Dubai is quickly becoming a favorite haven for
especially for Iranians
By Mahin Bahrami
February 27, 2004
Let's talk about something fun! Let's
talk about life in Dubai, the biggest secret East of the Mediterranean.
With all the recent hype in the Iranian ex-pat media about this
rapidly developing city, second fastest in the world, perhaps a
first hand report by a local resident would render itself useful.
I will start by answering the two most frequently
1. Is hejab compulsory for women?
2. Is the consumption of alcohol allowed?
The answers are NO and YES, respectively. Although
Dubai is only about 1,500 miles from the birthplace of Islam, therefore,
assumed to be a conservative place to live in, it is one of the
most open and tolerant cities in the world. It is not uncommon
to find women in revealing garments walking side by side with others
completely covered in a black veil, both being respectful of each
other's choice in personal attire, a sign of true tolerance
and freedom and respect.
As for alcohol, it is available to all, regardless
of religion, in licensed bars and restaurants in every hotel in
town. For home
use, there are also several liquor stores that cater only to non-Moslems
with a government issued personal liquor license. Moslems may not
obtain personal liquor licenses, so they have to make their liquor
runs to another Emirate, not far from Dubai, or simply call up
a friend and have it home delivered.
While it is located in one of the most volatile
and dangerous regions in the world, ironically, it offers a lifestyle
that is most serene,
safe, and relaxing. Foreigners visiting for the first time are
awestruck at what they find, including visitors from other parts
of the Middle East who are already pre-informed. Recently I had
a first time visitor from Iran who admitted that his first impression
was far above his expectations.
Apart from being an absolutely immaculate and safe
place, the city enjoys almost eight months of gorgeous weather
throughout the year.
Morning swim in the pool on the rooftop, in the middle of January,
is not unheard of. Yes, rooftop swimming pools are quite common.
Dubai has a sub-tropical arid climate characterized by hot humid
summers and mild temperate winters.
Here are some statistics from
the weather bureau: The mean daily maximum is 25 degrees in January
rising to 42 degrees centigrade in August. Rainfall is modest,
occurs in the winter months and rarely exceeds 13 centimeters
per year. I suspect the most boring job in Dubai belongs to
the weatherperson, as it is sunny, day in and day out.
demographical statistics: In 2001, the population of Dubai was
estimated to be 971,000. It is a highly cosmopolitan
environment and a large part of the population is comprised of
foreigners, primarily a mix of other Arab nationals, Asians and
Europeans. Eighty percent of Dubai's population consists of expatriates
with Europeans and Asians accounting for approximately 70% of households.
Approximately 71% of the population is male and 29% is female.
The official language is Arabic while the working
language is primarily
English. It's quite common to find people speaking a different
language at home. The only monolingual residents are the British
nationals. Well I guess you could include the Canucks, the Yankees,
the Ozzies, and the Kiwis too, but there are so few of them around.
Most everyone else speaks any combination of English, Arabic, Persian,
Hindi, Urdu, Russian, Eastern and Western European languages. It's
very common to find people who speak five different languages.
They are primarily employed by the flourishing tourism industry.
And a bit of history for you: Originally a small
fishing settlement, Dubai was taken over in the 1830s by a tribe
led by the Maktoum
family, which still rules the Emirate of Dubai today. A trading
empire based on gold, silver, pearls and spices soon began to flourish.
A concoction of Arab, Persian and Indian flair established Dubai's
Then came oil in 1966 and along with it, opulence.
However, oil is due to run out soon, so long ago Dubai began the
task of diversifying its economy to soften the impact of diminished
oil revenues on future generations. Tourism is now an important
part of the Dubai government's strategy to maintain the flow of
foreign dollars into the Emirate. "Dubai's attraction," is
that it provides an Arabian experience in a very comfortable, safe
and tolerant society.
Continuing on with life in this stunning "village",
Dubai has become a common tourist destination for Iranians from
Iran due to accessibility and the recent growth in the Iranian
entertainment industry. Many of the travel agencies offer affordable
tours including site seeing, concert tickets and more.
all the freedom and luxuries of the West while maintaining an
eastern flavor, Dubai is quickly becoming a favorite haven for
especially for Iranians. Many Iranian ex-pats living abroad are
also finding their way to this region. In fact eighty percent
of the newly built apartment buildings are sold to this group as
as the ones living in the motherland.
To get a better picture of what life is like in
Dubai, I will just describe a typical day from an average ex-pat's
First of all, normal working days are from Saturday to Wednesday.
Most corporate offices operate from 9 am to 5 pm. Some of the more
traditional offices, managed by non-westerners, enjoy afternoon
siestas and consequently stay open well into the evening.
commuting, Dubai is very small and people generally live near their
workplace. Nonetheless, automobiles are still a necessity and popular,
hence people do commute to work regardless of the short distances.
Dubai enjoys a healthy amount of traffic during the morning and
afternoon rush hours. At times, it seems like one continuous day
of rush hours.
After work, there are many leisurely activities
that people partake in, such as spending a few hours at the health
clubs, golfing, swimming at the beach, have a few beers at an
outdoor bar, shop at a local shopping mall, smoke a "hubbly bubbly"
a local "shishah" shop, or even practice ice hockey
at an ice rink. Most of the normal consumer style recreational
activities found in the west are also available in this little
While on one edge of the city lies
the Persian Gulf and on the other lies the desert, Dubai enjoys
a spectacular skyline filled
with the most modern skyscrapers, popping up virtually every day.
Along with a static population of roughly one million, Dubai hosts
about 3 million tourists annually. At the same time the government
is planning to multiply this figure by five in the next decade.
One can just imagine what a fantastic metropolis will emerge!!
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