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Urban Issues

The Manpower Behind the Monuments

Photo by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

Photo by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

It takes an army to build a monument, many of the worlds greatest were envisioned by kings and the fabulously rich, but the actual construction is often done by the poor, the disenfranchised, and in some cases ‘the owned,’ just ask the ancient Egyptians. Unions and fair pay tend to make glorious monuments overpriced.

One of the things that I have been in some way trying to do is avoid posting too much about Dubai. For the most part its a topic that I feel is blogged to death and at Urban Neighbourhood we are trying as best as we can in this electronic world of bits and bites to come up with at least semi original content. We have broken this avoidance in the past with mentions in the Heliotropic Houses article and the Lilypad Article.

Today we are going to break the ‘rule’ again, but not to fawn over yet another mega mall or the worlds next tallest building, today we bring you an article from The Guardian about the people who actually build all these monuments. The thousands of migrant labourers. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad brings us an article about his journey into Mousafah, a labour camp that these workers temporarily call home, they certainly will not be welcome to stay when they are done. To tell a story about what it is like to be the hands that build the towers and islands that are making Dubai so famous.

“Once they arrive in the United Arab Emirates, migrant workers are treated little better than cattle, with no access to health care and many other basic rights. The company that sponsors them holds on to their passports – and often a month or two of their wages to make sure that they keep working. And for this some will earn just 400 dirhams (£62) a month.

A group of construction engineers told me, with no apparent shame, that if a worker becomes too ill to work he will be sent home after a few days. “They are the cheapest commodity here. Steel, concrete, everything is up, but workers are the same.”

The article is worth the read it makes the amazing speed at which Dubai is being constructed a little more understandable and a little less fantastic.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad visits the impoverished camps for the men building the skyscrapers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi | World news | The Guardian

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