René Seifert

Entrepreneur, Global Citizen, Flat World, Internet, Web 2.0, Innovation, Start-Up

First Impressions: Christmas in Dubai with 90 % Expat Population

It's still difficult for me to get a grip on Dubai, first because I am hardly 24 hours here, second because the City so much defies everything how to explain a communal together. The first thing that stuns you is the airport which is very modern and spacious by any standards, however you also know that another, the worlds biggest to-be airport, is in construction some 30 km south-west.

Dubai Airport

Our hotel Park Hyatt is right at the creek in Deira, vis-à-vis the Yacht Club. Beautiful architecture, 5 star, service level mixed from perfect to imbecile. Sunset pleasant.

Suset Dubai from Park Hyatt

Then the fact that the entire social life basically revolves around these 5 star hotels which contain bars and a gamut of phenomenal restaurants. In that context, we had our X-Mas dinner yesterday in Awtar, a Libanese restaurant in the Grand Hyatt. Food was fantastic, so was the very attentive service, but the quantities were completey OTT (=over the top) for two people. We ordered the set menu, and frankly, the amount of food would have been sufficient for a party of 15-20 people. My point: As we know that all the "rest" (=vast majority) of food would be thrown away, for being educated my Mum to eat up your plate, it is a slight stitch into the heart and simply unnecessary as an display of opulence whatsoever.

Moreover, Dubai is the epitome for turbo-capitalism where the 5-star hotels are seamlessly built into huge out-of-this-world shopping mall, like integrating the pyramid-like Raffles Dubai into Wafi-City, here with its massive christmas tree.

Christmas Tree in Wafi City (Dubai)

Maybe, to be more precise, I should say, "used to be the epitome of turbo-capitalism" as the skyscrapers and no longer growing into the sky, though. From The Economist of November 27th this year, the article explains:

The range of answers has become gloomier by the week, as the debate moves from whether the Dubai property bubble will burst to just how bad it is going to get. Some nervous bankers think property prices could fall by 80% or so in the next year or so.

Next, the fact that there is censorship on internet-sites which e.g. forbids me to access Flickr, because it falls under "Prohibited Content Categories" like also dating, pornography, gambling. Ah, and VoIP from Skype is blocked, too.

The most stunning issue of Dubai is certainly the composition of the population which consists of 90 % expats, hailing from 100 countries around the world to fuel the engine from high-skilled to low-skilled workers. To me it almost appears like a weird multi-cultural experiment, even more so as it recalls one of the most intelligent sentences I have heard this year during a speech of the senior Indian journalist M.J. Akbar who said: "Minority is not a matter of numbers, it's a matter of power."

Alas, the majority has nothing to say in terms of any political participation. I don't intend to judge this in the light of the undisputable success story of Dubai, yet it is the best exemplification of this not immediately apparent truth. The "deal" in Dubai for expats goes like this, and you know before: You come here, make a lot of money, have fun in your 5-star amenities, pay no taxes and behave. Otherwise, you shut up or you go.

So much for a 90 percent majority. Merry Christmas from Dubai.



  1. December 26th, 2008 | 4:23

    Wish you merry Xmas and happy new year.Very intesting information on dubai.What about real estate in dubai?

  2. January 10th, 2011 | 1:02

    […] Dubai is an extreme example – a weird futuristic playground, a metal oasis in the midst of desert, overwhelming populated by expats who are expected to arrive, earn the big bucks, and toe the line. We’ll let you live tax free, but don’t give us any grief about our politics, sweet? […]