Why Dubai sucks

Why I left Dubai and won’t come back, part 2/2

(Why I left Dubai and won’t come back, part 1/2)


6. WOMEN are not the same as MEN

The rules were created by men in a society dominated my men. That says it all.

For example, as a woman, if you are raped, you are fucked – literally! I have read about so many cases of women that, after being sexually abused tried to seek help from the authorities, to only end up in jail for having “extramarital relations”. It’s like the fact of those relations being unwillingly held doesn’t even count. If you are a victim of sexual abuse, being a woman, there is a very good chance things turn against you, even more.  Where were you ? Who were you with ? What were you doing ?

If you are raped in the UAE, you are fucked!

If you are raped in the UAE, you are fucked!

Polygamy is also something that places women on a different level than men. Men are allowed to marry up to 4 women, as long as he ensures to treat them equally, providing for them and their children. Up until this point, it sounds fine – having a guy that pays the bills, provides you housing… what’s there not to like? Well, not only the romantic notion of marriage is mutilated by the fact that you would have to share your significant other but, as a wife, you are objectified by the fact that you are put in the same shelf as the other wives. Somehow society tends to think that, as long as treated equally as the other women, wives would be happy. As if economic stability was all there is to marriage.

If they were to make a UAE version of the famous TV show, it would be called "How I Met Your MotherS"!!

If they were to make a UAE version of the famous TV show, it would be called "How I Met Your MotherS"!!


7. CENSORSHIP – brought to you in all shapes and colors!

Worst than having someone censoring you, is being part of a society that has its media and arts auto-censoring themselves, for the sake of avoiding punishment.

If you live in Dubai and really want to know what happens there, either you read the international papers or, much better, look for personal blogs on the internet – these will probably be anonymous and have a limited life span before they get blocked, as many other websites are. But only those could give you the full scoop, as local media would never publish anything that might be considered immoral, against the Rulers or Islam, or has anything to do with sex, nudity or pornography.

Special K package in the UAE

Special K package in the UAE. With censoring stickers very conveniently placed.

Defamation is taken so seriously in the UAE that, I even know about the case of a guy who, just for publicly mentioning cases of poor service in restaurants and other local services  at his handle “Name & Shame”, not only got his Twitter account shut down but was caught by the Police. I-n-s-a-n-e! You are not allowed to say or write anything that might be perceived as negative, no matter if true, even if you are stating facts rather than personal opinions.

When you type the URL of a website that is blocked in the UAE you will come across this unfriendly message.

When you type the URL of a website that is blocked in the UAE you will come across this unfriendly message. Blocked websites during my life in Dubai include Flickr, Skype and anything remotely controversial or erotic.

Censorship will not only influence the sources of information but, as well, the arts. In one of the first concerts I organized in Dubai a band that was playing sang the word “fuck” and I will not forget those 15mins of telling off that the owner of the venue gave me, for being afraid of the authorities that, often, attend these events undercover.

A person can live without saying the word “fuck”, no big deal. But what about all the movies that I have watched in Dubai with censored scenes? Even The Simpsons Movie had a scene censored when Homer and Marge kissed! If they can’t look at cartoons kiss (even though they have been married for the past 23 seasons…) they wouldn’t obviously allow shoots taking place in the country, when those include nudity, immoral behavior or any not-so-good reference to the country or religion.

Blog anything that the government doesn't agree with, and you're gone...

Blog anything that the government doesn't agree with, and you're gone…


8. Those who stay in the Emirates tend to become “SO DUBAI!”

If you stay in Dubai for too long, there is a very good chance you start becoming “Dubai“. What does that mean? Things that might have not felt normal to you when you arrived, start becoming acceptable. Being part of the microcosmos that Dubai can be, it’s easy to loose touch with other realities.

Making friends in Dubai is a task! People tend to have a “come and go” mentality. Why get attached to someone when you know that sooner rather than later this person or yourself would end up leaving this place? Might as well keep things superficial and have fun, right? No wonder I have met so many people while in Dubai and stay in touch with so few of them.  People would rather “network”, not hang out.

It’s easy to be surrounded by people in this city and yet, feel all alone. You party, you go out to drink, you go on weekends to Oman… but where are all of these acquaintances when you have a problem or need someone to talk to?

Already getting to know people can be frustrating. How to meet people in Dubai 101 goes as follows:

“Where are you from?”
“What do you do for a living?”
“Where do you stay?”

And BAM! You have been labeled! Specially the “where do you stay” part, says a lot about your status in Dubai. If you stay in Marina, JBR, The Palm and any other area that includes the word Jumeirah in the name, you are cool. For other places, we would need to talk further and see if you are decent material.

There are pros and cons to having a family in Dubai. The major advantage, I would say, is the multicultural society. It’s definitely key towards a tolerant behavior that a child is exposed since a young age to kids of other races, nationalities, religions and cultures. In theory, this sounds brilliant, but in practice, most young people I have met who were born or at least raised in the UAE tend to carry way too many prejudices for their ages.

Not only will they be “so Dubai” labeling others based on their differences but they will probably not understand what the words “struggle” and “hard work”  mean. Most kids in the UAE have been raised in well-off families. Many would have had nannies and maids. End result: there is a very big probability they are spoiled. If you see luxury all around you, of course you don’t know what the world is really about.



Don’t get me wrong – not all kids are little devils in Dubai. There are, of course, great children as well. But even if you manage to raise your kid in Dubai with great morals – which is a very subjective concept to begin with – he/she will end up being a victim of a rather superficial and unequal society.

The UAE is considered the most liberal country of the Middle East. Following this, Dubai is certainly the most forward between the 7 Emirates. Comparatively this might sound good, but on it’s own, I don’t think this is good enough. In Dubai, everything lies under the surface. If you are socially and economically affluent, it’s easy to keep yourself distracted and just focus on whatever matters the most to you on an immediate level. Never go deeper than that, because it’s like moving sands…


9. If you can PAY for it, then it’s OK!

What a hypocritical society! According to Sharia law liquor is not allowed - apparently, the Quran is very clear on this. Still, all hotels and restaurants/bars attached to hotels can serve alcohol, as long as they pay high license fees – which obviously reflects in the price of the drinks. I guess they know that, without alcohol, expats wouldn’t stick around for long. But, what kind of principles are these? If something is wrong, then it should be wrong all the way. You can actually purchase drinks at specific liquor shops (provided you have a license that your employer – yes, your employer – must approve) but may luck be on your side if you are ever caught possessing alcohol outside a licensed place.

You can't but... oh wait, yes you can!

You can't but… oh wait, yes you can!

Prostitution is another field of entertainment that will give advantage to those who can pay well. Although totally prohibited in the country, everybody knows how easy it is to hire the services of a prostitute in Dubai. I hear Russian and Ethiopian ladies are amongst the most desired. In Dubai, not only is there prostitution but there is luxury prostitution – the higher end they are, the less probabilities they have of being caught, as everything happens much more subtly. Then again, if you can pay, it becomes (almost) OK.

And talking about money: how can there be charity fund-raisers when this country is LOADED?
I am pro fundraisers, in many cases, but every time I have come across a fund-raiser in Dubai I couldn’t help but wonder: why wouldn’t the government support these causes, when they have so much money?

On my first job in Dubai, I helped organizing a charity concert to raise funds for an institution that worked with special needs kids. Apparently, this organization was short on means to give assistance to all the families that had a kid with mental handicaps . All cents count towards the cause, but when the government could easily fund this kind of institution, it feels wrong to run campaigns appealing to the common people. Money shouldn’t be an issue here.


10. You can LIVE in Dubai all your life, but you’re gonna have to LEAVE

As an immigrant in the UAE, when you have a job, you are granted a resident visa that allows you to stay in the country. But what happens when you retire? Well, when your services are no longer needed, you are going to have to go.

Live in the UAE all your life and then go die somewhere else...

Live in the UAE all your life and then go die somewhere else… (from

I have met people that were born and raised in the UAE and have NEVER even visited their countries. They feel almost local, except for this “little” detail: one day, when they retire, they will have to leave. Where to, if this place has been “home” all your life? Might as well leave when you are young and can start a life somewhere else.


- – -

Dubai offers enough distractions to keep you away from thinking about the points above. Those who think, will not talk much. You can criticize things lightly between your expat friends but, for what really matters, YOU DON’T HAVE A SAY! And I doubt that’s about to change any time soon.




