The economy: What a difference 10 months makes
When I arrived in the UAE on April 2, it really was the land of opportunity. Immediately I felt the difference: first off, I was to work for a brand-new, fully resourced newspaper, something that and unheard of in the West, even before the latest journalism bloodbath.
Property prices were rising steadily - in the early days I was seized with a desire to buy a flat that would quadruple in price and perhaps enable me to retire early. Very early. There were the tax-free salaries, the bar-hopping, the taller-than-tall buildings that seemed to be announced in Dubai every other day, not to mention a skyline full of construction cranes.
The cranes are still there, and in many cases, in Abu Dhabi at least, they have been replaced with buildings that are almost finished. But the signs of the credit crunch/global economic downturn/plunging economy/credit crisis are popping up everywhere. People are abandoning cars at the airport as they leave the country. Classified websites like Dubizzle.com are reporting huge spikes in business, as people who have been laid off dump the entire contents of their apartments online at cut rate prices. Today The National reported that parents who can't afford the hefty fees are pulling their kids out of private schools. BBC.com recently reported that there are workers in Dubai who aren't working, or being paid, but they can't leave and go back home because their employers still have their passports.
The banks were throwing credit at us when we arrived; they began scaling it back for some people, without so much as a phone call of notification. And due to the country's visa laws, if you are laid off there is no sticking around - you have got to go because the visa goes with the job.
Many times I've wondered why I've not bought so much as a kettle here and other people have laid down heavy investments in belongings for a comfortable life. Mostly it's because I didn't come here to have a life like I do back home; I'll have a car again, and a great place to live, and my full wardrobe and extensive collection of shoes and boots not to mention wireless internet, premium cable and a cell phone that takes messages. Also because as great an experience it has been, and continues to be, I am just not sure I am cut out to be an expat for the duration.
Whatever the reason, I am glad I haven't invested a ton. Because you just never know.