Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Arabia and Maybe More . . .

We have been in Dubai now for three days. Giant buildings, check. All of them still under construction, check. An odd drained feeling from constantly walking between 110degree sunlight and 45 degree air conditioning, check. But what I think everyone has been most surprised by is the sheer diversity of this city. Several of us came with previous experience in and interest in the Arab world, eager to see what promised to be a uniquely high-profile and different Arab city. What we didn’t quite count on is that Arabs are a huge minority in Dubai, and that it is just as much an Indian, East Asian, and African city as a Middle Eastern one.

Two blocks from our hotel, dhows line up on the Deira wharf. Some of them are for personal and tourist use, and are so ornately carved they look more like antique furniture than ships. But farther down the wharf, the dhows are stacked three deep and stacks of boxes and crates sit on the walkway – tires bound for Iran, refrigerators heading for India, and I’m told sometimes they’ll load up a few cars to take to Somalia.

There is no lingua franca here. Though I had read that only a minority of Dubai’s inhabitants were native Arabic speakers, I still expected it to be in daily use by others. Instead, the Urdu, Hindi, Farsi, Tagalog, Chinese and Russian speakers resort to bare-bones English to communicate with each other.

We’re trying to wrap our heads around this diversity in class. In our conference room overlooking the Emirates Towers and the Burj Dubai (the uncompleted tallest building in the world), we’ve talked about the pressure put on Dubai to emphasize the Arab elements of its identity. Meanwhile, some students from the nearby American University of Sharjah, originally from Nigeria and Zanzibar, paid a visit and emphasized what a tall order that is, pointing out the window to a housing project filled with Zanzibaris with Omani passports (or sometimes no passports), allowed to stay in Dubai since the Sixties. If it sounds confusing, it is – and the dizzying swirl of skyscrapers, traffic, and the biggest of everything in the world is nothing compared to the diversity of people passing through and settling here.

8 comments:

  1. I am hoping the students on this year's program would gain quite unique insight into this dynamic Gulf country by actually residing in the heart of the Deira neighborhood in Dubai. Situated right next to the creek, our accomodation provides an immediate sense of dynamism...the impressive skyline is visible from our windows, and travel to and from our various "off-campus" visits is easy. Today's visits to the Sharjah Emirate's largest private hosptial, the Sharjah University compound and then a business located in the Festival City mall in Dubai provided the students a broad range of perspectives to the dynamic economic that is in flux at the moment. Linking visits to sites that reflect the UAE's health care needs with bowling and fast food, I hope, complimented our readings about the history of migration to the region. The hospitality and health industries are certainly major components to the political economy of the Gulf and I hope the students will reflect a bit on our busy day as they proceed with this course; I am sure we will revisit the issues discussed today.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This web site is really a walk-through for all of the info you wanted about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse here, and you’ll definitely discover it. Dhow Cruise Dinner

    ReplyDelete
  3. The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought your have something interesting to say. yacht charter dubai

    ReplyDelete
  4. An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you should write more on this topic,Fishing in Dubai

    ReplyDelete
  5. You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for the issue and found most individuals will go along with with your website.Fishing in Dubai

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello! I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the great info you have here on this post. I will be coming back to your blog for more soon. Fishing in Dubai

    ReplyDelete