Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Skyscrapers and abras

One last night on the shores of the Gulf before it is time to return to the cold Northern winter. Yesterday evening Lina and I could see the fireworks at the opening ceremony of Burj Khalifa (or “Burj Dubai” as the 828 meter supertall skyscraper was known during its construction phase) and also make a premier ride on the new driverless, fully automated metro.

Again it is not difficult to spot that other and much darker side of Dubai. Yet, crossing the Creek at night in a small wooden abra together with 20 tired Pakistani guest workers I start to think that the real difference is not the exploitation as such but rather the missing layers of physical separation. Unlike back in Sweden, when one buys those super cheap H&M clothes, I am here suddenly face to face with the global underclass of producers. And, talking to the taxi driver from Gilgit up in the borderlands with Tajikistan, I realize that, no matter how unsustainable it may be in many regards, the livelihood of so many people depends on the continuation of this insane dream.

Before departing from this world of palm fronds-shaped islands, I should also say something about the second excursion we made from Dubai. This time we drove north into the Musandam Peninsula. Belonging to the Sultanate of Oman, the Musandam Governorate is a tiny exclave of 25 000 people which juts into the Strait of Hormuz, leaving only 60 km of water between its shores and Iran. Unlike the sands of Dubai, Musandam offered a dramatic fjord landscape and a Batumi-styled town called Khasab, complete with cigarette smugglers, navy patrol boats and souvenir shops selling walking sticks with axe-tops...


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