By Steve Kelman

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The Lectern: More Dubai impressions

Late Friday afternoon, after a beach visit where the weather turned cloudy, I landed in the middle of the area along Dubai Creek, where the city was founded centuries ago as a trading village.

With the Muslim Sabbath on Friday, Friday evening would be the equivalent of Saturday evening in the United States, especially for construction crews and other workers, many of whom work a six day week. The area was absolutely teeming with people, and I was one of the few Europeans/Americans -- almost everybody was Pakistani or Indian. What suddenly struck me was that the crowd was close to 100 percent men, mostly youngish (in their twenties or thirties). These are the blue-collar workers in construction and other activities that keep Dubai growing. The crowd was animated, but not over the top or wild. Possibly, the lack of liquor around Dubai contributed to the relatively peaceful feel (but then it was only about 5 p.m.). But the gender imbalance surely helps explain what is said to be the very high incidence of prostitution here, although I saw nobody looking like a prostitute anywhere in this crowd (again, it was still early).

Dubai highways are filled with banners on the side of the road, reading "Think Blue." These are not ads for IBM, but rather appeals to environmental consciousness -- blue as in the color of the earth as seen from space -- which actually seems to be quite a big issue there. (Students complained when handouts were printed on only one side of the paper, criticizing the course administration for wasting paper.) "Green" can't be used as the color for environmentalism, since it is already taken -- green is the color of Islam.

The Lufthansa business class lounge (I flew to and from the United States to Dubai via Germany) has a huge collection of newspapers from around Europe, a bunch of which I picked up while in transit. It was sort of depressing to see a scary banner headline in the tabloid Bild Zeitung, Germany's largest newspaper, with anti-immigrant language it would be hard to get away with in the mainstream U.S. press. "THE TRUTH ABOUT CRIMINAL FOREIGNERS," the headline screamed, with subheads (also on the front page), such as "They Are Taught to be Criminals in their Families," and "Only One Thing Makes an Impression on Them -- Prison!"

Posted by Steve Kelman on Jan 15, 2008 at 12:09 PM


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