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I assumed if all these big companies come here, it must be pretty like Canada's or any other liberal democracy's," she says. If you get into debt and you can't pay, you go to prison."When we realised that, I sat Daniel down and told him: listen, we need to get out of here.He knew he was guaranteed a pay-off when he resigned, so we said – right, let's take the pay-off, clear the debt, and go." So Daniel resigned – but he was given a lower pay-off than his contract suggested. As soon as you quit your job in Dubai, your employer has to inform your bank.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.Johann Hari reports The wide, smiling face of Sheikh Mohammed – the absolute ruler of Dubai – beams down on his creation.His image is displayed on every other building, sandwiched between the more familiar corporate rictuses of Ronald Mc Donald and Colonel Sanders.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.
She has been sleeping here for months, thanks to the kindness of the Bangladeshi car park attendants who don't have the heart to move her on.
"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.
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.