Ethnically speaking only 15% of Dubai’s population are actually Arab UAE Nationals, the rest being expats that have lived for generations in the country or were born there. Around 85% of these expats are Asian with over 50% originating from India & some 15% from Pakistan. Other religious beliefs are also accepting & Dubai has large Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist & other religious communities residing in the city. Outside the city is a different matter though.
Surprisingly Dubai is not a city built on oil revenue but more significantly through commerce & tourism. In fact only 5% of Dubai’s income comes from the oil business today. The explosive development of the city in the past 20 years has been financed considerably from the Al Maktoum family that rule here as absolute monarchy since 1833. Human rights organisations have heavily criticized the living conditions & mistreatment of many of the 250,000 foreign workers in the city as inhumane. Indeed, once one ventures into the old city on Dubai creek then you get to see a different picture of normal living conditions compared to the rich, shiny, almost sterile, hyper modern metropolis.
As a guest though it’s a welcome change to experience how Dubai was before the oil boom in the 70’s & indulge in a little of that true Arabian flair be it in the Souks of Deira or observing the Abras (water taxis) that traverse the creek between Deira & Bur Dubai. This part of town is of course less exhilarating as far as modern architecture is concerned but has definitely more character in my opinion, making the complete experience a perfect balance.