While many Arab countries are flowering during the Arab Spring, the UAE will remain the same. Why? Because the rulers make sure Emiratis are content with their existence. At the beginning of 2012, for example, all UAE citizens (not residents) have been awarded a 100% raise on their already inflated salaries. Where else in the world would this be possible? Of course you wouldn’t want to speak up against your country or those who rule it.

Obviously, not everything about Dubai or the United Arab Emirates is awful. If it was, I wouldn’t have lived there for 4 years. But it is outraging for me to think that most people across the world still think of Dubai as some sort of “promised land” where richness and glam are awaiting you. Depending on who you are and, particularly your background, that might be the case. But: would you want to live in a place that, no matter how rich it is, still treats people like cattle? No thanks, not for me…

And you know what pisses me off the most? That some people who know well what kind of sick shit is going around them do not care, because ultimately it doesn’t affect them directly. For many, it’s “every man on their own”, no compassion, no sense of society or brotherhood. Let’s not look at ourselves too much and forget about the big picture, because at the end of the day we’re all human and we should all have the same basic rights.


Have you ever thought of moving to Dubai?

Have you been there before?

What do you think of this place?


Hi! If you like what you see, leave us a comment! We would LOVE to hear from you!
Subscribe to the monthly Backpack Me Newsletter and we will mail out a postcard to you! Or get daily email updates!


  • Pingback: Why I left Dubai and won’t come back, part 1/2 | Backpack Me

  • ahmed Says

    you are brain washed by dirty and corrupted west if dubai employed you just shut the f**ck up if you don’t want leave.

    • An onymous Says

      ^^^ That pretty much sums it up

    • Zara Says

      “If Dubai employed you just shut the fuck up!” – this is exactly the kind of mentality that I don’t want to deal with anymore. Just because someone employs you does that mean you are stripped of your rights to comment or to simply have an opinion about them or something related to them? For me, that does not make sense. There wouldn’t be an evolution of thought in this world if everyone just accepts anything as it comes and shut up about it. We would still be living in caves if everyone was like that.

    • Free Woman Says

      It is absolutely typical of your islamic mentality to tell a woman to shut the fuck up! That is what you do all the time in islamic countries, isn´t it? She has every right to think, say or write whatever she wants as long as she doesn´t insult anyone or break any law. Liberty of press was granted in the UK as long ago as in 1695, but I gues you do not know that, how could you?, since you are still living in the Middle Ages. And the West may not be perfect, ( of course it is not, there are a lot of things which should be improved here! ), but it is not more corrupted than your countries and only your limited and dirty mentality can think of it as dirty. At least here we enjoy human rights ( and that includes both men and women ), and civil rights and freedom. You should watch and learn, my intolerant friend; and you should also forget about religion, ( which is a mediaeval thing, by the way ), start reading, learn something about the Enlightment, Reason, Human Rights, Science, etc. It could be a good way to finally get out of that gloomy and scary Middle Ages some of you Muslim people are still living in!

      • Yassine Daoudi Says

        Middle ages are not the same in every location on earth, while europe was stinking, Granada was shining free lady ! and go a learn some, religion is not medieval, Israel is a jewish country ! and it was made 60 years ago … so religion is rising again !

        • Israeli Says

          Israel is a jewish and democratic state. There is no democracy in the UAE.
          Judaism is not only a religion, it’s also a nation. The secular people in Israel are threatened by the rise of the orthodox jewish and by the israeli arabs. the stupid gov is encouraging a domographic battle… :(
          Because i’m jewish i can’t marry with a non-jewish, in Israel. I’ll have to marry in Cyprus. The right to marry in your own country is a human right.

          • Zara Says

            Well yes, I agree that the right to marry whoever you like in your own country is very basic. But then, how democratic is your country, really?! if you can’t even marry at your own wish, then that democracy you mention is quite a failure, wouldn’t you say?

          • Israeli Says

            That’s a tough question… religius and democratic usually can’t be at the same equation.
            The civil marriage was not an issue until recent years (maybe because Cyprus is the best solution and today we are more liberal). Today it depends on the political system. There’s one Knesset member who’s sometimes proposing civil & gay marriage but it fails because of coalition agreements with the orthodox parties.
            Nowadays we are confronting some other major problems, espacially when it comes to women and religious coercion. In Jerusalem and some other ghettos, for example, it’s very common that women are sitting at the back of the bus (the same Knesset member made it stop by appealing to the high court, but it still exists). A few months ago posting a peter-pan show on the buses in Jerusalem wasn’t that easy. They didn’t want tinkerbell… eventually, after involving the media tinkerbell was shown up.
            Israel has made a big step about women during the last 20 years and now the orthodox (becoming a big minority) want to ruin it.

            So Israel is not 100% democratic, it’s more likely claims to be a democratic. I have no idea where’s it going thru…

            p.s. Officially until 1992 Israel wasn’t democratic state.

          • Zara Says

            I agree with you that “religius and democratic usually can’t be at the same equation” – in my opíniono, religion and religious fanatics tend to complicate the societies they are part of! Even when they think they are persuing a “message from above”..

        • richie Says

          You are clearly an idiot

      • Mr. Ali Says

        This commenter is too prejudice to Islam and Muslims. In Burma (now Myanmar), a person wrote letters to the President (Thein Sein) and the Army Commander (Gen. Min Aung Hlaing) to investigate the murder case of his daughter was jailed 7 years on defamation. Mainly because he is a Burman (or ethnic Myanmar) but a Kachin (a member of ethnic minority). Thein Sein and Min Aung Hlaing are Buddhist and Myanmar (Burma) is a Buddhist country. All depends on individuals. Not religion.

    • Iara Says

      Hi, Zara! This is a very good blog. You are a very perspective person, and you really care about others. I totally agree with you. After almost 6 years of working in Dubai, I felt shallow. Everything about Dubai is superficial and artificial, and mostly all people are materialistic. I have made some good friends in there whom I will treasure for life, but I am never coming back. That place has damaged me, somehow.. Residents there then to forget that they have human rights, too. You are right.. it is a modern day slavery.. and racism abound. Kudos to you.

      Iara from Phil

    • Jermi Says

      typical Islamic extremist

    • Zack M Says

      That is what she said,She left,I did business there for 6 years the most unfair business environment I ever seen,All the government wants is to rip you off.Suck every bit out of you,Specially when you decide to leave,You better leave with nothing.

  • I know quite a few people that went to Dubai to work in teaching although I think it was a novelty for them and they only lasted a year or two.

    • Zara Says

      Most expats stay for a few years only.. It’s a time to save up money and then move on to other countries or back to their country of origin.

  • Micki Says

    This is such an interesting article. Like @Angelina, I’ve know quite a few people who worked in Dubai (IT), but they’ve always come back after a year or so. It’s very interesting to hear about the status of women.

    • Zara Says

      The status of women is a “funny” thing in the UAE, because of the mix of local culture and traditions (heavily based in Islam and Sharia law) and the influence of western values that come with the increasing expat population… There is such a mix of people and ways of thinking in Dubai that makes “standards” a very subject thing. Dubai has a very particular kind of society, no doubt about that!

  • Arcueid Says

    ” It’s a time to save up money and then move on to other countries or back to their country of origin. ”

    That’s true. Apart from that, who would want to stay much longer in a place where there does not seem to be justice for the common people, where women seem to be cattle, where inequalities happen everyday, where ‘expats’ are supposed to be living on their own ghettos, where the high class there is supposed to know nothing about work, etc…

  • Stacey Says

    Wow this was really interesting. I’ve always wanted to visit Dubai, and had considered working there for awhile to save some money but I’m not sure if I’d be able to put up with being thought of as a second class citizen purely because I’m a woman.
    New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote, so a lot of the points you’ve made are deal breakers for me. I’d still like to visit, but when I read stuff like this, I can’t help but think that the money wouldn’t be worth putting up with that kind of life.

    • Zara Says

      Hey Stacey! The truth is that it’s relatively easy to live a “regular” life in Dubai without thinking much about the above points. It all depends on how involved you are as a citizen or not, I guess. Many people go to Dubai, earn their money and don’t seem to care much about what’s going on around them. But it does get to you after a while. Then again, if you think about it only.. for some people it’s just easier to go about their business and let each person fight their own battles. Many people get blinded by their salaries and think all the negative points are worth enduring (values tend to get flaky when large amounts of money are involved..). Maybe for a while, but it’s no ideal place to be for a long time or, in my opinion, to even raise a family.

