Dubai is fun, just not all of it

Why the emirate's upsides can be its biggest downside, says Beatrice Thomas.
By Beatrice Thomas
Mon 30 Jun 2014 03:47 PM

After almost a year in the sandpit my time here is up. I’m moving on to new adventures outside of the UAE, so forgive me for a slightly indulgent final AB Café.

My stay has maybe not been long enough to pass any expert judgment on this city, but as a reporter and general observer of life it has allowed me to form some firm opinions on a few things.

Coming to Dubai, a lot of people told me that “you either love it, or hate”. That’s true, and I’d like to think my view of the place is a combination of the two.

What Dubai has in spades is also what has made it the tourist and expat draw card of today: ambition, opportunity, year-round warm weather and a happening social scene.

There is always something to do, someone to be seen with and a new project or business to be launched, promoted and admired.

The government has encouraged this through the UAE’s tax-free status, free-zone business precincts and, as a result, anyone with an idea and a dream and, certainly, the goal of making big bucks, is drawn out here.

The thing is, I believe some of those lures are also Dubai’s biggest downside.

I’m by no means an idealist, but I do think some people’s attitudes, skewed by a money-making drive, could do with a reality check.

It’s not that I would deny anyone the chance to make a success of themselves, but there’s a lot to be said for humility, and common courtesy.

For example, the lack of courtesy on the roads is amongst the worst I have experienced, including in bigger, busier cities, in the world. You’re not that important, and surely your hurriedness doesn’t justify risking other people’s lives.

Likewise, the attitude towards shop assistants, restaurant workers, taxi drivers and any other lower-income worker could for a lot of people also do with a serious manners upgrade.

These workers probably earn less than you, but that doesn’t mean you get to treat them poorly.

The boom-bust cycle that seems to have emerged in Dubai is likely to be its biggest challenge, not only as the property market dips and dives, but in the spin-off effect this has on retaining and attracting foreigners to its shores.

Higher rents, for the inflated sake of it and without adequate reason, does nothing for building up Dubai’s name.

Just yesterday, a long-term expat remarked that he and his wife were considering buying into the Dubai property market after six years here. But, after experiencing the 2008 property crash, they still had their doubts.

What if something happens and we have to all leave? What recourse do we have as non-citizens and the lack of access to permanent residency were among the chief concerns. It’s a debate Dubai is starting to have and with it comes the question of whether permanency equals the need to pay tax – my first point about what brings many expats out here to begin with.

That said, it’s been a fun ride, with fantastic experiences and firm friendships made. Would I return? Who knows, but I do know for certain it’s bye for now.

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