Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dubai vs. Toronto: Part 5 - Dubai or Toronto?

Part 1: The Myths of Dubai
Part 2: The Harsh Truth Facing Immigrants to Canada
Part 3: Living in Toronto
Part 4: The Islamic and Cultural Aspect
Part 5: Dubai or Toronto?

This has been a fun series. However, just a small housekeeping note: What I said throughout has been my experiences and from my perspective (er, it's my blog after all). I accept that other people can have equally valid but completely different perspectives.

In the Love Showdown series of Archie comics, Archie - when asked to choose between Betty and Veronica - ends up choosing Cheryl Blossom. In many ways, Toronto is Betty and Dubai is Veronica, and Archie - well he just got back from New York! :-D

One of the big pluses of Dubai is that crime is generally very low. We never kept our gold in safety deposit boxes in banks, nor did our houses have alarm security systems. Risks of home invasion or robberies were very minute. While the rich Arab students had access to drugs, your average brown student whose father would get upset if the kids got 98% in Maths was relatively secluded from the seedier side of high school teenage life.

Another fact that sounds paradoxical is that since you do not have a vote, since you don't have politics, some things actually run smoother! The government of Dubai did not debate in parliament and hold public meetings for years and wrangle amongst various government departments for funding for a subway system. They needed one, they went ahead and built one. Environmental concerns be damned. So what if Dubai is broke? Your taxes ain't going up. Similarly, their waterfront is a pleasure to visit (just ignore the coral reefs destroyed through all the dredging for the man made islands). Again, you don't have to worry too much about politics - people are mostly concerned about their own lives and the average Joe (or Ahmed) in Dubai leads a fairly comfortable life. I know it sounds a tad selfish but in Dubai, none of my taxes went to pay for people who were not bothered to seek work but were content to mooch off others.

So, why do many of us immigrants refuse to leave Toronto to return to Dubai? How in ten years have we managed to put down roots here that we could never have even after 20 or 40 years in Dubai?

The freedom of speech is, even if it is unapparent, a big factor. Human beings are designed to be free, by default. Even Allah says in the Quran that humans are given free will, something that differentiates us from the angels. Even if most people (like senior brown folk) are not concerned about Canadian politics or world events, it's something they unknowingly value.

Crime may be low in Dubai, but as I walk down the street a policeman (or worse, a local) may look at me the wrong way and I could get in trouble as an expat. The law is fluid there, depending on who is in trouble, and if I am in trouble, I am screwed. Here in Canada, in the general sense and all usual cases, unless I do something wrong, the law can't touch me. There's due process. I have gone to traffic court and testified against the Crown, and the policeman prosecuting me lost the case. I could never imagine this in Dubai. The government tells you to pay a fine, you just do it. And you hope never to get into trouble. Much less with a local.

Another big plus in my opinion is the blue passport. After three years in the country, Canada adopts you as one of her own. The whole citizenship ceremony, from starting with a form to taking the oath in court to obtaining the passport is deeply cherished amongst immigrants. The Canadian citizenship remains a highly valued one in the world and it's relatively easy to get. It's a tie that holds people here. They belong and are free to put down roots.

And put down roots they do. Houses are bought (no 99-year lease nonsense) and businesses are opened (no 51% local share crap) - this even without citizenship. And then, you pay taxes - and then worry about how those taxes get used - and now you are involved into thinking about how the country is run - your right as a citizen. You are now participating in the great Canadian experiment.

For me, personally, given all the plus and minuses, I choose to remain here for my own personal reasons.

For me, all my family and friends are here in Toronto. If I uproot myself to Dubai, it will be tough to go to a place, even if it's not completely foreign, and build a social network from scratch. Plus, I find that Bengalis living in Dubai have a very different mentality and way of thinking compared to Bengalis here.

Plus, there's really nothing to do in Dubai! I am not the type of guy to visit mall after mall - all malls look alike to me. In terms of recreation, I could probably do what I do here - bowling, cricket, ski (er not really in Dubai - sorry!). But sports and recreation facilities are top notch here - not to mention cycling tracks and Ontario probably the best outdoors for fishing, hiking etc.

Moreover, as someone who likes to travel, if I were in Dubai, I would have to fly out to somewhere - here I can go to lots of interesting places by road that are nearby. And every place here is different. You have the great and historical cities of the world - such as Montreal, New York, Washington, all some driving distance away.

Weather - half the year in Dubai it's really too hot to do anything. Here - summer is pleasant for lots of activities - and we have specific winter activities like skiing, curling and skating. I really enjoy the differences in seasons we get here. Now if only we could have the winter we had this year every year ...

In short, and to conclude ...

I really like Toronto. It may not be as glamorous as Manhattan or as fashionable as Paris or as in the news as Dubai - but it's home.


