Dubai only had a dribble of oil compared to neighbouring Abu Dhabi – so Sheikh Maktoum decided to use the revenues to build something that would last. Israel used to boast it made the desert bloom; Sheikh Maktoum resolved to make the desert bloom. He would build a city to be a centre of tourism and financial services, sucking up cash and talent from across the globe. He invited the world to come tax-free – and they came in their millions, swamping the local population, who now make up just 5 per cent of Dubai. A city seemed to fall from the sky in just three decades, whole and complete and swelling. They fast-forwarded from the 18th century to the 21st in a single generation.
But they can’t, I point out. Their passports are taken away, and their wages are withheld. “Well, I feel bad if that happens, and anybody who does that should be punished. But their embassies should help them.” They try. But why do you forbid the workers – with force – from going on strike against lousy employers? “Thank God we don’t allow that!” he exclaims. “Strikes are in-convenient! They go on the street – we’re not having that. We won’t be like France. Imagine a country where the workers can just stop whenever they want!” So what should the workers do when they are cheated and lied to? “Quit. Leave the country.”
A recipient of Shaikh Hamdan Award for Academic Excellence, Suchetha is also an excellent dancer and a spell bee champion. Though her role models are Indian singers Lata Mangeshkar and Shreya Ghoshal, Suchetha wishes to pursue a career in medicine like her father.
Meera garnered criticism from audiences for posting a topless picture to mark Tamil New Year in 2018. Meera soon fell out with the organisers of the Miss Tamil Nadu beauty pageant and chose to create her own competition titled Miss Tamil Nadu Diva for 2019. She later alleged that Ajith Ravi, an organiser of the Miss Tamil Nadu beauty pageant, had sent her death threats to stop her from going ahead with the event. Ajith Ravi subsequently denied her allegations and labelled that Meera had engaged in fraudulent behaviour, taken money from other designers and cheated potential contestants. Soon after, the organisers of Miss South Indian escort in Dubai decided to revoke her 2016 title, owing to her fraudulent activities. The title was later given to Sanam Shetty. She was subsequently quizzed and then given anticipatory bail in relation to criminal charges.
Due to overcrowding, girls and boys are separated to different shifts after the third standard. Boys attend the afternoon shift while girls continue on the morning shift. In exceptional cases, few boys are allowed to study in the morning shift in 3rd Standard.
Dr Mohammed Raouf, the environmental director of the Gulf Research Centre, sounds sombre as he sits in his escorts service in Dubai office and warns: “This is a desert area, and we are trying to defy its environment. It is very unwise. If you take on the desert, you will lose.”
But there is another face to the Emirati minority – a small huddle of dissidents, trying to shake the Sheikhs out of abusive laws. Next to a Virgin Megastore and a Dunkin’ Donuts, with James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” blaring behind me, I meet the Dubai dictatorship’s Public Enemy Number One. By way of introduction, Mohammed al-Mansoori says from within his white robes and sinewy face: “Westerners come here and see the malls and the tall buildings and they think that means we are free. But these businesses, these buildings – who are they for? This is a dictatorship. The royal family think they own the country, and the people are their servants. There is no freedom here.”