War Is Boring’s youngest contributor, Kevin Knodell, is on a school trip to the UAE, where he’ll be exploring security topics while no doubt mulling lucrative real-estate deals and working on his tan. You can read about his classmates’ exploits at Pacific Lutheran University’s Sojourner blog.
by KEVIN KNODELL
Dubai is very much an international city. A quick stroll through the old city or the souks — the markets — make this abundantly clear. One minute you feel like you’re in Mumbai, the next it’s like you’re in Kabul. In my time here, I’ve encountered Iranians, Indians, Afghans, Pakistanis, Kenyans, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Italians and countless others. The Emirati are outnumbered roughly four to one by expats.
Dubai tries to sell itself as an international hub where cultures come together in harmony. A lot of visitors embrace this idea. But the more you talk to the people and watch how they interact, the clearer the problems become. Dubai really is a diverse city, but throughout the Emirates there is also an unspoken racism. This place is no melting pot.
The people live in largely segregated housing projects, sticking with others of their own ethnic backgrounds. Filipinos stick with other Filipinos, Indians with other Indians, Pakistanis with Pakistanis, and the majority of the Emirati prefer to stay in their enclaves rather than mix with the “commoners.”
That’s not to say it never happens. I did witness intercultural interactions from time to time. Unfortunately, they seem to be exceptions to the rule. Still, the UAE remains very much an international center, drawing people from all over the world looking for opportunity. The potential for cultural growth and exchange is immense.