At the moment I'm not living in Dubai and I'm not sure exactly what I'll be doing in the near future; unfortunately after living there for the past 20 years there are some things that leave a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth.
My journey in Dubai started with the gulf war when my family was forced to Dubai; after a huge amount of issues my parents were about to leave the country when one morning my mother suggested my father apply for a job advertised in the newspaper and remarked "you never know it could be for the ruler of Dubai!", and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why that remark was so memorable.
Unfortunately due to the presence of men of the right hand variety who can only be described as corrupt some things aren't really as shiny as they sound and it took a great deal of time until my parents could even break even... and even though we would all like to believe that loyalty is a good quality it doesn't always go rewarded in life and some things end because more and more corrupt right hand men show up.
It's taken a bit of a forced movement to get me out of Dubai and I have been a bit slow in admitting that sleeping at my friend's house on the couch and smoking shisha 7 days a week all day long aren't the makings of a healthy person.
Among the other things I have left behind are my monthly trips to Oman. That's right, driving across the entire country to enter the Omani border and then summarily do a u-turn and head back home like I'm a tourist.
My tattered and completely filled 30-odd page passport is a show of what can be the true cost of living in Dubai. After doing the visa shuffle for most of the past 2 years I have to say it really isn't a pleasant thing to know that at any time you could be barred entry from the place you 'live'.
Besides the stamps the huge economic footprint required to live and work legally in the UAE is really unwarranted. I don't understand why I should fork down something like 10-40k per year for a visa to work freelance. There simply isn't enough work in the first place (especially during a recession) and if I sound pretentious saying that such a fee is unwarranted I should mention the contracts I have signed on pieces of paper that have a clear government letterhead that clear them of any responsibility in hiring me because the visa should be [i]my[/i] responsibility?
If they actually had to hire legal freelance workers then nothing would ever happen in Dubai; yes, if the list of 36 countries that receive visas on arrival was cleared any time soon Dubai and the whole of the UAE would slow down to a crawl.
If people are going to sit there and tell me that every single person that works or is involved in all of the exhibitions and huge events that Dubai hosts every day has full residence visas I would call them ignorant--unfortunately the government hasn't caught up on this fact and it still requires a huge investment to work legally (to which you are afforded no benefits whatsoever).
To make matters worse there are a number of things that make it hard--you cannot share a house with any non relative legally which puts the cost of living in Dubai even higher and higher. You can't car pool and for most decent job titles you need personal transportation. The cost of living has been increasing and even though it is cheaper than a lot of big cities it is still getting more and more expensive.
Most of the benefits of legal freelance work involve getting a visa if you come from a country which isn't afforded a visit visa on arrival. Even legal freelance workers still get screwed around by every company running waiting for their pay because "the cheque signer is on holidays". As I write this I'm still waiting for a paycheque going on 2-3 months, the person who will give me this paycheque has also been put into financial problems because the person that was meant to give him a paycheque took time because the person who was meant to give him a paycheque took time (and the person at the end of that rather long chain is of course a government company from another Emirate).
In fact the cheque in question came from the project that broke the camel's back and pretty much made me give up. I worked extreme hours for 6 weeks straight (it was supposed to be 2 but due to the weather it became a complete disaster and due to the nature of the project the payment was not expanded in spite of the time it took).
After spending literally hours and hours on said project and bearing the elements I came to the only point in my working career where I was fully prepared to quit on the spot (even though I didn't in the end). All said and done I earned the worst salary I have ever had in my working life. I actually managed to see a discounted salary turn into the pitiful amount of less than 100 AED steadily turn into a negative number quickly after spending money on those necessities that some employers don't like to pay for (like food to fill your stomach while you're working on their job)
There are people who would be happy with such an amount, but in Australia at minimum salary (i.e. cleaning toilets) I can make multiple times more than that amount and I can also enjoy the right to take anyone to court who doesn't pay me promptly. I can also work as a freelancer completely legally by taking a piece of paper and typing my name at the top.
(Yes it goes without saying it was a stupid project to work on and that is what happens sometimes and I'm sure there are people in every work on life who have endured crap even though they didn't want to)
Among the very real issues that Dubai faces at the moment is that no one will spend any money on anything, which goes for the government, private companies and individuals. Most people that live in the UAE will send a good portion of their pay cheque home and even though the head count might fool some people the UAE really is not a country filled with people who spend their money. Dubai is in the middle of a very real economic slowdown and no one can deny that fact in certain industries; maybe in 2 or 3 years things will pick up again but for now I can't see any sense of it.
This is why in the job market I'm competing against people that will offer to do the same job as I do for a quarter of the amount while I'm already doing it for less to try and get a constant stream of work in the first place to make ends meet and actually become independent. It just doesn't make sense working ridiculous hours and breaking my back so I can get my salary late when I actually find work because someone is doing the same work for much less.
There are of course benefits to working freelance in Dubai such as being able to get jobs on huge projects that would be extremely difficult in other places and I have definitely benefited from working in Dubai.
That is how I ended up working freelance in the film and media industry and as I am sure most people can imagine there aren't many movies filmed here. After working in that industry for a bit I think I am ready to move onto something else in life--I've had enough unbelievable opportunities that I don't feel the need to pad my CV in any capacity.
There is still a big part of me that misses Dubai and the UAE and I don't think that part of me will ever leave. I have friends who will live in Dubai forever. I'm grateful for the friends I've met and the experiences that I have had in Dubai. Especially having written this blog, the experiences from that alone have been great.
At the moment I am thinking of returning to university and entering another walk of life altogether that has more work that pays better and that actually pays on time. At the very least I'm taking a sabbatical from Dubai.
I will update this blog if/when I ever come back to Dubai.