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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.5 words men might want to consider putting in their online dating profile: 1. Physically fit ( 96% more interaction than daters who did not use this word) 2. If you have any outstanding debts that aren't covered by your savings, then all your accounts are frozen, and you are forbidden to leave the country."Suddenly our cards stopped working. We were thrown out of our apartment." Karen can't speak about what happened next for a long time; she is shaking. Daniel was sentenced to six months' imprisonment at a trial he couldn't understand. "Now I'm here illegally, too," Karen says I've got no money, nothing. They lure you in telling you it's one thing – a modern kind of place – but beneath the surface it's a medieval dictatorship."II.Daniel was arrested and taken away on the day of their eviction. "He told me he was put in a cell with another debtor, a Sri Lankan guy who was only 27, who said he couldn't face the shame to his family. I have to last nine months until he's out, somehow." Looking away, almost paralysed with embarrassment, she asks if I could buy her a meal. All over the city, there are maxed-out expats sleeping secretly in the sand-dunes or the airport or in their cars."The thing you have to understand about Dubai is – nothing is what it seems," Karen says at last. Tumbleweed Thirty years ago, almost all of contemporary Dubai was desert, inhabited only by cactuses and tumbleweed and scorpions.
That’s according to a survey of 2,800 singles released this week by dating site Plenty of Fish, which concluded that “ladies may want to consider putting the words ‘pumpkin spice’ in their online dating profile.” (The same did not hold true for men.)No doubt, this is good news to whoever is paying for the date, as a pumpkin spice latte costs around .50, compared to or more for a glass of wine.
Suddenly it looks less like Manhattan in the sun than Iceland in the desert.
Once the manic burst of building has stopped and the whirlwind has slowed, the secrets of Dubai are slowly seeping out.
"When he said Dubai, I said – if you want me to wear black and quit booze, baby, you've got the wrong girl. And I loved him."All her worries melted when she touched down in Dubai in 2005.
"It was an adult Disneyland, where Sheikh Mohammed is the mouse," she says. You had these amazing big apartments, you had a whole army of your own staff, you pay no taxes at all. We were partying the whole time."Her husband, Daniel, bought two properties. But for the first time in his life, he was beginning to mismanage their finances.