Monday, December 31, 2012

Thoughts for the New Year

Window Washers at the Burj Khalifa
For the last few months we are now to the good part.  It’s that time of year where the weather is so nice - Mild, sunny days.  Yes, Dubai is extremely hot for 3 or 4 months of the year, but it is a small price to pay for beautiful weather the rest of the time.

The city and everyone living here takes advantage of the amazing weather.  There are countless events outside, and it is always a great day to head to the beach.  It only rained one day about a week ago, and that will likely be it for the next 12 months or more.

In addition to the weather, we enjoy the area where we live.  When we first moved to Dubai, housing was hard to come by.  If you saw an apartment you liked, you had to sign on the spot because it would be gone within an hour later.  No joke.

I came here and had a look for one week, and during that time I found a complex that was under construction.  The model looked nice, and the size seemed reasonable, but more importantly I had the most unexplainable feeling that we needed to live there.  I felt very strongly that we should not live anywhere else.  It was not until a few years later that I learned we would be across the street from the world’s tallest building and what is referred to as “Downtown Dubai”. 

I remember looking out the window asking my husband where it would be.  “There,” he told me.  But there was nothing there.  It was all desert.  We were pretty much living at the end of Dubai for a few short years.

I watched Burj Khalifa emerge from the sand out my window, and I somehow still could not believe it.  Now it is great to wake up every morning and see it.  We also enjoy a walk or run around the Dubai Fountains and spend a lot of time playing football (soccer) or lately, freeze tag on the lawn at the base of the building on the weekends.  

Two weeks ago I went out earlier than usual to shoot some architecture photography.  I was amazed at how many people were out cleaning the area.  I know they do it, but to see so many was both impressive and humbling.  Many places here are always immaculately clean.  Even if it looks clean already, someone is cleaning.  They wash the sidewalks, maintain the fountains and clean the windows of all these buildings among other things.

Since last weekend, they have been preparing for the New Year.  We will watch from our much less crowded balcony again, but to see all this come together and all the work that goes into it, has been amazing.  I am so appreciative of the workers, and all the others who work to keep the area and Dubai clean. 

The big thing in the news here last week was about a gas station attendant that was strip searched over a small tip.  Needless to say it created a lot of outrage.  Blue-collar workers here are paid a low wage, and like many migrant workers throughout the world, they send their money back home to their families and children so they can hopefully have a better life.

The story did not go unnoticed.  Many people are protesting the gas station.  But more importantly, on the seventh anniversary of his accession, Sheikh Mohammed, Ruler of Dubai, used this as an opportunity to honor and create awareness about the blue-collar workers here. 

He is quoted as tweeting, “This year, we focus on a new group: general labor employees such as gardeners, janitors, construction workers, domestic workers among others.

“These groups play an active role in society. Some have spent many years doing a great job and they deserve a big ‘thank you’ from all of us.”  Sheikh Mohammed said these “unknown soldiers” were the reason streets, buildings and other facilities were ready, clean, and decorated every day.  “We want to let them know that their services are valued and appreciated as they make our lives easier and better.”  (

This is such a big step for workers rights here, and hopefully those who have been mistreated, or not appreciated will see improved conditions and pay in the future.

So while we are watching the fireworks at Burj Khalifa, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, let's not litter, pick up our trash, maybe buy the workers a sandwich or a bottle of water.  Let's do something in 2013 to let them know how much they are appreciated.  As Sheikh Mohammed said, they make our lives easier, so let’s do something in return.

Washing the sidewalks at the Burj Khalifa

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