Muslim Girl said...

I really enjoyed this entire series, it was so interesting to read about! I'm going to have to disagree with you on one thing though... Canada gets way too hot for my taste in the summer too!! But maybe it's the smog :P

And you're right - this winter was amazing.

mezba said...

Muslim Girl, glad to know you enjoyed this series. Hopefully I haven't blown away the few friends from Dubai who used to read my blog with all the "friendly" potshots I took at their city - but I really like Dubai and do do wish they took proper care of the stuff like racism or labour abuse!

It's hot in summer in Canada, but I would take a 30 C over a 45-50 C any day! :-)

Musa said...

none of my taxes went to pay for people who were not bothered to seek work but were content to mooch off others.

Are you sure this doesnt apply in Dubai? Maybe not if you dont have a business, but if you do, then the 51% ownership rule is nothing but an indirect tax, in many cases you are paying a "partner" to do nothing more than signing papers.

Nadia said...

This was a great series, Mezba. You wrote very well, and I believe you because you're someone who has experienced living in both cities. Your take on Dubai is real and fair.

I will send you an email on why I'd been following this series very closely :)

Suroor said...

Really enjoyed the series. A BIG thank you!!

I'm so looking forward to Emirati comments on this :)

Yes, Dubai or anywhere else in the UAE can never be home.

Anonymous said...

Great Series! And yep, this winter was pretty mild :) For the travelling part, I guess there are a few places to drive to but after that....isn't it easier to fly to places from Dubai than from Toronto?

BTW, I have some customs stories to tell you now from my last trip. Seems as good as the CDN passport is it doesn't overcome my name.

mezba said...

Musa, yes - I agree that if you do business you have this person (or persons) mooching off your hard work (and money) without any contribution in return.

Nadia, just got, and replied to your email. :-)


Suroor, thanks.

I think "Loyal Arab" disappeared! I don't see him commenting anytime now.

Yes, Dubai or anywhere else in the UAE can never be home.

And I think that's their big mistake. Imagine if Dubai allowed immigration!


We should do a blog meet up soon, so we get to hear all your stories now!

As for flying from Dubai - depends on where you want to fly to.

Access to Asia is excellent from Dubai. Even though it's only 14 hours to China direct from Toronto, it's much easier and closer to fly to most places in Asia from Dubai. I flew to Malaysia - 6 hours. Singapore, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh - Dubai is the place.

And Emirates or Etihad is much, much better than Air Canada.

However, access to Europe is of similar distance (Toronto and Dubai) and of course London (which is a major hub) is closer to Toronto. And USA is just next door.

With travelling - I was talking of the road trips. As I said, if you have to travel from Dubai - you have to fly out. Road trips from Dubai are limited to nearby Emirates (and really, nothing much to see in UAE except Dubai, Abu Dhabi and parts of Fujairah, and Muscat (Oman) is another close destination - but nothing much - and the scenery is pretty much the same).

From Toronto, you not only have the great outdoors of Ontario (Tobermory, Muskoka) but also many great cities of the world are practically next door.

Aafke said...

I enjoyed the series very much, it was so interesting and funny too to see both places through your eyes!
And I now want to go to Canada!

mezba said...

Aafke, you are already in USA, do come over! :-)

Aafke said...

eh, no, alas, I'm back in Holland. And I am still awake now, deep at night, because I am suffering from jetlag.....

'liya said...

Loved this series!

And I totally love how you've used the famous Archie love triangle to explain the conclusion, it's perfect :D What a cool post!

You know it's so true about the mall thing .. we weren't there for many days but we felt like we were really just walking through many malls. For a woman, okay, fine, you only get tired of it after the 3rd mall but what's a man to do? Hehe. I'm going to post about the mall thing when I get to my Dubai post! I'll link back to your series :)

mezba said...

Aafke, aah jetlag. That must have been Geeki's problem too, since he commented at 4.59 am last night! :-)

I would love to visit Holland. I didn't do it last year when I visited Europe and I have been regretting it.

Liya, I am WAITING to read about your Dubai experiences and see the picture (on another note, I am also waiting for Geeki's Egypt posts).

In Dubai, eating out (mall food courts are always packed) and visiting each other is a big thing to do, in addition to malls and movies. However other than that, events are far and between. Sure, pubs and clubs organize events all the time (expensive and it's not exactly in a 'proper' setting) and Bollywood shows are also there but again it's expensive. For a simple night out there's not too much to do.

However, you can always go for a walk - parks aren't too bad and the Corniches are really something else (especially Abu Dhabi corniche).

Dave said...

Hey Mezba, yes another great blog and particularly accurate from a Dubai perspective but with one item that needs correction.

