There are areas in Dubai that are known to house the westerners; Downtown, Jumeirah, JLT, DIFC and Marina, head to any of these places and you’d feel like you were transported out of the Middle East and straight into New York. Now, that isn’t to say these places don’t have people of colour, but they are few and far between. This is primarily due to the countries various recruitment agencies that are shockingly still allowed to request your sex, marital status, ethnicity, gender and even a picture, when you are applying for a job. Complete discrimination anywhere else, but here in Dubai, it’s perfectly acceptable. In fact, I could at this very moment screen-shot at least ten job listings that say ‘British national only or US citizens only’, that’s just the way it is. Now, what does this have to do with the aforementioned ‘white zones’? I’m getting to it.
When I started at my role as a fashion writer, that was the first time I stepped onto the metro-train, heading into our downtown offices I would wear my Louboutin’s and tread through the paved concrete outside my apartment, then all the way up four sets of stairs and then a ten minute walk to office. Now, though that I learned two things:
1) $1200 C.L loafers are not for daily metro bouts.
2) The obvious class system.
You see, I live in Qusais, a mere 15 minutes from Sharjah, and what I lovingly called the ‘Dubai Ghetto’, though it barely scratches the surface of any of the world’s most dangerous cities. When you get on that train there isn’t a single white person. Not a single one, and then as the train starts to move further towards the heart of Dubai, and the buildings start to get that special kind of gleam only money can buy, you notice the change in people. White men, suited and women in stilettos with Louis Vuitton bags. The segregation that is witnessed here, is mostly linked to the higher salaries companies pay to foreigners and yet in the same breath, deign to give to a person of colour, but let’s focus on the societal impact of this on the Dubai community, as opposed to a detailed dissection of the labour laws.
I can’t count how many people have asked me where I live and pretend either not to know it or furrow their brow when I tell them. What’s shocking is some of them actually don’t know it, because their lives are solely based in the white zones and venturing towards this side of town would terribly upset their sensibilities. What’s even better are the few Asian people that try to pull the same move because they’ve gone to the predominantly white-schools in the white zones and therefore do not understand why anyone would live outside of these sectors. I think where we live, has no real value. A room, a house, a shared flat, these material things offer zero insight into a person’s character, it does however provide a glossy coating to our human shells. One that is unfortunately very important to most.
To summarize, this isn’t a criticism of anyone that isn’t ‘ethnic’, it’s a small examination of the cancerous effects of discrimination on society. Last night, I decided to go to a bar outside of the zones solely to enjoy the music and have cheap drinks, but several of my acquaintances didn’t turn up when I informed them of the location. In fact, one of them referred to it as ‘Whoe central’, to which my response was ‘There are whoes in Armani tool’, and that right there explains volumes. People would rather associate with that kind of crowd in a glitzier side of town as opposed to ever letting their friends find out that they spent their weekend partying with the coloured folk down in Bur Dubai. At the end of the day, it’s important to take pride in all your accomplishments while staying humble. Living your life in complete honesty will not only help you attract the right kinds of people, but pave the way to a future that doesn’t need a single coat of superficiality.