  • Phani Says

    Dubai has a particular way of living , U dnt get emotionally attached over there, coz u knw for sure its a temporary place. I kinda liked the religious stance they had, particularly during Ramadan , coz I c all of them dng the same thng during the season. I’m an atheist but I loved the way everyone behaved in a similar manner during that particular season. I adjusted with it. Maybe my thinkin comes coz I lived for 4 years in there , but I liked the idea that a country stuck to its roots for a long time , in this fast changin times , and has moulded themselves into a different kind of breed when compared to the other Middle east countries. – I’d surely wanna go back nd work , but Ur blog made me think a lot , both positive nd negative. U made my day with this post :)

    • Zara Says

      Thanks Phani!

      What you say about not getting emotionally attached while living in Dubai stands true for many people who move there. On one side, I do understand that happening, due to the temporary nature of most people’s stay. But on the other hand, I see it as unnatural… What’s the point of meeting so many people and only stablishing shallow connections?! Particularly because you get to meet so many people from different parts of the world, I think it’s a great opportunity that should be embraced to learn things from each other, exchange prespectives, etc. Dubai is often said to have a “multi-cultural” society. I think a society is truly multi-cultural not only when many different cultures live in the same place, but mostly when they get to interact with each other and blend in… And in Dubai, I do not believe this is 100% true. Different nationalities, races, social status are still quite segregated.

      On the bright side, it can only get better! ;) Thanks for your comment!

  • Iain Says

    Good article – pretty much nails how I felt about Dubai after 6 years of living and working there.
    It may have been good for my wallet but it was terrible for my soul!

    I am now happily living in Auckland; My car is a 20 year old heap rather than a brand new SUV, I am earning about half what I was in Dubai and instead of a luxury apartment, we are still living with my in-laws whilst we get settled…

    …and I couldn’t be happier.

    Although I will freely admit that Dubai was great life and career experience and I made a few friends that I hope I will know for life, I couldn’t see myself ever wanting to return there. Ever.

    • Zara Says

      Hi Iain!

      I understand what you mean when you say that now you can live with less and be super happy! I feel the same way, but I know many people don’t when they leave Dubai or other places with inflated salaries. After earning a salary in Dubai, in most places in the world you’ll feel like the money is less… And obviously you won’t necessarilly have cheap manpower around you to work as your maids, gardeners, drivers, etc.. Like many people have in Dubai and end up getting used to!

      It’s all a matter of priorities: same as you, I also prefer to live with less (material wise) and much more when it comes to personal freedoms!


    • Hidden Says

      Wow you nailed it on the “soul” part. I just left Dubai after working almost 8 months. I gave up a good like because my family was promised soooo many things working for sheikh Hamdan . Everything I read about him was that he was a kind person but come to find out we didn’t work directly under him instead worked for a company he funded but they claimed it was working for him direct. I’ve seen things that I’m going to spend a long time trying to forget. As bad as you feel for the workers there you have to turn a blind eye or they turn on you. It’s almost comical though when it came to watching the company I worked for. They stood with their hand out to the sheikh but spent most of their time trying to screw him over and make money off of his kindness. I finally came to the conclusion most were uneducated and maybe it’s easier to rule over them if they stayed uneducated. My direct boss has a Degree that he bought but I believe he said he only made it to grade 7 in school. I can’t speak for everyone only my experience. The people I worked for were mean and soulless they abused employees by hitting them (shocking), racial name calling, holding back food, promising them overtime for working 24hrs straight and putting them horrible living. I learned the word inshallah meant “it’s not going to happen” by the people that used it at my work. The problem is that most of these people never had to work for anything and they don’t hold anything of value other than objects they own and even then most we’re given to them and can be taken away. Not saying all locals are bad because you meet a few that are kind, they do love their family, but they still turn a blind eye to the abuse and simply claim that the abuse they get here is less than where they come from. Dubai is look the movie the wizard of oz and wait until you see what’s behind the curtain. I made the mistake and bought into the hype but I’d suggest never visit or give a ounce of money to the UAE. It’s hard not leaving Dubai feeling racist towards most there unfortunately.

  • WombatPE Says

    Very interesting article. I have been to Dubai on short trips a number of times. Usually just passing through for a couple of days. But I can see all of the things you mentioned in your article.

    I disagree with you about the government should be paying for charities. I prefer to choose which charities get my money and time. Which is why I contribute both money and time to the Shriners’ Children’s Hospitals. I prefer my money go towards children since they are the innocents of society.

    But that’s neither here no there when it comes to life in Dubai. One thing I think you may have missed is the lack history. You mentioned how fast the city grew out of nothing. Which also means there is very little history. I think this contributes to the other problems you listed. A lack of history includes a lack of community, leading to the detached state of many people and turning a blind eye to the immoral.

    • Zara Says

      Thanks for commenting WombatPE!

      I think I didn’t make myself clear: I didn’t mean that the government should be paying for charities, it was more like some of those charities shouldn’t even exist! When a country is so rich, is there a need for the existence of a charity that operates to raise funds for families with special kids, for example? Those families should be getting extra support from the government directly – at least for the financial side of things, and then you could have the charities/organizations for the psychological support and the likes.

      As you say, the fact that the history of the country is very recent, does contribute to the lack of sense of community. And more than the lack of history, I think is the very quick mix of cultures from all over the world. It is difficult for different cultures to work together, to form their own standards and sense of community. On the opposite, what happens is that different communities exist segregated, instead of one big community. 

      From here on, things can only get better! It takes time for standards to be established and I guess that must have happened too in one way or another in other parts of the world in their more recent history. 

  • Annonymous Says

    Reading your article makes me feel as if someone just recited my thoughts. I am about to leave this place for the same reasons. Gr8 work. God Bless -

  • Mena Says

    I am an Egyptian, and I didn’t travel to Dubai before but got some reviews from friends and through TV, and actually I see it so artificial and fake! I know a lot of Egyptians left it and back to Cairo or other counties, they didn’t stand such hypocrisy – I guess.

    • Zara Says

      There are still so many Egyptians there, Mena!
      Many people would rather take the hypocrisy and pocket the money – which is understandable, as we all have to pay the bills! I did so too!

      But it is indeed a rather artificial place, you are right!

  • Lisa Says

    Great blog, enjoyed reading it! I have been in Dubai for 16 months and had enough. Not a bad place to live but as previously said, good for the wallet bad for the soul! Take care

  • Zara Says

    “good for the wallet bad for the soul!” – that is a perfect way of putting it in one sentence, Lisa! :)

  • Zara Says

    This is a great blog, I can relate with everything you’ve said. It’s funny because my name’s Zara too and I couldn’t stand Dubai. I was flown out there for a job as a cabin crew with the major airline there and had my passport taken away upon arrival. It just felt like a very uneasy place to be in, I couldn’t ignore the slavery and injustice all around me. I actually ended up escaping (I only lasted 3 months there and returned to the US- my country of origin). Everyone said I’d regret my decisions but it was the wisest decision I’ve ever made. Dubai is a soulless medieval dictatorship. Kudos to you for seeing the truth about the UAE- (as MANY people don’t)

    • Zara Says

      Hi Zara! Nice to “meet” another Zara! ;)

      I am actually surprised that at the airline they also took your passport away upon arrival – I thought this happens mostly with contracting firms hiring laborers and mainly unskilled or uneducated manpower. Either way, that is a very bad (and probably) illegal thing to do.
      I guess people thought you’d regret leaving because in Dubai jobs tend to pay well and I guess better than in the US, but fuck it… being rich isn’t everything in life, right?! Good for you!!

  • Mor Says

    Its been almost a year that I have been living in Dubai, And honestly, I am having the worst time of my life in this shithole. i recomment you all, never ever accept a job here because you will live a nightmare, unless you dont care about your surroundings. guyz, these arab muslims suck badly. the society is a total mess, no fuckin freedom. fuck this shit

    • Zara Says

      Sorry to read that, Mor.
      If you hate it that much and you’re feeling miserable, I can only give you one tip: make a move. Figure a way and get out of Dubai.
      No money or material compensation makes up for an unhappy life..

  • Noname Says


    I am so happy I found this blog, I haven’t found such an honest article before.

    I have been in Dubai 3 months and feel the same way. I am in a awful job that I hate, surrounded by the most pretentious people you have ever met and they are all Western – it seems (for most people) if you stay here more than a year, you turn into a bigoted, self serving idiot, only interested in money and where you live.

    I think lots of people at all levels are duped into coming here, I do earn good money and that is why I came here but didn’t know that I would be bound to a two year contract and if I choose to leave it, have to pay 6 weeks salary for the pleasure and get a 6 month work ban!

    So now I am stuck, I am also tied into a years rental contract which I can’t get out of and all I want to do is go home. I am not surprised people take such drastic measures to escape, it feels like a gilded cage.

