Monday, September 22, 2008

Young and Arab in a land of mosque, bars, and opportunity

A very good article in the New York Times about life in Dubai for young Arab ex pats:
Dubai is, in some ways, a vision of what the rest of the Arab world could become — if it offered comparable economic opportunity, insistence on following the law and tolerance for cultural diversity. In this environment, religion is not something young men turn to because it fills a void or because they are bowing to a collective demand. That, in turn, creates an atmosphere that is open not only to those inclined to a less observant way of life, but also to those who are more religious. In Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Algeria, a man with a long beard is often treated as an Islamist — and sometimes denied work. Not here in Dubai.

But it's not all milk and honey. The personal stories are bittersweet.

Be sure to check out the 17 pictures with quotations. One:
Taj Maarafi, 24, is from Tunisia, and has lived in Dubai for almost two years. He works as a waiter. "I miss my life in Tunisia - but I'm not going back. I have an independence here that I wouldn't have even if I made more money back home. I'm making my own future. This is one thing in Dubai: you're not part of a family, or a group. You come here as an individual, and this is how people see you."



Blogger Hiten said...

Very interesting article John. Having been born&raised in Dubai and having gone to school with mainly Arab Expats (Choueifat), I can relate to what the young men in the story are saying. Life in Dubai can be tough without the family support coupled with the sense that the Arab culture here is, at best, translucent.

There are resources though that make life for such expats a bit easier. Online communities such as Grapeshisha ( and Riazu ( help inform people in the region and encourage the development of a community.

Grapeshisha provides useful info about what to expect, really. It's been around for a while and has great resources such as an average salary sheet, a link to Dubai bloggers, etc.

Riazu is an online classifieds MidEast network, complete with an online Souq, a deals&discounts forum and a forum for university students to connect.

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