Whilst taxation is not in the form of income taxation, virtually everyday some Govt levied charge is currently going up here. For example:-

1. Parking fees doubled this month in most areas.
2. Customs now levy an additional 50 dhs on every non-document shipment into/out of a free zone. Bearing in mind there are tens of thousands each day.
3. Registration fees for cars have increased 220% in one year (although still cheap at 330 dhs).
4. Speed cameras have tripled in 2 years, and this is not a road safety initiative.
5. Fees were recently introduced on every cancelled residence visa (200 dhs).
6. All salaries for non free zone companies must now be submitted to the Central Bank (no other bank as previous) and are then released as they see fit & when they see fit.
7. Maintenance fees in blocks owned by quasi-Govt construction companies are up 33% in most instances.
8. Taxi fares to/from Sharjah to Dubai now incur an additional 20 dhs fee.
9. Dept of Economic Development has levied a new fee on all businesses renewing their yearly trade licence (in our case 700 dhs.... for what???)

Honestly I could go on and one but it would get repeatative. I would rather a transparent income tax system than the constant bombardment of new levy's, admin fees and associated crap costs that this place puts on business and its residents.

This place is broke and the subway metro system is unlikely to be completed until at least 2012 in its entirety. We now have people (including visitors) being jailed for kissing in public on the evidence of a two-year girl at 2:00in the morning.

Mezba, enjoy Toronto, as the funny side of Dubai is a bit too unfunny these days.

Loyal Arab said...

I expected this of you - using the same alleged theme of racism to say Dubai is bad despite it beating "your" country in all aspects!!!

A Muslim should not be bad mouthing a Muslim country but then what can we expect from those that live in the West!!!!

The fact is thousands of Indians come to Dubai every day because Dubai can give them what no other place gives them if it was this bad they wouldn't have comed!!!!

You say you can do the same things in Dubai like Toronto but still you say there is nothing to do in Dubai!!!!

You whole post does not make sense. Why would someone live as oppressed minority in land of the west when you can live tax free in a muslim state like Dubai where you can hear the adhan is nonsense.

mezba said...

Dave, wow! That's quite a comprehensive list!

Yes, I too am amazed when I go back and see the user fees deployed. And I guess those fees go up arbitrarily as and when decided by the Powers that be!

Dubai needs to rethink it's long term strategy. I too think taxes are necessary, but then people will want to have a say in the tax spending which could be leading to *gasp* democracy.

On the other hand the locals now have it pretty good - lord over the rest of the expats who toil - so why should anything change.

As for being jailed for kissing, it's just too stupid to even write about *shakes head*

Thanks for your comment.

Loyal Arab, all your arguments have been debunked over and over again. Refer to Musa and Dave's comment regarding your tax free status. Refer also to Part 1.

As for nothing to do, that too has been explained both in the post and in the comments (particularly the reply to Geeki and Liya).

"A Muslim should not be bad mouthing a Muslim country" but apparently a Muslim living in a Muslim country can bad mouth another Muslim on said Muslim's blog (are we making up our own "Islamic" rules now?).

"Alleged" racism - far from alleged. Read Liya's blog post which is just a first time impression!

It's real and it happens.

Also, I have said both the good and bad about both places (read Part 2?) and then made my own choice on my own preferences.

Organica said...

I just got caught up! Great job.

I understood this series from your perspective and appreciate the fact that when I do get to visit I perhaps will have a different view.

Musa said...

A Muslim should not be bad mouthing a Muslim country

Very interesting comment. It can be explained by the fact that "badmouthing" and "honest criticism" is seen as one and the same thing in parts of the Middle East and Asia.

A person in a position of power can abuse his power and anyone mentioning that will be told he is "badmouthing" said person.

Anonymous said...

Part 5 already?!:) It's like Gags for Laughs,'Mummy it's over'! :)

Reading about your living experiences in both countries has been fun and enlightening.And I agree with you about the freedom to participate in the public sphere.And why are brown fathers so hard on their children! 98%? Come on! If my son gets that I'll be in cloud nine! :)

Muslim Girl said...

A Muslim should not be bad mouthing a Muslim country

Wow, since when was UAE/Dubai considered a Muslim Country? "Muslims" openly drink alcohol in Dubai, go to clubs, and partake in other unIslamic activities.

Since when was that the life of a Muslim in a MUSLIM COUNTRY?

mezba said...

Organica, you must visit, and I look forward to reading about it when you do! We need a travel post from you yaani. :-D

Musa, you are right it is. Any criticism = insulting the family honour!

Lat, lol, it's a sign of being a desi parent!

Muslim Girl, even if it was, what a fantastic rule he made up!

Aafke said...