    I can’t abide the fact we have a tea boy, who’s only job is to make tea and run around after people who think it’s acceptable to ask him to get a pen for them, or get their bags from the car….are we really that lazy that we can’t do that for ourselves?!

    I hate that it’s acceptable to scream, shout and swear at staff, knowing that there is no HR or legal recourse.

    I hate that the men that build the city aren’t allowed to enter the malls.

    I hate that people feel it’s acceptable to judge others solely based on their earnings and what car they drive.

    I hate that I was chosen to do my job because I am white and that I get paid 10 times more than people far more qualified than I am.

    I fully accept that I should have found out more before coming here and I know that I am going to have to stay here and make the best of it but I will hate every second and long for the day I can leave.

    Thanks again for the inspiring blog x

    • Zara Says

      Thank YOU – I guess you know exactly how I used to feel… and from what you write, I know how you’re probably feeling too
      Just remember that there’s always a way out, if you can compromise on some things. It depends on what’s worth it or not for everyone, at an individual level.

      Hang in there! ;)

  • Jack Says

    Dubai remains glowing only because of three countries – India, Pakistan, Iran. As long as these countries produce BLACK money, Dubai survives for sure. As long as Politicians, Bureaucrats, Businessmen and Underworld Kingpins amass illegal money in these countries, Dubai’s glamour will never fade, and they are getting what they want in surplus only in Dubai. Nowhere on earth they can splurge their money like this without a question. Prostitution, drugs, alcohol, gold and all other luxuries are freely available within a short travel time for Indians, Iranians and Pakistanis with a difference. If their money invested in Dubai withdrawn, within an over night, Dubai would be a barren desert again. If anyone looks at other GCC states, they can easily understand this equation. For them a perfect hideout.

    What you said is very true, no one out there with guts to speak their own will. In other words, they do a perfect kowtow living there.

  • carli Says

    Very interesting article!! My male best friend just moved there and I am planning to go and visit him but I am quite concern if a girl staying with a guy will be an issue in such culture.

    • Zara Says

      Thanks Carli!
      If you are discreet, your stay with your male friend shouldn’t be a problem.
      Be aware that if you go around and plan to stay in hotels and eventually spend the night in the same room, you might be asked for marriage proof at check in – it doesn’t happen in every hotel, but it does happen sometimes!..

  • Jay Says

    Hi Zara.
    This is a well written article. Firstly I am a Filipino. I saw and experienced everything you said here if not indirectly. I worked in Dubai for two years. My salary was way below what was promised me over the phone by my employer; half of what other nationalities whiter than me with the same or even less qualification. I was able to “escape” with my passport and am now back in Manila (that’s another story). It has been three years since I left and I am now earning quadruple of what I was back in Dubai, as opposed to some stories of people being happy earning less after their stint there. Race definitely plays a big role. The UAE pays westerners attractive salaries while the concept of an Asian professional is incomprehensible. Although your article brought back a lot of bad feelings, I’m thankful you wrote it for the world to read.

  • Rishit Says

    An eye-opener of an article. I’ve read similar pieces before around the internet, but this was concise and clear – the murk beneath the gleaming surface.

    P.S. As for my personal experience with the UAE, I spent exactly 11 hours there once. On my way back home to India from a Kenyan safari trip with my family, we decided to stop in Dubai because my sister and mother wanted to shop. Unfortunately I ended up in the airport unknowingly dressed inappropriately – I was wearing cargo shorts, a Homer Simpson t-shirt and Nike flip-flops. My hair was slightly on the longer side, and had been braided at the back by Maasai people during a traditional ceremony.

    My appearance made me an obvious target, as I painfully realised. This, and the fact that I’m Indian (a Hindu, for all assumptions). They searched my bags and found savannah grass and mud in my in the lining of my pant pockets that they claimed to be MARIJUANA. I was detained for 11 hours under nonsensical drug charges and my parents somehow managed to convince them that I was innocent (much thanks to one of the more sensible and humane customs officers), and I was deported back to India.

    I’m NEVER going back there again. Or anywhere in the Middle East, for that matter.

    • Rishit Says

      EDIT: During my detention, I was subjected to what I can only describe as deliberate but subtle physical and mental torture – I could tell that they were trying to break my spirit. I was kept in a room with temperatures low enough to make me shiver uncontrollably and almost hyperventilate at one point due to lack of food and water for 11 hours. I was ridiculed for feeling cold amongst other things. Every time that they took me out into the city to get mugshots and stuff taken, they ensured that religious music would be playing at deafening volumes inside the police transport van and the officers driving the van would heckle and laugh at me throughout the journeys.

      • Zara Says

        Hi RIshit,

        Thanks for sharing your story here.

        Man, I feel for you. Of all the “horror stories” I have read about Dubai, this one comes across as so fucking
        bizarre!! I had read before a story about some guy flying in from Europe (Amsterdam if I’m not mistaken) who had some milligram of weed or hash stuck in his shoe and that caused him trouble. Don’t ask me how they stopped that in the airport, but somehow they did. Now, in your case, GRASS? Just regular grass?!? So unfair, so inhuman.

        Unfortunately, the authorities behavior that you describe doesn’t surprise me one bit. They don’t care (I had my little experience once getting a traffic fine and being spoken to as if I was a “woman of the night”.. but obviously nothing near what happened to you) – they care even less if you’re from India, or Asian in general.. or just not white, to be clear. It sucks, it’s retarded, but it’s true.

        I understand that you wouldn’t want to go back to Dubai – but I’d rather think that the whole of the Middle East doesn’t fall under the same category.

        Thanks for your comment!

  • Ria Says

    All that glitters is definitely not gold in Dubai…it takes a while to realise it. one thing not spoken about here is the terrible situation expats find themselves in should they lose their jobs and owe money in the country. Its treated as a criminal offence, your employer is obligated to imform on you. I know one guy, a doctor, lost his father suddenly and then his job when he wanted to go home, his passport was taken away from him and told not to leave the country, therefore he could not do anything to help himself as no passport no new job, his money has ran out..he is now a professional man walking the streets with nothing, sleeping on sheikh zayed road, sitting in malls in daytime, hasnt eaten in much longer can he survive like that? Its a wicked, wicked country
    holidaying you would not probably come to realise many awful things happening there..stay a while and the penny drops…

    • Zara Says

      Hey Ria,
      You are right – a lot lies under the surface when it comes to life in Dubai and tourists just passing by won’t obviously get to see what happens beyond the glitter. Although keeping an employee’s passport is technically illegal in Dubai this is a super common practice. In fact, universities do this too for some reason.
      As you say, it’s a very wicked place!..

  • Kyle Hanson Says

    I’ve been to Dubai back in early 2010. I thought it was utterly shocking the amount of construction going on I never seen anything like it. Dubai is really awsome. I don’t see myself being qualified to work over there but I would like to maybe one day. I did notice the “blind eye” is pretty huge. I also felt like I better not step out of line “or else”. Just looking at the Arabs I was like what are these peoples deal? They walk around there malls and drive those nice cars and stand out in front of the hotels but I felt like there was no soul anywhere. I mean it’s artificial at best. Something you go WOW! and then you feel the intimidation of the Islam thing. These people are very serious about their religon or at least they look like they are. So why would they want this huge western city without the western culture? It’s like that jealous rich kid or something I really didn’t get it. It was fun as hell though. I thought it was kinda dumb how they had everything in such order like how all the buildings are in a row. That rich kid that wants to show you how rich he is and at the end you two are just staring at each other with an awkward silence. I kinda sensed their was alot of fucked up shit going on. I could only imagine it’s corrupt as shit.

  • Kyle Hanson Says

    And another thing was the presidents picture is blown up and posted everywhere. Just looking at his picture scared me. I was like, “eh don’t wanna say nothing too outta line here”. I mean there is all that intimidation. There is too much order for what they are trying to do I guess. I felt extremely privileged to shit in the dubai mall. They got a real nice set-up over there.

    • Zara Says

      Thanks for sharing your view on Dubai, Kyle.
      It’s not as intimidating as you say on most days but, you are right – you don’t wanna mess with the law or anything local over there. Thins can derail easily and sometimes it’s just better not to find out what’s the worse that could happen!

  • Wissam Says

    Great article. I have lived in Dubai for 27 years of my 30 (my parents brought me to Dubai when I was only 9 months old)… I so much agree with all of what you noted. If I had the time and a long peaceful vacation, I think I could write a dozen of books on this subject. I did not leave Dubai because I wanted to do so, it was more of a work-related move, but I am so happy that things went in the direction they did. I live in Germany for the past 3 years and do not have to visit Dubai for work that much.
    It’s a pity that in our modern world, people still think Dubai is paradise on earth…I mean those who never actually lived in Dubai… Dubai was a nice city to live in all the way until the mid-90′s…and then, well, you already summarized it quite well. Thanks!

