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This is a city built from nothing in just a few wild decades on credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery. Every time she starts to tell her story, she puts her head down and crumples.Dubai is a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing – at last – into history. She is slim and angular and has the faded radiance of the once-rich, even though her clothes are as creased as her forehead."When he said Dubai, I said – if you want me to wear black and quit booze, baby, you've got the wrong girl. And I loved him."All her worries melted when she touched down in Dubai in 2005.
He knew he was guaranteed a pay-off when he resigned, so we said – right, let's take the pay-off, clear the debt, and go." So Daniel resigned – but he was given a lower pay-off than his contract suggested. As soon as you quit your job in Dubai, your employer has to inform your bank.
He would build a city to be a centre of tourism and financial services, sucking up cash and talent from across the globe. Until a few years ago they were shuttled back and forth on cattle trucks, but the expats complained this was unsightly, so now they are shunted on small metal buses that function like greenhouses in the desert heat. Sonapur is a rubble-strewn patchwork of miles and miles of identical concrete buildings.
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. Hidden in plain view There are three different Dubais, all swirling around each other. Some 300,000 men live piled up here, in a place whose name in Hindi means "City of Gold".
In the mid-18th century, a small village was built here, in the lower Persian Gulf, where people would dive for pearls off the coast.
It soon began to accumulate a cosmopolitan population washing up from Persia, the Indian subcontinent, and other Arab countries, all hoping to make their fortune.