Carole Cadwalladr Sunday October 5 2008


Before I arrive in Dubai, I meet ‘Clare’ on an expat website who insists I visit her at her home in the Meadows, a housing development in the city’s suburbs – ‘to give you an idea of how so many people get misled into thinking they are in Milton Keynes’. Half an hour in a taxi later, past the skyscrapers, and the construction sites, and the six-lane highways, and minibuses of Indian and Pakistani workers being shuttled from one project to another, I’m in a straight-out-of-a-David-Lynch-film picture-perfect suburban road lined with picture-perfect suburban villas.

And there’s Clare. ‘That’s what I wanted you to see!’ she says before I’m even out of the car. ‘Look at that.’ I’m looking at a wheelie bin and not really understanding her point. ‘People see the wheelie bin and they think it’s all familiar, and normal, and therefore nothing bad can happen. Ha!’

The Meadows is a gated enclave with a uniformed security guard and lush green landscaping, and Clare is a British expatriate wife whose husband is a contractor. To all intents, they’re living what looks very much like the good life: there’s a pool in the back garden, year-round sun, and in the living room Sky News is on.

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