Sunday, October 8, 2006

Trip to Dubai

Dubai is a truly remarkable place. The first thing that strikes you is that there is construction going on everywhere. And apparently it is not just a matter of there being active construction sites everywhere. They also get a lot of stuff done. The entire part of the city where I live (Dubai Marina) has been constructed mostly in the last year. The building I live in is one of the first completed, but even so the entire skyline from my window which now consists of mostly finished tall buildings were just iron skeletons of buildings when my friends were here 6 months ago.

Off course, with so much construction going on there are bound to be some cut corners. I heard about one tower where they didn't realize that they had forgotten to put in water pipes in the entire building until it was completed. Another example is the flat were I was staying where none of the shower drains worked.

Something else that hits you immediately (even in my case where I landed at 6:30 in the morning) is the heat. This place is definitely too hot for my taste. Even at night it's still above 30C (~95F). It is simply too hot to do anything outside. Just walking a single block is a major undertaking.

For me, having lived in Southern California for a while, I can say that in this country Mexican is spelled I-N-D-I-A-N. It is a remarkable system they have set up here. There is basically no poverty for citizens of this country. Even better than that, a lot of people don't even need to work. This is accomplished by enforcing a rule that except for a few "free zones" no foreign entity is allowed to own a controlling interest in a company. So if you are a big foreign company who wants in on the whole Dubai commerce thing you find a local who is willing to own 51% of the company. So a lot of local people just own companies without actually needing to work for them.

This brings me to who actually does the work. That is being done by Indians that are brought here to work 12 hour shifts for around $120 to $150 a month. These guys are also the people who work 24/7 building the sky scrapers all around town. Even better is that if I go to a restaurant, pay with a credit card and then add tip to it the people waiting on me don't get that money here, it is kept by the establishment. So if you go here be sure to tip in cash.

There is also an amazing amount of hypocritical moral superiority going on. You can only buy alcohol in hotel bars for instance. If you live here permanently you can get a license to buy liquor as long as you can prove that you are not a Muslim. Also there are off course no strip bars or anything like that, but in pretty much every bar you can play the game "spot the hooker". I and Johansson have been debating which country is best at it. Here in Dubai or in the USA (Which is also pretty good at hypocrisy as a society). I tend to lean towards Dubai being worst, but Johansson disagreed.

The place itself though has a lot of really nice restaurants and exceptional shopping. Price wise I would say brand clothes are about the same as in Southern California (Or Sweden), but electronics is a little bit cheaper (20 to 30%). And off course there is no value added tax.

One fun thing about this place is that just before I showed up H&M launched in Dubai (Opening a whole bunch of stores at once). By the time I arrived their ad campaign said simply “H&M: We're Finally here”. Given that H&M is the reason for my nick-name Mauritz, me and Henrik thought this was very appropriate given that we were both there at the time.

One last thing that struck me about this place is that it is so overtly religious. For instance the last day I left was the first day of Ramadan and during this time you couldn’t even get a bottle of water before 6pm (Or actually, you could, but it was illegal to drink it in a public place) in the entire Mall of the Emirates. This is regardless if you are Muslim or not. I just found it weird that they would enforce this in a place so overtly geared towards tourism.

Finally here are some pictures of the spectacle (Also including some pictures of me skiing inside the mall of the emirates).

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