Friday, 6 February 2009

Dubai Living


Lifestyle in Dubai is lush. The villas off Jumeira Beech Road are spacious, easily in excess of 10,000 sq ft. At rental rates anything upwards of 4 Arab Emirate Dirham (AED) per sq ft you are happy tenant of a villa. Do the math! These houses are only owned by Emirati, foreigners strictly off limits. Interspersed between the villas are innumerable houses of beauty care, spas and Medical & Dental Centers. The ladies do pamper themselves it seems. Health care is expensive but usually covered in the executive employment contracts. Be warned that milk teeth are close to the price of gold. Extractions can cost close to a 1000 AED. Baby immunisations cost about the same.

Recreational facilities are excellent and well maintained. The numerous parks in the city are designated a certain day of the week for ladies only. This event is well appreciated as the Dubai ladies and children make a party of it, as I am told they take the opportunity to shed their abayas revealing their normal dress of spaghetti tops, jeans or mini skirts, and enjoy their brief freedom.
In the hotels and restaurants, Emirati men openly frequent the bars, dressed in their dish dash (informal term for the throbe, ankle-length white robe and guthra, red and white traditional headgear). Women in abaya are prohibited entry. Camera-toting visitors have been known to be denied admittance to the bar in the presence of local echelons.

Palm Jumeirah, an artificial island created by land reclamation, is one of three Palm mega projects of the Nakeel, a Dubai Government owned company. Construction began in 2001 and by 2009, 28 hotels are scheduled to be opened on the Crescent. The other two Palms at Jebel Ali and Deira promise to be bigger and better.
Closely supervised by the CEO and enable by 40,000 workers from South Asia, it took 94 million cubic metres of sand and 7 million tons of rock to make this the largest man made island in the world. Total cost reached US$12.3 billion. The project, however, is more than two years delayed. Several controversies have arisen, namely the 40% increase in residential units by the developers after launch and the obvious environmental impact.

The Atlantis looms at the crown of the Crescent, connected to the Fronds by way of an underwater tunnel. It is a water theme park and conference center modelled after the Atlantis and Paradise Island Resort in Nassau, Bahamas.The stats are daunting, but so is the enormity of the estate. The stem of the palm is filled with layers of towering blocks of apartment buildings and the token trim of palm trees does nothing to break the monotony of concrete. Frightening is the word, as you literally feel the walls caving in on you. So-called luxury villas are dwarfed by the high rises. A one bedroom apartment is going to the tune of 1.5 million AED (approximately RM1.5 million). Well you do (may) get a view of the Arabian Sea and well heeled neighbours, I suppose.

In contrast, downtown living for migrant workers goes by bed space, not sq ft. So roomies it is for about 6000 AED! If you thought that was expensive, this is where it gets really surreal . . . shared bed space is also an option, ie. shift workers have a choice of am or pm! I wonder, do they change bedsheets when they take over the bed? Where do they keep their stuff? Our young Malaysians don't realise what a cushy life they lead. Its so much easier being a Mat Rempit isnt it? The weekend brings a deluge of workers to town. Streets are choc-a-block with young South Asian men enjoying their break from the demanding work of construction. Contractual terms requires one floor to be completed per week. Regulation is strictly enforced these days as delays cost big bucks. Welfare of workers is the concern of the employers and is in their interest to comply. On 2 November 2007, BBC reported a major workers' strike based on poor salary and living conditions. More than 4,000 south Asian workers were jailed. Barring the fact that strike action and trade unions are illegal in Dubai, its "ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum ordered measures to improve conditions for workers. And in ending the latest strike, the chief of Dubai's police pledged to prosecute any employers not meeting health and safety standards."

The food scene of Dubai is varied. Rajdhani, a popular Northern Indian vegetarian restaurant had a waiting period of one hour on the weekend. The queue extended round the block ala Hard Rock Cafe with a hungry R being consoled by PakDokter. It's speciality, thali, comprises an array of vegetarian curries, somewhat sweetish in flavour compared to the South Indian vegetarian cuisine we get in Malaysia. Mini chapatis and puris are light and enhance the taste.

Tawasol serves up Yemeni mandhi (biryani) which is super delish. Lamb and chicken versions served on large stainless steel platters are for all to literally dig into in true Yemeni form. A tomato and onion sauce and raw vegetable are side accompaniments. The taste is flavourful and the rice amazingly light which simply melts in the mouth, nothing like our oily local version.

The restaurant design is unique. The front dining area is reserved for men only. Towards the rear private dining rooms are for families.

True encounter: A group of Arab-speaking, modern dressed 20-something girls' required a room. The only available room was Russo's bedroom for the period as he had fallen asleep on the way to the restaurant. The waiter looked sheepishly at our table and then at the girls. One of the girls' grew impatient and, in good English, asked to "remove the child". The father responded that he was sleeping. She replied "That's not my problem"! Who said Arab girls were seen and not heard? This girl was downright rude!

Then you have fine dining. At the Pisces seafood restaurant in Madinat Jumeirah you have a spectacular view of the Burj Al Arab and an elaborate choice of caviar which is their speciality.The Exchange Grill at the The Fairmont Dubai is listed as the top place for steaks by Time Out Dubai, and it is. As we were early, because we were hungry, (believe it or not!) we were shunted to the super chic Cin Cin for pre dinner drinks. The grill filled up soon enough with mainly expats, who never had it so good with life in Dubai as opposed to Bournemouth or Plymouth.The ultimate mall culture here is all night shopping at the Global Village about 30 minutes from the city. Supermarket shopping carts are available for rent or better still, for 5 AED, you can hire a boy with a wheel barrow to follow you around carting your purchases!
Throngs of people, mostly Emiratis, visit this fairyland which opens at 4 pm until midnight in the winter months. The India pavilion is the largest and most popular whilst the China pavilion reminds of the Forbidden City.
The African continent is well represented and not only sells handicrafts but also perform cultural shows much to the delight of the Emiratis.Jordan pavilion attracts a crowd with its all male dance troupe. An Emirati stall selling perfumes which out style's Anna Sui's decor anytime. Interesting wares for those with armpit fetish.



In Malaysia there is a belief and practice that as Muslims, images, sculptures of figures and even portraits are a no no. What pray tell is this then in this Muslim country in the Arabian Peninsular?


At midnight the weary vendors and shoppers head home into the foggy night.

3 comments:

boy from dungun said...

Fidel,
Dubai Living is brilliant!I like it..
So, is our ex-minister taking up the franchise for Rajdhani and al-tawasool?
To be honest, I think he prefers Fairmont.
Got an sms that he is coming back on 21 March for Dubai World Cup. And your partner's golf partner will be here on business this 14 Feb, without his partner. (She came before, so this time she does not come, only he come! May be next time together they will come!)

fidel said...

hehehe . . .

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