Are you male or female? What were the differences in treatment between sexes in this party lifestyle?
Edit: Also what was your favourite memory!
I am male. In the party lifestyle... things were normal I guess lol I dont really know how to answer it. There are basically 3 different cultures in the UAE (or primary cultures): Western, Emirati, other Arabs. Most of my friends were other westerners. Lots of British, South African, some Americans, lots of French/Belgian, and lots of Lebanese. The lebanese particapte both in the western culture and other Arab culture. So in our party scene, it felt very western and both sexes seemed pretty similar. During this period, times were good, money was good, there were few rules. We were all sluts and just slept with everyone, drank till we puked, and continued the orgy. Pretty much both days of the weekend, every weekend.
Favorite memory is totally impossible to decide, but probably just in general playing Warcraft 3 with my friends while we were still in our school uniforms, while people started to show up for the party we hadn't even started to prep for. Everyone just hung around and talked shit, smoked shisha and dokha, listened to rap or electronic music, and waited for me and my friends to be ready to party. Me and my 2-3 best friends were definitely "known" to always throw parties and have really really fun ones.
What is the strangest/funniest example of corruption/bribery that you witnessed?
The aviation industry is very important to the UAE and Dubai in particular. Dubai's airline Emirates is one of the biggest airlines in the world and they buy a lot of planes.
The 2 biggest plane manufacturers are Airbus (EU) and Boeing (USA). Emirates has 2 fleets, one from each company (a pilot who flies a boeing can't flying an airbus and vice versa). A few years ago when Emirates was looking to buy new planes, they were going to buy a bunch of Airbus, as they had out a really good new product, and Boeing pulled some shady deal with Emirates and Emirates cancelled or pulled out of a tentative order worth well over a billion dollars to instead suddenly buy from Boeing. There was definitely some bribery going on here, but in the opposite direction.
Just to add, Emirates is a sort of state-owned enterprise. They are also one of the biggest companies in the UAE and Dubai relies quite heavily on the airline to bring in revenue for the city. That airline is essential to the city and it's very very important.
Other than that and some stuff I mentioned in another reply (someone who talked about donald duck comics), I can't think of any super obvious bribes I've seen. I mean, you hear about the members of the royal family doing stupid shit and getting away with it. But they also take more precautions now to punish emiratis who commit crimes than they used to.
Do you still live in Dubai? If not, do you feel like going back? Doesn't it suck that you're not in contact with any of the people that were your friends? I guess this is the saddest part of Dubai. You can never really call it home.
You really said it perfectly. That is a big thing about being raised in Dubai (or any other country I suppose) is that it's really the only home that we've known but its not our country, so we can't stay there indefinitely. I definitely do want to go back. I consider the UAE to be my home. It's really the place I love and I really do want to go back. I still still visit often, usually around 3-4 months per year. But I will probably end up getting a job in my home country and its very unlikely that I'll end up living and working there.
But if I could, I would try to get the Emirati citizenship and live there for the rest of my life.
It does suck not really being in contact with many of my friends. It actually leads to a pretty lonely life in the years afterwards and its even further hard to connect and really feel like I am "one of them" in my own country.
Do you still see your friends from that time? How are they doing?
I don't really see any of my friends from that time. For the most part, after graduating high school we all ended up going in different directions. I still talk with my best friends from back then every now and then over skype but that's pretty much it. Pretty sad honestly.
Where is the strangest place you see money from Dubai being diverted to (e.g. buying up all collectible Donald Duck comics)?
A lot jewelry in general. So, there is no income tax in Dubai, and there used to be no taxes at all before a few years ago when they implemented VAT. But this is a major draw for westerners to work there - no income tax that is. But for many europeans, when they eventually want to go back to their country, any money they want to come back with will be taxed, so you see some of them try to buy jewelry and re-sell it once in Europe as a way to try and sort of smuggle the money in without being taxed.
Lots of enormous apartment buildings in the JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) and Marina area were like 80% empty apartments but were being rented by russians as a way to launder money. Lots of money laundering used to go through dubai in the 2000s... and there were lots of Russians there too. Not so much anymore.
To be honest I can't think of any good examples right now of Dubai money being used elsewhere in the world. I'm sure if I think long enough I can think of a few examples. But for the most part, anyone with that significant amount of money would be from the royal families. They do buy up a lot of stuff all around the world. I suppose you could count Iraq and Syria as being places where some money ends up. The Gulf states generally financially support different factions in the proxy wars Syria (not unlike many other countries like US, Russia, etc.).
They also like to use their money to bring famous brands to the UAE. Arabs in general are very materialistic in terms of "brand" name stuff. They like Gucci and Porsche and Rolex, etc. and this mentality of being rich usually translates into representing brand names. Some examples ... there is now a Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, the clocks in Dubai International Airport are all Rolex sponsored, stuff like that.
You also see the royal family buying things from other individuals or countries as a way of lobbying. This is pretty much a widespread practice of all countries so its not just them, but theirs is usually really obvious. Buying Donald Trump's apartments for 300% their value or buying his boat for twice its value or you know, obvious corruption that is literally one step below capturing on cctv the Sheikh handing Trump a giant monopoly bag with money signs printed on it.
So money gets used like this a lot. Pretty much any country the UAE wants to get in good with, they just start buying stuff. But that practice is more calculated and less rampant now. Oil prices are volatile, the country is pretty low on oil reserves, they have been trying to transition to a normal sustainable economy. One thing to note is that the UAE is made up of 7 Emirates (sort of like states or provinces). Abu Dhabi is the capital and largest by land mass, Dubai is the largest by population and is much better known. Dubai doesn't have oil reserves anymore and its economy is run mostly on tourism and financial services while Abu Dhabi still has oil reserves.
