Dubai is the modern epitome of cosmopolitanism. Its 21st century panoply of economic opportunities reinforces the inviting veneer of its cosmopolitanism, which, at least, appears on the surface to be as enlightened as one would expect in a community that thrives on a monumental scale of innovation and enterprise. Dubai’s promise of lifelong prosperity and economic justice has attracted many citizens from all over the world – especially from underdeveloped countries such as Uganda. Success comes easily for some but also frustratingly slow for others. Sadly, many also must give up their dreams, as they realize that even in a desert oasis of so much economic promise the quest for tolerance, affirmation, and respect is, indeed, a universally challenging task.
The book represents a long journey and, to be honest, the book changed and morphed as the story developed and time continued to march on during the writing process. Initially, I planned to write the book focusing heavily on the deep presence of racism and discrimination that confounds and complicates the struggles of immigrants who come to Dubai looking for economic security and freedom. However, as the book took shape, I also learned more about myself, recalling my roots in my home country of Uganda and their still evolving impact upon my life as an immigrant who came to Dubai and eventually established an active career as a journalist. Thus, even as I am still a relatively young man, I realized that the whole spectrum of my formative life experiences endowed a unique, genuine sense of cosmopolitanism that prepared me for the successes as well as the disappointments in the process of creating a productive, happy, and healthy life in Dubai. Furthermore, my experiences abroad have reinforced and strengthened the most essential aspects of my identity – family, the Muslim religion, and Ugandan roots, which are extensively chronicled in the book.
The book comprises many stories – all true, all real and all authentic – taken from a span of more than thirty years, covering my earliest memories and including most recent events, such as the death of my mother and the birth of my latest child in 2012. The only changes were in names of some professional colleagues, friends, and social acquaintances – out of respect for privacy and discretion.
The book also includes many anecdotes about my work as a journalist in Dubai. Many readers might be unfamiliar with how the media operate in one of the world’s most progressive and economically developed nations. There are many similarities to mainstream media in other parts of the world but there also are some unique elements which emphasize just how precarious, fragile, and delicate the media’s professional commitments and ethics are amid the omnipresent shadows of press censorship and the opaque nature of official spokespersons who aggressively protect Dubai’s intricately constructed status quo. These tensions are most frequently observed in the day-to-day coverage of crime, business, public meetings and other routine events that constitute the bread-and-butter of local media throughout the world. Some of the most illuminating insights come from stories about immigrants, signaling themes that easily could apply to similar stories in virtually any other part of the world. In summary, the book explores many topics – how the coverage of crime and police matters, public health concerns (e.g., HIV and AIDS), racism and racial profiling, governmental accountability, corporate responsibility in accidents, and other reporting beats proceeds against a backdrop of tensions that pit an enlightened cosmopolitanism against the strict cultural, social, and religious mores closely associated with the region.