18 February 2009

[Insert Sardonic Reference to Houses Built on Sand HERE]

From the NY Times today:
"Before, so many of us were living a good life here,” Mr. Thiab said. “Now we cannot pay our loans. We are all just sleeping, smoking, drinking coffee and having headaches because of the situation."

I worked with a bunch of kids from the UAE in the summer of 2001 as a counselor at a summer camp. They were here in the US to learn to fly planes (note the pre-9/11 date) as cadets in their Air Force, and ranged from 14-19 years old. They were paid ungodly amounts of money and spent it on all sorts of frivolous things, and bragged about how their president paid every family in the country thousands of dollars and showered them with expensive gifts, built nice roads so these seventeen year olds could race their Maseratis, and so forth. (It was nice for the counselors--I remember how most of the stuff got left behind because they couldn't take it on the plane. I still have a couple of their prayer rugs and a dishdasha.) Their fathers were unlettered tribesmen who suddenly found themselves swimming in wealth without having any clue about how to put it to good use; much of the real estate boom in Dubai was a channel for their income that would have some lasting benefits to the country rather than perpetuating the financial equivalent of pouring water out on sand (as was the custom ever since oil was discovered there in the early sixtes). Many predicted a nosedive after the oil ran out, but diversification in their economy promoted stability and made the UAE economy one of the fastest growing in the world.

But now, in Dubai, they sit around smoking and drinking coffee. The whole thing reminds me of some kind of Karamazovian self-destructive profligacy.

1 comment:

mags said...

Right on. I'm a coffee-not-booze tough times person myself.

Is that because they're Muslim? The whole alternative to alcohol coffee consumption?