    • Zara Says

      Thanks for your comment, Wissam!
      As someone who grew up in Dubai and spent so many years n the UAE, I really appreciate your perspective. It is not very common to meet people who spent most of their life in Dubai (or elsewhere in the GCC for that matter) who have not so nice things to say about it. More often than not, those people live in a bubble, are privileged above the average, and therefore lack the sensitivity to understand what’s going on around them. Maybe it is because they never lived elsewhere and they are used to that reality only and thus, that is “normality”.
      I am glad things worked our for you – enjoy Germany!! :)

  • Joshua Says

    If my company ever offered to send me to Dubai, I’ve known for years I’d outright refuse. There is nothing there to attract me. It’s environmentally unsustainable to have a mega city in the middle of a desert (plus being Scottish I can’t tolerate heat over 20C). I really struggle to be around Arab/islamic culture for too long too; especially as I feel really isolated and excluded from it and only able to engage on a very superficial level (and then usually only as a “customer”). And hen the human rights situation turns me off – I understand at no country is perfect, but for one positioning itself as being so developed and engaging ao much with he outside world, it’s really not acceptable to essentially have slaves, oppress minorities and quash free speech, I even hate transferring in the airport.

    • Zara Says

      Ha, it’s funny you “even hate transferring in the airport”. It’s probably one of the best things in the emirate! ;) For everything else, I down right agree with you.

  • TUPAC Says

    DUBAI hahahahaha just I can say Indian or Pakistani country

  • John Says

    So Dubai is a rich city/Full business Facilities/High constructions/Entertainment and Excellent business etc but the only problem to me is the Rude Rules that they announced in Dubai Mall That woman should wear respectfully no shorts or she can wear shorts but she have to cover her legs for law reasons and the salary is like for working for your boss day/night like the slavery in ancient Egypt then ”Well Done” you are getting just 200 ~ 300 DH per month + Not even having a time to check your children statues even and the worker don’t money and food/etc for working 5 months like a robot and you STUPID MOTHERFUCKING COMPANIES ADVERTISE ADVERTISE ADVERTISE ADVERTISE ON THE TV/MAGAZINE/BILLBOARDS/FLYERS/CAR/BUSES AND ETC JUST TO TORMENT THE WORKER LIKE THE DAYS IN WW2 AND MAKE THE POOR EMPLOYE RICH FOR HIS OWN SELF ONLY AND THE RICH ONE YOU MAKE HIM POOR CHEERS EMAAR AND THANK YOU!!

  • John Says

    I’m a Lebanese and i feel pretty embarrassed and ashamed to represent My Arabism and i swear to god one day i will leave Middle East for all its #$%$ that’s happening all around me maybe to Australia/Romania or even Mexico and i hope i never represent my arabism after i do this as well better

  • John Says


  • John Says


  • John Says


  • Sian Says

    Reading the above, I feel moved to defend Islam/muslims against the comments made here. Please don’t take Dubai as representative of Islam. I have so many muslim friends who would be horrified at even the thought of behaving in this way. Shit happens when culture and religion clash.

    I’m a muslim myself, but left Iran early for fear I’d be put in jail after I read in the Jewel Museum ‘Islamic dress must be worn’ because it so obviously only referred to women; the men were strutting around in tight jeans and t-shirts with shiny belt buckles, while the women, under Ahmedinejad’s regime, were constrained to wear chadors. Sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander! I wanted to jump up and down and scream.

    If anyone would like to know what Islam SHOULD be like, read Mohammed’s final speech, here –
    Note, especially
    “O People, it is true that you have certain rights over your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under God’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
    “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.”
    It seems the people of Dubai have much to learn.

  • ABCD Says


    Thank you for your excellent piece. I work as a management consultant at one of the MBB firms and was recently asked if I’d be interested in a lucrative client opportunity in Dubai. However, as an (East) Indian American, I had heard stories of discrimination and wasn’t quite sure.

    My wife, who happens to be white, was in the Navy and spent some time in the Persian Gulf (back when we were still dating). She had some horror stories both in terms of how Arab men approached her as well as their attitude towards women in general and white girls in particular. Not to mention the overt racism and bigotry towards non-Arabs and non-whites. I had considered meeting with her in Dubai and staying over at a hotel, but her command pretty much said that that would be a bad idea given that we weren’t married then.

    Furthermore, I have heard stories from other Indians that in some professions (e.g. consulting, banking), being of South Asian or African descent is pretty disadvantageous in negotiations and the like. One of the partners at my firm was pretty blunt that my Ivy league pedigree and graduate degrees would mean squat given my skin color, and that I should be prepared for blatant and obvious discrimination across the board — from how I would be treated on arrival to how I would be treated in restaurants and clubs, or even when driving on the road. However, there would be significant economic incentive. So, while I would get paid a lot for my expertise, the “face” of the engagement would be a fellow white coworker, given “client sensitivity”.

    In any event, I was told that they associate being an American/westerner with being white, and even if you were an American of South Asian/African descent, it wouldn’t matter much at most social settings. And that I should *always* carry an American passport card in my wallet, just to be safe.

    Obviously, there would also be other “perks” to be considered, such as cooks, maids, and drivers. Given that my wife and I just had our first kid, this sounded quite great. But we were also quite leery about leaving the gorgeous and liberal New England (and our families) for a desert, especially since the engagement would be for ~2 years. And to be quite honest, as pretty fervent atheists and outspoken liberals, we were quite worried that an odd word or two spoken out in public could be disastrous. Not to mention contesting our masshole driving skills with some Emirati with an attitude.

    So for now, we have decided to simply stay put, and split our time between Montreal and Boston. Despite the pretty brutal winter that we just had, I must admit that my decision seems rather wise in retrospect.

    But I would certainly appreciate any of your thoughts on how non-white Americans/westerners would get treated in Dubai.


    • Zara Says


      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on moving (or not!) to Dubai. You have a pretty balanced overview on the whole expat thing, which is positive for you and your family. Many people let money speak louder and do not understand that there are other factors involved in archiving a good quality of life other than financial solvency.

      I think having a passport from US or from other white/western/european countries would indeed help. Particularly regarding salary negotiation. Still, during most instances in life, you won’t be showing your passport or even mentioning your nationality or previous place you used to live/work at. And that’s when your race and all the stereotypes associated with it come to the surface. It will obviously depend on what kind of circles you mingle and the people you socialize with. I am sure there will be instances when you’ll feel that people will be judging you by the way you look (your race, that is), even if in subtle ways. It is not something a person can’t live with as such, but it can be annoying at times.

      All the best!

  • Zohaib Says

    Well done Zara, thanks for sharing your experience. You have really made me to think about my future as I had been planning the same, i.e. to go to Dubai and work there for a few years (mainly to do some savings), but now I have my reservations about this country, they seem to have double-standards all over (like Liquor is banned in the country as its Haram, but then it is allowed to sell it in bars/restaurants where they have licences), also the prostitution which is done in a hidden way, big shame!
    Also, I really do believe that every person should have the basic right and all should be equal, if this is not the case then that place has no value in my eyes!

  • I saw through the shit immediately and left after 2 months of staying there.

    Everything was fine during my first 2 weeks as a tourist. But when I landed a job that’s when reality hit me. I saw Dubai with real eyes and noticed all the things you have mentioned here.

    I saw a loophole in my “offer letter” (whatever the heck that is binding but not binding because it’s not a labor contract… but it’s still binding, puzzling for sure), I was allowed to leave the company during my probationary period, which I did.

    And just like you, I may not come back even if I win a 5-day stay at Burj Al Arab.

    • Zara Says

      As I always say, traveling to Dubai and living in Dubai and completely different things. Most tourists won’t get to know the first thing about life (and work!) in the UAE.

      Good for you that you saw that and made a move. All the best!

  • Pedro Says

    Wow, Zara, well written! But I got so excited about the heated words on the comments that this became addictive! Dubai is an amazing place, but everything about it is superficial, as you well pointed out. I wouldn’t say it’s the most liberal place in the Middle East, since that only accounts for the number of Western expats, and as we all know, expats rights and opinions don’t count. After all, they got a job in Dubai, so they should “shut the f*ck up”. So Dubai!

