and his merry band of builders.
They are all from Pakistan with 13 children between them – none of them here. Neither are their wives.
We’ve lived in the same villa for all the time we’ve been in Dubai and have enjoyed the view from our top storey rooms looking out and across the rough desert with a backdrop of drought-hardened trees forming the border around a park. The desert is familiar territory behind which the sun rises every morning and sometimes, just sometimes with pretty rainless clouds accompanying it.
A couple of days ago the trucks arrived with miles of silver and white boarding and huge concrete blocks – ready and willing to close the desert in and take away our little patch of openness out front. Oh drat. First world problems.
But that’s just how Dubai rolls. An ever changing landscape of steel and concrete. And always new buildings. More and more buildings. This city that has grown out of a dust bowl into a thriving metropolis in just 43 years. The backbone of the construction industry is made up of foreign labourers, most of whom come from the Indian subcontinent and other parts of the Middle East and Asia. The average salary is around $300.00 a month.
I’ve watched as the boarding got closer and closer and today with it right in front of our gates, I noticed these men who in 40 degree C temperatures work 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, digging, pulling, putting and moving on to the next panel. Over and over again. On this patch of land in my community. I watched them wrap their scarves around their heads to stop the sweat dripping into their eyes. I’ve watched them take the ends and wrap them around their eyes to stop the dust from scratching and I’ve watched them use every fibre in their beings to lift one heavy block after another. What for?
I went across to ask them. None spoke any English at all but they summoned their leader, Khalid, who graciously came and answered my questions.
Where are you from? Pakistan.
All of you? Yes
How many years have you been here in Dubai? 12
And the rest of your men? 5, 8, 3, 2 years.
Why did you come here? Its better for us to be here than in Pakistan.
Why? No work in Pakistan
Do you send money home? Yes, but too little. It’s very expensive here
Why do you send money home? We have families
How often do you get to go home? Once every two years.
For how long? One month
How many children do you have? 13 between them
Where do you live? In a company compound in Sharjah (a neighbouring Emirate to Dubai)
How many of you in a room? Four sometimes five (but he was quick to add with a shrug “its ok”)
How long does it take you to get to work? About 1 1/2 hours on a bus
And home: Maybe two hours. Traffic very bad
What do you do for food: We cook for ourselves
When? After work, no mess (restaurant) at compound.
So you work a ten hour day, travel two hours to get home and then still cook for yourselves? Yes. We must eat.
What do you cook? Mainly rice. Too expensive everything
And is it all worth it for you? Yes.
For the little bit of money you can send home, the uncomfortable life you live – it’s worth it for you? Yes
So, you being here allows your family to live there: Yes.
Sirs – you have my deepest respect. God bless you and keep you, you hard working, self sacrificing men….and I pray sooner rather than later you get to go home. Forever.
Matthew 25vs 40