Saturday, December 16, 2006

Deeper and deeper

So I got my residence visa last week. It happened quite quickly after the medical. I've also got my driving licence, after another visit to another red-tape nightmare with more multiple points of liaison and more sitting waiting for your number to be called while other people ignore the queueing system and just wander up, even when other people are being dealt with. It probably wouldn't have been half as bad if I had actually had my original passport with me. As it was, I had to drive all the way to work to collect my passport through atrocious weather (the wettest December in eleven years, so they say) and trying to get back without getting stuck in a traffic jam on SZR caused by an awful accident early that morning which claimed 9 lives. It seems that people were driving too fast for the conditions again. "Will the learn?" you may ask. I doubt it.

After getting back and waiting some more, I eventually walked away with a nice new shiny gold credit-card-sized licence. I also got a parking ticket. Hurrah!

Traffic, traffic, traffic. It's really starting to grate now. Almost every journey of more than ten minutes in duration will involve some kind of traffic jam or hold-up, and there are often no tangible reasons for it. I've been trying to get savvy and find short-cuts, but I always end up in another queue when I try to get back to the main route. The confusing thing for me is how it has got noticably worse since the end of Ramadan. Before Ramadan was bad enough, during it was absolutely great with everyone going home early, but since the end of it, the number of cars on the road seems to have suddenly doubled, and with all the rain recently, it has only made things worse still. I don't know if it's because quite a lot of people went away for the summer and are now back. It might be a factor.

So, I think on and on about it. I feel quite lucky to live this end of Dubai, where the traffic going to town in the morning and back out on an evening isn't nearly as heavy as the traffic heading in the other direction. But for how long will this last? You only have to look up a bit as you drive around to see all the tower cranes working constantly, and you can't help notice the giant hoardings going up everywhere trumpeting some new mega-development: Sports City, Falcon City of Wonders, The Lagoons, The second Airport, Dubailand....the list goes on and grows seemingly by the day. I don't know what the projections are, but this place could well be double the size it is now in a decade's time.

There are promises of new roads and there is a metro system under construction, but I can't help but wonder what it will be like to live and work here in the not-so-distant future. And the nagging question that I can't get over (aside from building all these mega-structures on sand) is...Who is going to live here, and what are they going to do?

I'd say 60% or more of those living here now are working in construction, from labourers to the likes of me. What happens when it's finished? A lot of people will have to go home or find something else to do. Of course, there will be service-sector jobs, but what about those being served? Where are they coming from? Who are they? Hey, I'm sure they have a plan here, but I'll be damned if I can see what it is, knowing where they are taking this place in terms of development. There are ports and airports and hotels and theme parks to run, yeah, but that won't employ the population of a four-million-plus city, will it? Will it?

As far as I'm concerned, I can't see us living here more than the originally-planned two years. I think we will have had enough by then, and may want a bit of a quieter life. I'm enjoying quite a lot about the place, really I am, but now that I've been here a while, the novelty and the sheen have worn off and I'm seeing more and more of the bad things that lie under the surface and don't get advertised. Then there's the whole hypocrisy issue. Being a liberal/left-winger/commie pinko here isn't a terribly comfortable feeling, and you end up switching part of yourself off to deal with it when you see the effects and (even benefits of) rampant, naked capitalism. See no evil, and so forth. How long one can keep it up for is an intriguing dilemma.

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