Not that I know of. But we did plenty of other stuff.
Does your family have money saved from your time there? How are they doing now?
Yes they have saved money and have a good retirement fund. The recession hit them kinda hard though.
What was the worst trouble you got into with local norms?
Did your local classmates participate in the debauchery?
I wanted to add some stuff. I was with a friend of mine, we were at my place drinking wine. This was maybe 2012... She wanted to go visit her friends at the beach at like 3am. We got in her car, she drove, and we got in a wreck on the way. She ran a red light, the car nearly rolled. She was in jail for a month, I wasn't punished for drinking or anything. She was South African.
If any more memories come forward I'll reply again!
How did your family end up in Dubai? And what laws/rules are enforced today that weren't enforced as much back then?
I'm really interested in your story because I was born in UAE but my family moved back to Pakistan when I was 13 years old. Although I suspect my experience was different than yours since we were very middle class. For me it was all about Nissan sunny and Camry and not Porsche lol
My family moved there because my father got a job there in the mid 2000s. We moved and didn't really know what to expect. It turned out to be the best and most amazing thing that ever happened in my life.
The rules that are enforced today that werent back then are mostly about being strict with breaking simple rules. Being drunk in public, parking in totally illegal places, public displays of affection aren't really allowed, in general drinking and partying is much more strict. Smoking underage is more strictly controlled (alot of people smoked shisha and dokha). Basically since the economy went bad, the police became more incentivized to issue tickets and crack down on things that might make the country be portrayed in bad light - they want to attract tourists.
what is your favorite breakfast dish?
Well I was close with a danish/norwegian family and they always had pork liver, cheese, and different kinds of deli meats that you would just eat on bread. It was delicious. Favorite arabic breakfast is manakish.
Who are the marginalized people in Dubai and what kind of interaction did you have with them? What did you know about them?
Mostly indian/pakistani/nepali construction workers. Construction work is done by the central/east asian people for the most part. During the 2000s their living conditions and treatment was reeeeeallly bad but its gotten better over time. They used to have no protections at all, but its kind of like modern slavery. In general we don't have too much interaction with them. Its difficult because we don't speak their language and they are mostly confined to construction sites. Many of them live in the desert in camps and are just bused into the city. It's pretty sad but its also very well hidden.
How are you doing in your career now? How did this experience affect your career?
I didn't know what I wanted to do for several years after graduating high school. I traveled and partied for several years, worked a few jobs in the UAE, but now I'm graduating from my bachelor's degree and planning on attending law school afterwards. I'm older than my classmates but I feel very fortunate for my experiences and wouldn't change what happened.
So what ultimately led to the economic collapse?
The economy tanked in 2009 from the global financial crisis, but it was still okay for many years - until about 2012. The UAE dirham is linked to the US dollar. As the US dollars in circulation increased from 2008 onward, that means the dirham also became inflated. But its a much smaller economy. Also, the cost of living started to rise and many people left, causing its own recession.
What was the worst trouble you got into with local norms?
Did your local classmates participate in the debauchery?
Yes some of my classmates participated, 90% of the schools there are private schools (foreigners can't attend the local schools). Because of this, it was like having a bunch of small universities in the city (seriously there are maybe like 50+ main schools), so many of our friends were from different schools and we sort of had friend groups from different schools and would hang out with them as groups. Because of this, we (me and my best friends) were well connected to all of the parties/events going on at most of the schools.
The biggest trouble we got into... we were VERY close so many times, but a few would be: 1) neighbor called the police on us at my friends villa at like 4am. We were having a party, lots of naked 17-18 year olds drunk, swimming, blasting lil wayne. They showed up and told us to stop and that was it. 2) we got caught in a neighborhood (all neighborhoods are gated and have security) and we were messing around in an empty villa. Police got called, they called a taxi for us and the taxi already knew the address of my friend (we spent most of our time at his mansion), so we thought police might follow us/knew where we were. 3) I was taking a taxi to my girl friend's house after school with her one day, we were in the backseat making out/getting frisky. An emirati man recorded us on his phone, made the taxi pull over, called the police on us. I managed to get out of it with a some calls. In arabic, a word called "wasta" basically means nepotism or sort of "you have power from the people you know". I had some wasta.
What kind of crazy displays of money did you see?
Well the crown prince of Dubai had some islands made off the coast that spells his name. You regularly see the most expensive cars in the world, and many times they have crazy modifications. Some of them look stupid lol, but many emiratis like to have some weird things done to their cars. You see people go to the club or bar and drop a few thousand per night, that is pretty normal. A guy I knew from a friend let us throw a party on a yacht that he "yacht sat". His job was basically to move yachts between Abu Dhabi and Dubai and back and just take care of yachts while people were away. Some of the yachts we were were on were increeeeeeeedibly expensive. Every now and then you see someone do something embarrassing and you just see them blow a ton of money or buy something really expensive to try and make up for it. For example if someone did something dumb and was feeling embarrassed, he might buy a car or offer to buy the restaurant or something. Definitely doesn't happen anymore, but it did in the 2000s lol.
A lot of things cost a lot of money so its hard to specify what was a huge display. People up up to 150-200k USD per year in rent for really nice houses, have multiple range rovers, porsches, etc. Just doing lots of stuff like this.