SHIFTING SANDS

Images and Words by Ross Domoney
Muisic by Alpha Channel

They say that “time stands still”, but does it? The shifting sands of Arabia suggest differently. A small nomadic settlement of Bedouin Arabs and pearl divers has now become an iconic symbol of modern architecture and big city living.
Dubai sits on an all important strategic crossroad of the modern world. It is easily accessible for China, Europe, Russia, and India. This makes Dubai a bustling and competitive place for business and, according to the World Bank, the growth of Dubai between 2000 and 2007 has shot up by a phenomenal 47.5 percent.
This small Emirate is currently growing faster than any city on earth. It is estimated that $100bn worth of projects are taking place at the moment, or are planned for the near future. More and more opulent hotels attract more and more tourists, and the country is constructing the tallest building in the world: Burj Dubai. This project is estimated to cost $800m and is expected to be 800m tall when complete.
But how are all these monstrous sky scrapers being built in such a small period of time? It is due to the labours of 250,000 men shipped over largely from India and Pakistan, who toil in the heat and not in the best or safest of conditions. These workers earn, on average, £150 a month and live in camps hidden far away from tourist areas in the industrial quarters of al Quoz.
Dubai has a fascinating background of culture and heritage. The country is being rapidly eaten up by modernization and 6 lane highways, and the old culture is slowly fading under the concrete dust of new construction. The growth of this futuristic city is constantly documented by the media, but rarely is anything shown of old Dubai.
Tourists visiting this emerging Las Vegas-like city rarely venture into the long-established, crowded, noisy, traditional areas, and return home unaware of the vibrant heartbeat of this country of contrasts. Many of these older areas are scheduled for demolition and re-location, and it is a real fear of many locals that old Dubai will disappear for ever under the foundations of concrete skyscrapers, massive hotels, huge sterile shopping malls and theme parks.
By Ross Domoney 15/05/08

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