treatment of expatriate labour as temporary. This visa regime also shapes the working and living situations of nationals, and it also has unwittingly created an identity crisis they are trying desperately to come to grips with.

    Until now, nationals have been a fleeting presence in the book. I have barely mentioned them with respect to the construction of Dubai’s consumer culture, social life and living conditions, and work. The near absence of nationals from the narrative is...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN THIS IS THE FUTURE?
    (pp. 186-193)

    I was standing on the helipad of one of the (then) new swank high-rise apartment buildings in the Dubai Marina with my friend Vishul. We took in the panoramic, night-time view of Dubai, looking north on Sheikh Zayed Road towards the ‘older’ parts of the city, looking across the highway to the Burj Khalifa construction site and south towards Jebel Ali Port. Vishul turned 360 degrees and jokingly exclaimed, ‘Thisis the future!’

    The purpose of this book has been to document and analyse this future, unmoored from and unhindered by ‘tradition’. For Dubai to be what it is, the...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 194-215)
  13. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 216-229)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 230-240)