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This will be my last report from Dubai, before I flit off to have other adventures in different countries. Because the majority, or over 80 percent of the Dubai population of 4.5 million is a large international block of foreigners, I felt you could be interested in some housing and living costs. Or possibly it could be something your children are considering? Should you decide to go and work and live in Dubai, you will need a company to sponsor you to acquire a work visa. This visa has to be renewed every year and if you happen to be over 60 years old you are not allowed to work here, unless your family is already here and sponsored, in which case, they can sponsor you. You cannot be an employee when you are over 60, but you are allowed to start your own business, so you can be selfemployed. If you are not a born and bred United Arab Emirates' citizen, then you cannot retire here, no matter what nationality you are and no matter how much money you have. Now we have that sorted, let me tell you about the hou ing. I spent the day with real estate agents, looking at properties and discussing prices. It was an eye-opener!
As I already mentioned before foreign nationals are allowed to buy a house, but they are not allowed to own the land. Should they wish to sell, they are free to do so and take their money back 'home' again. There are only four companies who have the right to build houses and guess what? Those companies are owned by the ruling family, who also happens to own the land. Clever hey? Because profit is their major concern, almost every house looks alike, it doesn't matter if you pay a 'reasonable' price or pay $25 million. There is no individuality. Why? Because it is expensive to build individually styled homes and we are only after profit here in Dubai, remember? You cannot buy a few acres of sand and put up a house of your choosing. You do get your individual title to your house, but the sand-land is always leasehold.
The Springs, a gated community with a guard, as are all foreign residential divisions, has 2 and 3 bedroomed homes, with a maid's room on the ground floor/living area. They have a 2-car parking area, which is not closed off, so no good for storage.
Most of these 2-storied homes, which they call villas, are between 1,500 sq ft and the largest is just under 3,000 sq ft. The prices run between AED1,400,000 to AED300,000 (Divide by 3.5 to get NZ$). Some look out on the man-made canals that are in each division. Usually there is also a large fountain in the middle of the water. All have very small gardens, no more than 120 sq ft and all house are built of concrete, have flat roofs and are painted the same color, a yellowy cream. Because the UAE government wants the foreigners to stay as long as possible, and want to keep them happy, large tracts of sand have been criss-crossed with miles and miles of black polythene water tubing, to create very pleasant green parks around the houses. Trees and shrubs are everywhere, as are numerous gardeners, who seem to be cutting the poor shrubs into disciplined short shapes all and every day.
Most foreigners buy. The interest is low and rent is very high. In the Springs you pay a minimum of NZ$1,200 per week rent. You could get a one-room apartment for half that price, but you would not have a bathroom! You would also be in a poorer area.
You have decided that you want to live in a better area? Ok, go to the 'Meadows', that looks identical to the Springs on the outside, but slightly different on the inside and they have another bedroom or two.
And of course, you pay more. Still not happy? You want a villa that stands on its own, rather than being stuck together as part of a street? We could go to the up-market suburb of Emirates Hills, Jumeirah Islands, the Palms or to the Ranches, where the houses still look alike, are larger and are still so close together that you have no privacy at all. There are either no fences in these expensive areas, or very low ones. Don't even think about building a higher fence yourself, or paint your house blue or pink! You want to build-on another room or a conservatory? It is your house, right? Well forget it! Although you are allowed to decorate the house inside the way you want, the outside is strictly taboo. You have no say about the color, fencing or anything else. Yeah well, that is ownership for you in Dubai!
But, there is a slight relief in the dearer gated communities. Each division of a certain number of streets is often build in a different country's style. So you could have a cream house that looks slightly Mexican, Italian, Moroccan, or Egyptian, but in the end, they are all cream and all very similar. The cheapest will cost you around $1.3 million, rising to $30 million. Most ex-pat suburbs have a small shopping centre nearby while very large, luxurious shopping malls are within easy driving reach. Property prices have fallen 58 percent since the 2008 peak. All roads circle and loop towards and around Dubai city.
So, now you know, it is expensive to be housed in Dubai and you have no freedom over your own home if you want it to look individual, oh yes, I forgot, you also have no privacy. But you can leave your phone or briefcase in your unlocked car almost anywhere and nobody will steal it!
But don't despair. If you have a few hundred million lying around, you could always buy a whole 'country' in 'The World' just like BraJolie are reported to have done! They bought Ethiopia, but are not likely to ever live there as the country-islands are reported to be sinking back into the sea! Only one building has been erected up till now, a show home. Food and household goods. After having been here for several weeks now. I am still convinced that the cost of food is far, far cheaper than in New Zealand. Ok, you do have some that are ridiculously dear, such as one single ice cream cone costing around $7 and a smallish box of Special K Kellogg's cornflakes with red berries costs nearly $7, but a loaf of multi-seed soya bread is only $1, a 1.5 liter of bottled water is $1.60, a leg of lamb costs $9 per kg and fish is less than half of that price per kg. a small chicken costs around $5 and....wait for this......PETROL COSTS only .60 cents per litre!!! Non-food household items cost approximately the same as tey do in New Zealand.
Clothes. If you buy the Arabian men's Kandoora or long white cotton 'dress', it will only cost you $10 and a lady's Jalabya is approximately the same. It all depends on the quality and beading of course. But western clothes are expensive, far dearer than in New Zealand.
You will get a free electric kettle or hand-held car vacuum cleaner if you buy a $100 microwave and a 235 Litres refrigerator will set you back around $350.That's it folks. Is it worth living in incredible heat and surrounded by sand to work tax-free? I suppose so, if you are young and want to save fast for the deposit of a house back home in your beautiful, green, free and private New Zealand, where you can build the house of your dreams and own the bit of dirt underneath it also. Chat to you when I am installed in another interesting country. Cheerio.