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How can you fall in love with a city that has no soul?

Burj Khalifa dazzles the Dubai skyline. Every time I glance at this magnificent beauty, I’m in complete awe of the elegance this massive structure manages to portray. Every time I step out of my office and see Burj Al Arab  resting behind my metro station, I feel like the building is breathing-that is how vivid the architecture in Dubai is. When the Emirates Towers first caught my sight, I was stunned-especially because I didn’t know about it before. There is truly something unbelievable about Dubai’s architecture — but nobody ever came to Dubai in search of an understatement. The most important question that heads my way these days is “Do you like it here?” I know the answer, but I want to structure my thinking in a different way, so I ask myself, What is Dubai?

The new Dubai is a city that was built on the backs of a massive working-class population primarily from the Indian subcontinent and from other not-so-wealthy areas of the Gulf. As a result, the ratio of men to women is 3:1. The local-born Emiratis make up only about 12% of the population of Dubai and are blessed with an abundance of wealth and endless government support. Sitting between the two groups is a rising group of westerners who appear to be the main audience kept in mind when continuing with the structuring of Dubai. What you have, as a result, in front of you, is an artificial city that is torn between what I call “different classes”.

Raised in Canada by parents who have never failed to treat everybody around them as equals, I am confused about Dubai and from what I see, all I can ask myself are questions about 2 major issues:

a)  “Who are these people kidding by imposing such blatant discriminatory laws in the twenty first century and why are people like me tolerating it”?

b)”With the lack of a dominant culture, and utmost artificiality, how soon is Dubai going to collapse” ?

Let me explain my views: Imagine, every time there is server in a restaurant or a washroom-cleaner, a window-wiper or a simply a door-opener, the nationality of this person is almost always some form of South-Asian or Philippians and your brain can’t help but naturally create a stereotype. All of a sudden, you feel compelled to differentiate yourself through what you wear, the restaurants you go to, or even the “class” in the metro you sit in! Dubai makes the differences in wealth so blatantly obvious and frankly speaking you can’t blame anybody–Dubai just happens to foster a broader span of levels of wealth. Nevertheless, it hurts my ego to see people from my country working in such conditions where they are allowed to be treated as a ‘lower class’. It hurts to see people getting higher salaries merely because of the passport that they hold. It hurts to see that there is such a thing as a “Gold Class” in metros where you pay more and sit exclusively in a separate cabin where everybody else along with you also foolishly paid double of the regular price. It hurts to see “American, European ONLY” ads for renting apartments and when I ask them why they have such a preference, they say “its the European Guy/Girl who lives in that apartment who doesn’t want to live with any other nationalities” and Dubai will entertain such requests.

Similarly, it hurts to see that in the city that I live in, I’ve never had a personal interaction with its locals. The question is, why make your culture so exclusive? From what I know, there is no culture that can live if it attempts to be exclusive. The beauty of any culture is to be all encompassing and so unbelievably generous that you don’t want to get out of it. In fact the beauty of Arab culture is characterized by the extents to which these people go to in terms of their generosity and hospitality. If you don’t meet the people how can you experience and become a part of their culture? The heartbeat of a city is generated by the people that live in it, but this place is void of a dominant culture and so it begs the question: how can you fall in love with  city that has no soul?

In all, Dubai is unreal. It is unreal in the sense that it beautifully incorporated the western and Eastern lifestyles, but failed miserably in upholding the values of either one.

P.S: I simply love working for my company and would never doubt my decision to join it. I look forward to revealing my future to you all. Here I come world, more driven than ever.


About Amena Khan

Thinker | Minimalist | Writer | MBA | Fearless | Always 110% | Global Citizen | Limited Edition | The proof of the pudding is in the eating


7 thoughts on “How can you fall in love with a city that has no soul?

  1. This is extremely well-written. I have always held the same views about UAE but could never put it in words. Discriminating for apartment rentals is new to me, and I’m shocked but not surprised that it exists. Classes based on wealth exists here too, but bounding people to race/nationality is just not right.

    Still, there are some considerations in the UAE lifestyle for “our” people that makes life a bit homely: the food, the people, the language and the religion. I only ever felt segregated when I stepped out (on occasion) of my “class.”

    Posted by dehahs | June 1, 2012, 2:07 pm
  2. Good observation. You actually speak the truth.

    Posted by lovinski | June 5, 2012, 12:24 am
  3. Reblogged this on avicenna2020 and commented:
    Well said

    Posted by avicenna2020 | June 5, 2012, 12:25 am
  4. I linked this and the next article (the one with the diverse opinion) at my blog ( as I believed it was really good written and I wanted to sha it with friends. Thanks!

    Posted by Isis M | September 16, 2013, 1:22 pm


  1. Pingback: You did it Dubai. « Amena Khan's Blog - September 3, 2012

  2. Pingback: How can you fall in love with a city that has no soul? | Amena Khan’s Blog | cord0 - September 14, 2013

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Amena Khan

Thinker | Minimalist | Writer | Fearless | Always 110% | Global Citizen | Limited Edition |

Hope your encounter with me is an inspirational one.

Amena’s tweets

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