    • Zara Says

      Exactly: I should have mentioned “one of the most liberal places in the Middle East.. for expats!”. I wouldn’t know for locals what the exact scene is, to be honest.
      Thanks for reading!

  • Alice Nguyễn Says

    Hi! I’m going to Dubai for some business real soon and hunting for all info I can get about it. From what I read here, I take that your experience there weren’t so great? Now I’m seriously worried & would be really grateful for some tips.
    My trip will last a month & it’s Ramadan Holiday. I heard that you cannot eat or drink in public in that month. Then what about inside offices?
    I take it you are not Muslim, so where did you have lunch?
    My allowance is super tight, around 20$/day max so Hotel meals are out. I was planning to cook myself inside hotel room but I still worry about carrying my mini cooker (run by electricity) on plane. Do you happen to know if it’s prohibited?

    That was lunch; Dinner is easier, I think, since restaurants are open again. So do you know some place for cheap food? My hotel is in Internet city (?)- Knowledge Village (very confusing names for me) and my office is in Dubai Media City (?) Do you know any good place around there?
    I know it’s a super tight budget but I still hope to make the best of this trip. Can an outsider get inside Muslim Temples? I know there’re a lot of malls & buildings & hotels & bars but I’m not a fan of shopping. I kinda prefer some original architecture, some old streets, to watch and live cheap and simple life rather than a luxurious one. Can you recommend me some local attractions that you love? I trust your opinion!
    It’s a very important business trip and until now, I still have no idea what I’m gonna do there. Were people there friendly? I’m from South Asia and … well, I have to say that I am scared now. Maybe in offices, people will be more open-minded?

    I know I worried an awful lot but this trip is in a sensitive time (Ramadan), with tight budget & still about works. I’m so sorry for bother you so much! You must feel pretty annoyed with this super-long comment. God, I feel like a stalker. I follow your Twitter, I like your Facebook Page, now I’m writing a 2 pages letter to you. Sorry again for being all weird  .
    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Thank you very much!

    • Zara Says

      Hi Alice,

      There is nothing to worry about. I am sure you’ll enjoy your stay in Dubai, if nothing else because of seeing a different place. It’ll be an experience!

      You may eat/drink in some offices during Ramadam, but it depends on the company. I used to work in Media City and, over there, some companies with non Muslim employees would allow eating. In some other cases I have heard of people hiding in the bathrooms to have a bite without disturbing others. There are some food deliveries operating even during Ramadan in that area. USD20/day is indeed quite tight, but doable. I’d suggest heading for the mall food courts for cheaper food options or the ready made food counters inside hypermarkets such as Carrefour. I have no idea about the rules regarding carrying a cooker with you on the place… but I am sure you don’t need to go to such extent as there are plenty of options in Dubai.

      Media City and surrounding areas are not the cheapest. Probably the closest options on a budget would be Mall of the Emirates (you can reach by metro) and over there there are food courts. Alternatively, take the metro all the way to Bur Dubai – not only this is one of the most interesting parts of town, there are many more options for good food on a budget.

      Even if you’re not a fan of shopping I’d still recommend a visit to a couple of malls for the sake of the experience. The “mall culture” is a very Dubai thing so it’d be part of the local experience! You can get inside some mosques on certain days. Ask locally about the Mosque in Jumeirah, which used to be open with talks and Q&A sessions on saturday mornings while I was living in Dubai. If you like “simple life” I’d once again recommend heading to Bur Dubai and Deira. There is a lot happening on that side of town (markets, historic district of Bastakiya, etc).

      Don’t worry about people in offices. By default, they’ll be as nice as anywhere in the world. Keep it cool and have a great trip! :)

  • alex Says

    I was working as expert IT engineering ,for 5 years , suddenly for no reason government decided to cancel the most of the Iranian visa and without any respect ask me to leave next week !! they just deport some 100 people without ANY reason just because they have might be some issue between tow countries ! they crash my life and destroyed what ever I had during that 5 years .
    This countries and most of their local people ( special in Abu dhabi )
    Not a good place
    Wish god not bless UAE

    • Zara Says

      Hi Alex,
      I’m sorry to read about your awful experience in Dubai – it is terribly that things changed in almost on time.
      In any case, I hope you managed to find something better now and do not miss Dubai! ;)

  • so dubai Says

    Thank You Zara for the brilliant article! I’ve been here for 3 years now and planning to leave soon.
    To everyone who only think that Zara just had bad experience – I also tried to explain to the “new dubaists” and warn other people, but hey were arguing – all above is still true! It’s July 2014, and it’s getting worse regarding to expenses and salaries. Accommodation prices are going insane because of 2020 Expo, however the landlord can’t increase the rental price, only with some certain percentage at the lease renewal (as per law). So they just threw you out with some bullsht reasons, then they can lease the flat for higher price! Happened to us…
    You will always hear the magic words: “Tax free” but you’ll never hear the “housing fee” and the “AC bill” before you’ll get it :-D which easily can be 10-12K/year in a small 1 br apartment.
    Zara, it would be nice to read about what you’ve been through since you left, to give some hope and faith to whom still hesitating and scared to leave :)

    • Zara Says

      Many thanks for your comment!
      I guess it does take some time for new-comers in Dubai to see past the surface, specially with the excitement that normally is involved upon arrival. Not all that glitters is gold and time puts everything on its place.. even perspectives and opinions!

  • seal Says

    Hi! I am interested in people’s experiences in Dubai, as I know a woman who moved to Bahrain with an accepted job offer, and she mentioned it was for two years. I wonder if most people experience the same thing in Bahrain as well.

  • ahmed saud Says

    Very well written article, dubai is a hypocritical shithole.
    Actually the whole middle east is same shit, fuckin yellow eyed, constipated arab basterds

  • Aian Says

    Zara, first of all thanks, for letting thoughts materialize into words, and finally have read something that has been lurking in my mind the whole time I dwelled in this superficial and artificial place.

  • Anonymous1128 Says

    So glad to find this article. I have been here for 1.5 years and having real issues with the things you have mentioned, plus the heat. I don’t think I will be here much longer (expat wife) as my husband’s employer has not upheld their end of his contract. I have to say that there is not much that I will miss about here. Don’t feel I can say much more because I have to wonder who might be watching in this country, but rest assured when I move away, I will contribute more.

    • Zara Says

      We’ll be looking forward to reading more about your opinions. In the meantime, all the best for the new plans away from Dubai!

  • Hamid Says

    I spent a night in Dubai on the way back to the United States. I didn’t like it at all. In that one night, I learned a few things. The taxi drivers whom I met were mostly Indian, Bangladeshi or Pakistanis. Non of them were happy, and they all complained about harsh work and less pay. The next thing I noticed was outside a pizzeria, when an arrogant native Emirati was shouting to the restaurant waiter that his order be delivered to his car. Later that night I visited Burj e Khalifa (that tall building), and that too looked like another Las Vegas. I didn’t even wait for the water show that was scheduled to begin in a few minutes. I went straight back to my hotel, and left for the States the next day.

    Long story short, Dubai is fake. There is nothing Arab in it. I wish the Western development in Dubai matched Western freedom, human rights, and unbiased/transparent court system. I’m blessed to live in the States.

    A month later, my flight stopped at Dubai again, and I chose to stay at the airport for 10 hours without venturing out.

    • Zara Says

      Having restaurant / cafe orders delivered to your car is actually fairly common in the UAE..
      I get what you say about Dubai being fake. With such a cultural mix, they could be absorbing the best of all worlds… but, more often than not, I don’t think they do!

  • max Says

    Columbus risked falling off the flat earth to get to India, than to venture in the middle east area. And that’s 800 years ago. Fucked up then, fucked up now.

    i used to live in that hell hole for 20 years, i made good money. But at what cost? i agree with what the blogger has written, but there is still far far more she has left out.

    i just regret that i didnt move out earlier, complete waste of my life.

    if the blogger is interested to write a book about this place , or add more to the blog to bring more awareness, email me. i will be more than happy to expose more light on it.

    • Zara Says

      Thanks for your comment, Max.
      I do not plan on writing a book about life in Dubai. But if you wish to share more details about your experiences there over here, you are welcome to do so – I am sure another point of view will come in handy for some of our readers!

