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Suddenly it looks less like Manhattan in the sun than Iceland in the desert.Once the manic burst of building has stopped and the whirlwind has slowed, the secrets of Dubai are slowly seeping out.
This is a city built from nothing in just a few wild decades on credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery. Every time she starts to tell her story, she puts her head down and crumples.
Dubai is a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing – at last – into history. She is slim and angular and has the faded radiance of the once-rich, even though her clothes are as creased as her forehead.
As they scuttled away, Dubai decided to ally with the six surrounding states and make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The British quit, exhausted, just as oil was being discovered, and the sheikhs who suddenly found themselves in charge faced a remarkable dilemma.
And there he stands on the tallest building in the world – a skinny spike, jabbing farther into the sky than any other human construction in history.
But something has flickered in Sheikh Mohammed's smile.Dubai was meant to be a Middle-Eastern Shangri-La, a glittering monument to Arab enterprise and western capitalism.But as hard times arrive in the city state that rose from the desert sands, an uglier story is emerging.He would build a city to be a centre of tourism and financial services, sucking up cash and talent from across the globe. Until a few years ago they were shuttled back and forth on cattle trucks, but the expats complained this was unsightly, so now they are shunted on small metal buses that function like greenhouses in the desert heat. Sonapur is a rubble-strewn patchwork of miles and miles of identical concrete buildings.He invited the world to come tax-free – and they came in their millions, swamping the local population, who now make up just 5 per cent of Dubai. Hidden in plain view There are three different Dubais, all swirling around each other. Some 300,000 men live piled up here, in a place whose name in Hindi means "City of Gold".They were largely illiterate nomads who spent their lives driving camels through the desert – yet now they had a vast pot of gold. Dubai only had a dribble of oil compared to neighbouring Abu Dhabi – so Sheikh Maktoum decided to use the revenues to build something that would last.Israel used to boast it made the desert bloom; Sheikh Maktoum resolved to make the desert boom. Every evening, the hundreds of thousands of young men who build Dubai are bussed from their sites to a vast concrete wasteland an hour out of town, where they are quarantined away."We're not talking huge sums, but he was getting confused. We got into a little bit of debt." After a year, she found out why: Daniel was diagnosed with a brain tumour.One doctor told him he had a year to live; another said it was benign and he'd be okay. "Before I came here, I didn't know anything about Dubai law.Daniel woke up and the boy had swallowed razor-blades. But downtown there are traces of the town that once was, buried amidst the metal and glass.He banged for help, but nobody came, and the boy died in front of him."Karen managed to beg from her friends for a few weeks, "but it was so humiliating. In the dusty fort of the Dubai Museum, a sanitised version of this story is told.