09 April, 2007

Just another day

...for you and me in paradise.

That Phil Collins song comes to mind when I view the photo essay for the article Sonapur: Welcome to the Dark Side, at the new Gulf News XPress tabloid. I was critical of the tabloid in an earlier post, but I find this kind of article of more value to the community.

The song speaks of homelessness and other matters of destitution in society. The article speaks of the harsh conditions in this country's largest labor camp. How many of you have ever seen it first hand? It is worth a visit to keep in perspective the range of experiences that charactise life in the UAE.

This article surmises,
With more residential buildings coming up for workers in Sonapur, its population is expected to rise. With its ongoing construction, Sonapur is probably set to become the largest camp of workers in the world.
I don't think we're likely to hear this new wonder fact about Dubai alongside the likes of:
Jumeirah Beach Residents--the largest single-phase property development in the world.
The population of Sonapur is already many times greater than JBR's will ever be, and by extension is more typical of life in Dubai.


Taunted said...

Can anyone tell me where Sonapur is?

I'd like to take a look for myself.


samuraisam said...

taunted: http://wikimapia.org/#y=25264050&x=55414656&z=18&l=0&m=a&v=2

B.D. said...

It isn't identified as Sonapur on the highway signage, but Muhaishina 2 (I think). If you head out on Airport road beyond Rashidiya you'll find an exit--also accessible from Emirates Road. Alternatively, from 6 to 8 pm just follow the long line of busses you'll encounter near the exits of that area.

Sim Whatley said...

Dubizzle is dubai's community website offering local classifieds and forums for jobs, housing, real estate, cars, for sale items, services, local community and event calendars. Expats moving or new to Dubai now have everything they need in one place.

Anonymous said...

And sim, what did your obvious attempt at self-promotion fit in with this story?

nativeinformant said...

thanks for posting this b.d.

It seems that workers' camps are not the informational black hole they were just a few months ago. I remember hearing of people getting threats if they tried to take pictures or interview laborers, although I am sure this still happens. Any idea how this reporter got so much access and permission to take photos?

It is ironic that Dubai is also known as the "city of gold"...

B.D. said...

The writer did say something like when the guys saw a media person, they liked to swarm around. So, I guess many of the workers themselves welcome the attention. On the other hand I'm sure most of the camp bosses don't. I think it is easy to get photos in the rooms and to steal a few in some of the passage ways.

It is surprising to me that the writer speaks of this camp getting so much larger, when I thought the gov. in Dubai was supporting the construction of new accommodations in other areas--like Al Quoz and Jebel Ali, which are also nearer most of the construction projects.

kochumanavalan said...

"Sonapur" roughly translates 'City of Gold' (Hindi/Urdu).

Funny that some only now realise the labour camps, given their population, are more representative of life in Dubai than'JBR'. Managers, General Managers and Managing Directors are at the top of the pile anywhere in the world and their lifestyles do not represent that of the general population. Fact.

Sonapur is not (strictly speaking) a labour camp. It is an area in Dubai where many companies have established their labour camps. This is because it is one of the areas earmarked for this purpose by the government/Municipality. As such, it may never become the world's largest labour camp, but it could become one of the largest sites in the world exclusively occupied by labour camps.

rosh said...

"Sonapur" roughly translates 'City of Gold' (Hindi/Urdu)."

Given the instance, do I sense an Oxymoron? : )

B.D. said...

Kochumanavalan, I concur with the view that in fact in any place there are different lifestyles, so it is in a sense impossible to talk about any one as being overall representative.

But when a city develops, there are elements like the infrastructure, parks and other things that everyone can benefit from. To pay 5 dhs to visit a nice city park once in a while is affordable even to a laborer. What I find among many laborers, however, is that they will travel say from Abu Dhabi to Dubai and not take in anything at all in the city. They will skip it altogether to hang out with friends or relatives at one squalid camp or another.

I don't want to be critical of this because I understand the value of relationships which is part of the reason this happens. But I feel that many laborers who come out of villages never escape the village mentality. So even when they have traveled to a very different and faraway place, they will still only associate with the things and people of the villages they left behind and fail to discover anything new.

kochumanavalan said...

I think you've got a point there, B.D., and from your postings in the past I've noticed you're a keen social observer. Disparities exist in all societies (as I noted); more so in some than in others, but there's little anyone can do about that. Education, empowerment and a little more to feel good about themselves may encourage people to venture beyond those very restricted circles within which they move.

Anything highlighting the lives of labourers in this country is welcome, whether a photo-essay or anything else, simply because they have (until very recently) been a vast underclass whose existence was virtually ignored, except by those who make an income out of their toil. The fact is, the "Dubai lifestyle", whenever it was referred to, seemed to concentrate on the sort of things the upper classes enjoy (not to say there's anything wrong to highlight the beautiful or prestigious things about the city...any city is known by its landmarks and facilities).

It's just that, because the labourers live in such poor conditions and without their families, they've come to be regarded as a menial underclass that doesn't deserve any recognition at all...that's what needs to change, and the positive thing I've noticed is that as Dubai continues to get more cosmopolitan, the change in attitude is taking place and people are actually starting to see them as human beings. Folks need to start accepting them as an integral part of the social fabric to which we all belong.

Public parks (I noticed) have never discriminated against them (on days when the general public is admitted), but we sometimes hear of shopping malls doing it. Let's hope things keep getting better.

GDB said...

Here are also some nice Photos:


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