  • max Says
  • Diego Says

    Hi Zara

    I really liked your post. I am a business school student from Bolivia and to be honest, I also felt attracted by the “shining lights” of Dubai, so much so that, even if I haven’t finished studying for my business degree, I was already starting to figure out what I could do and how I could enhance my resumé so I could land a job over there (or in some of the other Gulf states). Even if I had already read something on the labor explotaiton going on there, I steel felt lured by it, thinking that sadly Dubai is not the only place where there is slavery. However, now I am really starting to have doubts about it. Even though Latin Americans are probably a little bit “higher” than South Asians or Filipinos on the racial “scale”, I’m still brown (not very brown, but brown enough for revealing I for sure am not from America or Europe), and I am now afraid that could make my life over there very difficult, even if I come from a somewhat “Western” country. I would like to know if you met any Latin Americans over there and how they are doing over there.

    I hope you’re doing OK.

    • Zara Says

      Hola Diego,

      Actually, I didn’t get to meet many Latins in person in Dubai, so I don’t have much to share. Most of the South Americans I came cross where Brazilians, mostly working as cabin crew for Emirates Airlines.

      I am sure you would do fine, depending on the job and company you end up working with. But be ready to see a lot of inequality around you, even if it doesn’t affect you directly.

      Buena suerte!

  • Elle Says

    I’ll be in Dubai soon myself, for work. Reading this, I definitely know what to look out for. Is there anything else i should expect during my stay?

    • Zara Says

      In regards to what exactly?
      Keep in mind that everyone has a different experience… whether it is in Dubai or anywhere else in the world!

  • Amir Says

    Hey Zara,
    Great post, accurate but still not enough to truly describe the UAE. Sadly, people from all over the world will fall for the great marketing pitch of the so called “City of life”.

    I was born and raised in Dubai, my dad and mum have been living in Dubai for over two decades, I have seven siblings and I am the only male child (second from last).
    About a year ago, I was detained during a minor car accident in which I was the passenger for suspicion of consumption of alcohol, when asked if I had consumed alcohol or any “mind altering” substance, I denied it and further stated that I cannot consume alcohol because I am on a prescribe med course for fractures I sustained in an accident few months earlier and my doctor had advised me against it.
    This sealed my fate, I was jailed for a year and deported back to India, a country I have never visited, now I stay here away from my family trying to get back on my feet. I will try to give a concise description of my experience,

    March 19, 2013,
    Detained for suspicion of consuming mind altering substances.
    I informed them of my condition and offered to provide them with my prescription.
    After 4 hours of being kept in a “cold” room, they repeatedly asked me what medications I was on and where did I get it from, who is my “dealer”.
    Only now did I realise I was being interrogated as a drug abuser.
    I told them, that I have a condition and if they would let me use a phone I could let my family to bring the prescriptions and I can get in touch with my doctor.
    They asked me to wait.
    About another 8 hours and they took me for a urine test.
    Kept me in the room, with just a blanket.
    This went on for the next 48 hours approx.
    Took me out and asked me to sign a paper written in arabic, when I asked what was it, the officer simply said “release”.

    March 22, 2013
    After the signing of the “release”.
    I was transferred to Bur Dubai Police Station,
    Formally charged with consumption and booked (Which I still didn’t know about).
    Only when they put me into the holding cells, an arab man, read the paper they had given me and that’s when I found out.
    I got my family to visit the police station and the prosecutor to give them my prescriptions.

    Nothing helped. Sentenced to 1 year, after appealing to the appeal court sentence again 1 year and appealing to the supreme court the same.
    My defence of prescriptions and doctor statements were no match to that piece of paper that was written in arabic and signed by me.
    The paper was a confession were I agreed to using tramadol without a prescription.
    How does the court even accept the prosecution’s case?
    The logic of their judges just escapes me, I understand the zero tolerance policy but sentencing a man and then deporting him from the only country he has ever known when they don’t even have a case?
    The laws I have learnt are actually quite good, it’s just being implemented by the wrong people. They chose where the law applies and where it doesn’t, judges and prosecutors base their cases not on evidence but by their own moods and opinions, so if you catch a judge on a bad day, your most likely to get a guilty sentence. I have met many locals who got out after a month even if they were in possession and had consumed hard drugs, heroin.

    The law is not biased, it clearly states the punishments for “ANYONE” who breaks it.

    City of life? more like, City of lies.

    • Zara Says

      Hi Amir,

      I am really sorry to read about what happened to you in Dubai. A very extreme case, indeed. I know what you mean about having to sign a paper in Arabic. I was once stopped by a traffic police who decided to fine me by the way I stopped when he asked me to. He proceed to give me a ticket for “traffic obstruction”, even though it was about 2AM and I was the only vehicle on that particular road. Long story short, he made me sign something in Arabic too. When I asked him what the paper said, because I was reluctant to sign it just like that, his answer was: “you live here, right? then…” He made a face, and I had to sign.

      As you say, maybe the rules are not so bad. But the implementation of them certainly is. Locals get away with anything, and foreigners (specially Asians) always take the worst park of the cake. Injustice all around!

      Maybe better things will lay ahead for you, who knows. Good riddance to Dubai and its lies. All the best, Amir!

  • DGB Says

    Hello Zara! I am glad to stumble upon your blog! I am going to Dubai soon with my sister and her husband. Her husband is working there. I guess he has a good salary but not that high. Maybe around 9k. So, I am willing to travel there and find a job and hopefully I could gain money from there and so I can travel to freaking Europe. Hahaha! I am surprised to read the comments. Even before knowing more about Dubai, I knew it is not the country that I am going to spend my life in. Though I didn’t know it is TOTALLY DIFFERENT there. Now, I am scared and having doubts. After reading this entry and the comments, I feel like everyone in Dubai is not in a good mood everyday. Are people there THAT harsh? :(

    • Zara Says

      Hi DGB! Not everyone is harsh in Dubai. In fact, I wouldn’t say people there in general are harsh. It’s more like, the conditions are harsh. Your daily life may be fine (and this varies greatly depending where you come from, your job, etc..). But it’s just that, if you get into trouble for some reason, things can get ugly pretty quick. I am sure, in general, you’d do OK!

  • antrix Says

    So nice and true. Emiratis are always arrogant and always look down upon you if you are not one of them or you are not English as if we are some kind of servants for them. You cant even say anything ..literally anything, otherwise they will deport you with shame or throw in some desert and keep you off limits. Each and every work.. from the construction of buildings to building a space agency is being done by expats. Locals are just cashing on the basic rights given by their rulers and are just increasing their belly size and are just being arrogant and ignorant. And what we expat get, only some few bucks more from our homeland and that too gets spend on the basic necessities in Dubai. So, its pointless to live in such harsh place. Only one thing is good in UAE– which is its crime-free image, but again you have cleared this in point 1 though :) There are variety of cities and countries we should explore and live in peace with our pride and dignity maintained.

  • Mike Says

    Hello Zara. I really appreciate that i found your blog. I am in Dubai as a tourist to look for a job because the image of Dubai projects to the world is opportunity, luxury and hope especially to third world countries. But I slowly realized that everything is superficial. I been here for almost two months now and I’m deciding whether to stay or to leave Dubai. Having read your blog gives me a reason to leave and go back home. I can’t deal that human rights violation to the extreme especially if you are a worker from a third world country. Thank you for the eye opener blog. Stay safe!!!

    • Zara Says

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for your comment. See for yourself, don’t go only by my blog post. I haven’t been in Dubai for the last 3 years, so I am not sure if anything has changed in the meantime or not. If you are there, take your time to observe and try to mingle with people of different backgrounds. That should give you a better understanding of life in Dubai. Good luck with everything! :)

  • Adidata Says

    I am Indonesian where as a Moslem majority country.
    but I stayed long time in Europe and have staying back to country since 2000

    I know so many customs of Islam that is not suitable for modern life, but enforced by religious teachers as a way of life as the best in the world.
    I feel:
    - Religion teachers always vilify other religions
    - This religion feel that the most good for the human in the world
    - Always say another religion is not religious / non-religious / pagan
    - The way they wear are holy garments think that their sins would lost if wear
    - Another religion people should be killed

    I feel they really do not fit the development of technology and millenium era
    in lives they have doing so many hypocrisy life

    • Zara Says

      Thanks for your comment, Adidata.
      I think all religions should “modernize” themselves, in a way that their teachings can apply to life now-a-days.
      This applies to all organized religions really… otherwise they’ll eventually run out of followers.

  • Asian Says

    UAE is the fake country. A lot of fabricated things in that country.

