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June 20, 2011 / Ibrahim Leadership and Dialogue Project

Dubai: The Jewel of the Desert

Like Burj Al-Khalifa, Dubai stands above all others in its glamour, business vision and marvel.  It houses the biggest mall in the world, a population that is over 80% foreign and a burgeoning business hub.  But all in all, there were two things that struck me the most about Dubai: its business strategy and immigration.

As Bernard West, the CEO of Tadrees explained, Dubai is more of a gateway to business in the Middle East.  Not a lot of business is invented or created in this city.  Rather, it houses large corporations that wish to expand their hold over the region.  And with its tax-free business zones, business can do just that.  We saw this first hand when we visited the media center, where media giants such as CNBC, BBC, Google and CNN are housed.  There, we could see how important it is for these companies to have such a strong networking infrastructure and learned more about how Arab radio and TV functions.  Interestingly, like any other business zone, media city has a set of guidelines on what can be covered in media.  Their policy on nudity, coverage of Islam and politics prohibited Sex and the City from being filmed in Dubai and raises questions on how the business operation fits in Western media.

As we were going up the Burj Al-Khalifa and saw pictures of the workers that made this marvel a reality, it dawned on me.  These men, most of whom are Indian or Southeast Asian, put their sweat and tears into this project.  And ultimately play no role in the politics of the country and can never hope to be a citizen of the country.  As a first generation American, I understand and appreciate the importance of integrating a population to feel as though they are part of the society.  Some of the foreign executives in Dubai Media City explained that the Emirates is a hotspot for foreigners but does not assimilate its immigrants into the society.  Even those born and raised in this country are foreigners.

-Aya Saed

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