As I’ve mentioned, I spent a glorious whole month’s vacation in Dubai for the Holidays. During this time, this Emirati state had never failed to delight, amaze, and intrigue me. Fresh from the trip, I’m all agog to share what I think about this modern blooming city with those who have never been there.
Dubai’s cosmopolitan lifestyle incorporates a mosaic of cultures, races, and religions, all mingling under a predominantly Islamic roof. Because of this, Dubai is an amalgam of contradictions and nowhere is this more apparent than in their rules and notions, a lot incongruous especially to visitors like me.
Mall Rules : Malls have these mall rules pasted on sliding doors. I was amused to find that, one: wearing inappropriate clothing (meaning revealing clothing) is an offense; and two: display of indecent affection in public (meaning hugging and kissing ) is another.
But nobody seems to notice these rules as young girls strut about with bared bellies and uber high heels. I guess authorities turn a blind eye at this except around Ramadan, they say, when these displays are considered insulting. Well, I think these public indecency rules apply only when you really piss off the local citizenry? Otherwise, I guess the local people aren’t such squares after all.
Foreigners and Dubai : Dubai seems to be all open arms to the the influx of foreigners, particularly encouraging those with the skills the state needs. There are so many incentives for foreigners to relocate and settle in Dubai which needs outside labor contributions to their progressing society. Incentives are good, especially for Europeans who are offered much higher tax-free salaries, company-paid housing and utility benefits, and sometimes even educational benefits for their children—-benefits, so much more in value than those offered to Asians or maybe even, Africans. Yes, Arabs’ racist natures, particularly toward Third World Asians are deeply ingrained so that Asians luckily hired in the same positions as Europeans usually get much lower pay packages than their white counterparts.
However, despite the seemingly superfluous welcome, I sense some sort of detestation from Arabs for this invasion of sorts. The dislike manifests itself in little things. For instance, if a foreign immigrant had the misfortune of being in a car accident with a local citizen, the foreigner would almost always lose the case, even if it were the local’s mistake. The bottom-line argument, which may even come from the police arbiter himself, is : “If you (foreigner) weren’t here, this would never have happened.” End of story. So, to immigrants, a caveat —- justice is quite picky here.
Immigrations : Rules are really notoriously incongruous and seemingly applied only according to the whim of the day. My perceptions may be exaggerated owing to my short stint there; but personally, I’ve encountered such selective rule applications upon my arrival at airport immigrations.
Here’s another example. I am Filipino but I don’t look like one. I look very European, owing to my German and Spanish ancestry. I haven’t a hint of Asian features despite being 50% Filipino in ancestry as well. At immigrations, I joined a line of predominantly Asian entrants. In front of me were several Filipinos and behind me, another two or three also. An Arab in a checkered ghutra came over, checked the passports of Filipinos ahead of me and then curtly told them to step out of line and go elsewhere for a retinal scan. My turn came, but he simply bypassed me and started checking passports of all those behind me, who looked distinctly Asian—Indian, Indonesian, Korean, Filipino, etc.— and ordered them out as well for a retinal scan. Those left in the resulting short line were Caucasians and those who had Middle Eastern features. Immigrations for people in our line was a breeze while others had to go through extra checks. Despite my Philippine passport, I was simply stamped and waved through . My original visas weren’t even taken; while my in-laws, who also came visiting, had to hand theirs in. Unfair, you say, but this is Dubai…
Homosexuality : Islam forbids homosexuality. With Islam, a religion practiced as a way of life, Arab men flaunting “gayness” must be so taboo as to merit severe punishment. Yet refreshingly, openly gay Arab men strut about in their stylishly cut or open dishdashahs. Tolerance then, is pretty high.
Well, only in Dubai…where nothing is etched in stone.