  • H Says

    they just made a toilet for all arab countries and be paid instead of that ,you know even the word like country is far away for that should be really idiot to live in toilet

  • Lola Says

    Hi this might seem like a stupid question, that you may not be able to answer but I am building a picture from some of these stories. I was interested in visiting Dubai / UAE because I had heard good things, up to now. I am black and British and wondered if you had met anyone black and what their experiences were? I mentioned to a Somali girlfriend of mine my intentions to go there and she strongly advised/ told me not to go because of the blatant racism. She can understand some Arabic so was aware of things they would say. I might add she has never been there but this is her experience of some Arabs, and people she knows that have been there. I don’t like such things to put me off trying new things, but I worry that some extreme case could happen to me and I would be in real trouble.

  • Najib Says

    Thank you for your article!
    If as a White with presuminly good salary didn’t like the life in Dubai then you can’t even imagine how I as someone from south asian wokring as taxi driver felt about my time in Dubai. Every single day of my life was like hell, I hated myself, I dispised myself, I used to feel that I am not worth anything and this feeling was enforecd by the way people were treating me. The only people that I have good memories about and people who teated me with respect and digity were the europeans or americans who have been tourists or just come to dubai for short time.

    I am happy that I left that shit hole 10 years ago and come to europe, here I seek asylum and got it after 2 years. Now I am an eropean citizan with a job( also taxi driver) but I feel happy, I feel like being human being again.

  • Katie Says

    Just out of curiosity, how are interracial couples looked upon. My boyfriend is Indian and I am a US citizen, white with blonde hair.

    • Zara Says

      It depends on what context! We are Indian male + European brunette European female. More than once, servers in restaurants would talk directly to me (the white one) and even say “thanks m’am” after my boyfriend paid the bill. Quite unpleasant. But, obviously, it didn’t happen all the time.

  • YS Says

    The truth is if religion didn’t exist, a lot of things would be different. People wouldn’t be able to judge others based on religion. People would be forced to use common sense in making rules and on determining what is good from bad. Ethics would not be based on what a holy book tells you to do. Being good or bad wouldn’t be related to being a devout Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu or etc. Terrorism would surely not be as rampant as it is today. People won’t be able to say “f*uck you because you are [insert religion here]“. No one would be able to act or assume he/she is superior to others because of religion. Unfortunately, people would still use race as a means of judging, controlling or terrorizing others. But, at least actions would be judged based on what they are, not based on religion. No one old enough to know bad from good is innocent. We have all been wronged in one way or another and we have all done wrong. Some people learn from this and some never do. Most of us are quick to judge a whole nation, race or people based on the actions of a group or few. Even if we meet so many people from one race or religion that prove to be the same, we cannot assume that the many other millions of others are the same.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s fair for a country to be governed by a religion. Culture, tradition and values are a whole other thing. They must be respected and tolerated if you are to live in a country. Good ethics and morals are necessary. I have traveled to different countries. I do think the UAE is a bit too strict when it comes to certain things and censorship can be over the top but at the same time, I do find some Countries in Europe and the West to be too liberal with certain things. Kids are exposed to certain things too early, forcing them to grow up too fast and miss out on the innocence of childhood.

    I am also quite tired of seeing people say “f*ck you Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc etc” or the ever tiresome repetitive phrases of “f*ck you Arabs”, “fuck you Americans”, “f*ck you Israelis” and so on. It doesn’t make you look or sound cool, tough, better or grown up. And PLEASE stop with the whole “but this is OUR land, it was meant to be OURS” or “this is OUR country and it’s the BEST.” No land really belonged to anyone in the first place because there were millions of others in it before you. Every land we live in now has been lived in by others before us. Lands can be shared amongst people, there is no need for violence and terrorism. But human beings are naturally selfish and the strong will overcome the weak and call it their right. And history repeats itself. No country is the BEST, there are pros and cons to every country.

    I hope there comes a day when people stop using religion and race as means to judge, control or hurt others and actually focus on what really matters: making a decent living, living a good life, family, friends, health, helping others if you can or want to, etc etc.

  • CanadaRepatriate Says

    I lived in Dubai for 4 odd years. And for those of you commenting asking, “why did you stay there if you didnt like it” I would like to say the following. You dont go to Dubai thinking, oh If i hate it im gonna leave asap. You give it a chance, just as every place deserves. You land, you get a job, a 1 year rental lease, a car, a credit card. It takes a year just to settle in and you’re not realizing anything till that time….the 2nd and 3rd year, you are exploring the place…figuring out what you like and what you dont like….by the time you realize, wait i actually dont like what im seeing (enough to want to leave), time has already flown, and then you start to plan your exit.(the average expat stays 5-7 years) You can abandon everything and jump on a plane….or you can spend the average 1-2 years paying off your debts (which by the way most expats are in over their heads in), save up for your move, get out of your lease, and give notice to your employer, and most importantly figure out where you’re going next. Those who have moved abroad can respect that you can’t just hop around cause you see one thing you dont like. Having said that, I totally share the writers sentiments:
    - open and accepted racism, hell emiratis will bud in line infront of you and the indians and pakistanis have no guts to say….get in line lady! Afraid they might end up in jail for the slightest insult to the inflated emirati ego.
    - no employments or human rights…my visa was declined and no explanation given…i was jobless within a day, i got another visa a few months later (again no explanation as to why it was approved this time) the govt is not obliged to give you an answer for ANYTHING
    - tax free – when you add up, schooling, immigration costs, cost of living (added to cost of showing off), does it really give you a benefit? the difference from employer to employer is so huge, you’re a slave to your job, and cant leave it even if you know your rights are being violated. (unless you can find another better job)
    - lazy people who have maids to do everything. (only some expats may actually clean and cook along with their maids, most of the folks just dump everything on their househelp, don’t even get me started with the ones who abuse their maids and everyone just turns a blind eye like it doesn’t happen)
    - Hypocrites – you can wear a thong bikini at jumeirah beach, but 2 minutes away at the immigration office you have to cover your shoulders and knees….
    - service – ugh. The worst possibly in all “developed” nations
    - superficial people – honestly, with the exception of a few good friends I made there, the society generally is so money driven, the first question people ask you is, where are you from (ie whats ur passport colour), where does your husband work, where do your kids go to school, what area do you live in, its literally keeping up with the kardashians)
    - freedom! – cant swear, cant get angry at a local emirati, cant get into a verbal argument for any reason, cant be muslim and drink (cause thats not allowed) cant get a liquor license if your muslim (but the locals can buy as much alcohol at barracuda as they want) cant file a greivance against a government office (good luck with that),
    - liberty, justice, and on and on
    it took me about 3 years to realize that i was getting increasingly unhappy. and thats when i decided to wrap up and start my exit.
    The good things?
    - The weather is generally great – except when its may – aug and 50 degrees.
    - Its an easy place to travel to other places from, like Lebanon Jordan, or india or turkey etc)
    - House help, no minimum wage, or a varying minimum wage means cheap labour. it’s a real luxury to have help at home, and its totally affordable in dubai, and useful especially when you have kids. Having said that I know some folks who literally would die without their maids.
    - Savings – depends, on the economy and your employment, you can save a lot, and then the rents go up and your screwed. Theres no regulation, my rent doubled in 4 years. But of course my salary didn’t. but if your smart and don’t get caught in the bling, you could probably save a good amount. (again depends when you go, pre recession, post recession etc)
    - My experience with the medical system/hospitals etc was great, but I have heard numerous horror stories for sure
    - Ya that’s all I can think of.
    All that shines is not gold. living in dubai is a lifestyle choice, its not about saving money on a tax free income any more. its about beaches, drivers, maids, status and friday brunches and sunshine, bmw’s, and parties. personally i dont value that over my personal rights and freedoms, not to mention its suffocating living there as an atheist or agnostic, especially an ex-muslim! try being there in Ramadan! I can still understand why people from less developed nations would opt to live there, but why western expats would choose to stay there, the “im never gonna leave dubai” type, sorry i just dont get it.

    Im not saying other countries dont have problems, I am saying that economically UAE may qualify as a developed country, but it has a long long long way to go really become a developed country. So happy to have moved back to my home country. After so many years away, I really value this place a whole lot more. Don’t plan on leaving again any time soon.

    • Zara Says

      Thanks so much for taking the time to reply with such detail. I really appreciate all the different views that we’re collecting here in the comments section.

      You are so right when you mention that it takes time to plan a move: to or back from a new country. People who comment along the lines “why wouldn’t you just leave” have probably never made such a big move to understand that this type of thing doesn’t happen overnight.

      Same like you, I have also come to value my country way more than before after living in Dubai (and generally going abroad).

      Thanks for reading us!

  • Tony Says

    I received this sms from a friend who goes there to earn some extra money.The customer locked the room and dont let her out. She screamed and shouted and only later manage to leave. She even wanted to die

    Is there any help for her.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Come travel with us!
Sign up now!