Mezba, my parents had the same tendency with schoolwork: anything below 100% was open for ''improvement''...

youngMuslimah said...

muslim girl : lol at your comment about muslims drinking alcohol openly in uae. cmon now, you havent been here yet and guess what you are wrong. muslims do NOT drink alcohol openly. dubai is rocking with fitnah these days, i agree, but it's still way behind compared to the west.

youngMuslimah said...

muslim girl : lol at your comment about muslims drinking alcohol openly in uae. cmon now, you havent been here yet and guess what you are wrong. muslims do NOT drink alcohol openly. dubai is rocking with fitnah these days, i agree, but it's still way behind compared to the west.

Cheryl said...

Although your series makes for an interesting read I feel you have been biased against Dubai (for whatever reason) - in particular you omit the clearly important part of raising children in an Islamic environment. Too many people are running after this world and do not remember the hereafter, where it is more important. How can children raised in the West be more God fearing than one raised in a proper Muslim country? Children are our future and they will continue our good acts after we are long gone.


mezba said...

Aafke, your parents could have been an honorary desi!

Young Muslimah, Muslims in UAE who do consume alcohol can do so openly in bars, restaurants and hotels. I myself have been to Novotel and seen drunkards spill out into the lobby, not to mention drinking at horse racing and English concerts. However, yes, there is no drunkards on the streets and no public drinking, and I am sure numberswise drinking is far less common in any Muslim country.

Having said that, public drinking is not allowed in Canada. You cannot walk down the street with an open can of an alcoholic beverage.

Cheryl, thanks for the comment and welcome to my blog. The simple reason I did not mention kids is because I don't have any yet. It is not part of any of my calculations at the moment.

However, having been brought up there, I don't think I would have too many issues with kids brought up in Canada, especially Toronto. Having seen an equal number of kids go astray from both UAE and Canada, I don't think there's any particular factor such as residency playing a part.

Aafke said...

Cheryl, Children who are brought up with a fair understanding and strong values by understanding parents will not be tempted by vice wherever they grow up.

As is proven by the majority of people who live in ''the west'' and who are decent, honest, friendly, open, giving, non-discriminating, honorable and generous.

While conversely, children who grow up in a ''muslim'' country, can still get up to any kind of vice they like, as I have been told by friends who grew up in muslim countries.

So it really depends on the parents, and the children themselves.

youngMuslimah said...

well, uae has a no-alcohol rule for muslims. but i guess it's just written in books.. i know ppl drink in clubs and bars. muslim girl was making it sound like everyone on the streets here is drunk lol.

@cheryl: im mot married or dont have kids yet but i understand where you're coming from. there's fitnah everywhere these just gotta decide what's best for you and your family. i personally would feel comfortable raising my kids in a muslim country. i dont care about blatant racism that's so prevalent here. nobody can make you feel inferior w/o your consent.

mezba, i too feel you have been unfair in your posts. your series mostly revolve around busting the 'good' myths of uae. anyway i respect your opinion.

mezba said...

Aafke, well said.

I was brought up there and I saw both types (properly brought up and gone astray), and same here - so I too think it's the parents, their values and teachings and discipline at home that sets up the kids.

I think people get a huge stereotype idea of what a high school in the West is based on the Hollywood movies and tv serials.

Young Muslimah, thanks for respecting my opinion. If you think I have been unfair please point it out where. I have tried to be objective within my perspectives. As I said, other people may have different opinions and I can respect that.

Haroon said...

Thank you so much for the series Mezba. I really enjoyed them.

I was born and brought up in UAE. I lived in Australia for a couple of years and decided to come back to UAE as I was not sure if it was really permitted to take up citizenship in a non-muslim majority society. Also, taking up Australian Citizenship requires for one to take a Pledge which says (part): "I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share".
I checked up the same with regard to Canadian citizenship and it reads out something similar. Allahua'lam, but I heard that it may constitute shirk.
Taking up Australian Citizenship also confirms that the civilians fight for the country at times of need. Question arises with regard to fighting against a Muslim country.

Could you (or someone else) shed some light on this, or even some words of our scholars.

JazaakAllah Khair brother....

mezba said...

Haroon, Salaam and welcome to my blog.

I personally do not worry about such matters nor do I see it as shirk as no one is worshipping the country. You are better off asking some knowledgeable aalim or scholar about this.

The Canadian oath of allegiance is.

From this day forward, I pledge my loyalty and allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada. I promise to respect our country's rights and freedoms, to defend our democratic values, to faithfully observe our laws and fulfill my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading your post. It allows me to understand more about Canada Toronto.

It does make me wonder what life will be like to migrate there.

mezba said...

@Unknown, you should realize this article has been written some time ago. A lot may have changed since then.