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04 June, 2006

City of Eternal Youth

One of the rarest sights in Dubai is old people. It is as if they barely exist. Old grannies pushing shopping trollies, old men shuffling along with their walking sticks - they are not part of this surreal, youth-obsessed, surface-gleaming world.

Elderly expats don't exist here because work visas expire at age 60 (bar a few rare exceptions). The only senior citizens one ever sees are elderly parents visiting their children for a week in the sun. It can be quite startling to see a couple of silver-haired seniors after months and months of seeing no one past middle age.

Elderly locals are just as rare. There are some older emirati ladies around the shopping malls, but they tend to wear the traditional "bronze-effect" face mask, so any wrinkled faces are hidden away. Who can tell if they're fifty or ninety?

As for old emirati men - perhaps they prefer the quiet and privacy of their villas, away from the alien, modern world that has invaded theirs.



Blogger nzm said...

Maybe it's a good thing that they don't frequent the malls - it would not be good for their health.

Most of them would probably have heart attacks upon seeing what passes for respectable dress these days.

04 June, 2006 02:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

are u an emarati? or even an arab? where are u from man? personally i think ur a hindi.
u don't have to answer.

04 June, 2006 03:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon, you are soo backward.. its people like you that need to be chopped into pieces and fed as chum to the big sharks...

04 June, 2006 09:07  
Blogger Earthbound Misfit said...

anonymous @ 03:43,

How is SD's nationality even relevant?

Secondly, what is a hindi?? There is no nationality or ethnic group called hindi. Get your definitions right.

04 June, 2006 11:32  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

I'm not sure anyone makes it to a ripe old age out here, what with the driving.

04 June, 2006 11:54  
Blogger Herlock Sholmes said...

More and more Dubai is becoming a tourist destination for the retiree. Go to any hotel beach and you will see them...

04 June, 2006 12:59  
Blogger nijaz said...

hindi in arabic is what you call an Indian. So anon@03:43 must be an Arab.

SD has a point. Yet again.

04 June, 2006 13:35  
Blogger archer14 said...

There was an article in GN recently, stating that rich old people would be safest in Dubai. No sir, no, we ain't got no muggers in here for Modhesh the Bounty Hunter has wiped them out!

04 June, 2006 14:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL nzm!

there are quite a few old people here, most that are out are the the old chinese in the helicopter in the commercial for burj al arab! but that would be an uber rich old lady!

it would be bad for old people to stay here...SZR would definitely give them a heart attack. :/

04 June, 2006 16:52  
Blogger inmotion said...

oooh i like that bit about respectable dress these days.

oooh keep me quiet about that ..

when did freedom of choice cross over into the territory of offending my eyes, my mind, and my attempts at respecting all of god's creation.

I don't see alot of senior citizens but when I do I feel like a breath of fresh air has come my way.

04 June, 2006 16:53  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Just to settle this, I am African. Though there is a faint possibility I have some Chinese ancestry too.

04 June, 2006 17:32  
Blogger Samawel said...

Yeah, I haven't seen old local men since the last Eid. Although, I see my grandma every other day or two. She can't ever be bothered to leave her house, although we've tried it all. She's been to Deira City Center once, and somewhat enjoyed it. She refuses to go anywhere nowadays.

04 June, 2006 17:52  
Blogger Mise said...

What about people with physical and mental disabilities? A lot of cultures used to hide them away because they were ashamed of them happened in my own 40 or 50 years ago ...

04 June, 2006 21:10  
Blogger Dubai Sunshine said...

How right you are! Although I do believe that the "hiding" of the elderly is just as much a cultural phenomenon as it is a demographical one.

See, it's as if once a person gets old here (or in the Arab world), they just stay at home. They don't make the effort to go out. Unlike Western countries, where men and women look forward to their retirement to be able to go out, travel and enjoy their lives.

04 June, 2006 21:45  
Blogger Mise said...

Well I tend to batten down the hatches a little myself when the weather gets hot and humid as it is now, but the other thing is that there's such a lot of ill-health among the older and not so old Arabs in the Gulf, especially with uncontrolled diabetes, and heart disease that a lot of the confinement indoors is by necessity. :-)

04 June, 2006 23:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Now now, let's not be jerking the chains.

But to answer a question/observation supra.
(i) Let me remind l-3rab in the audience, as well as expats, that the Gulf/Khalije is not the only form of Arab culture in the world. Why think of the Maghreb.... (Yes, well aware your average Khaliji thinks of the Maghreb in one context only, but that's okay, there's no love lost) - still careful with the generalisations about "Arab" culture when its really bled djouj sifr culture (wink wink).
(ii) Certainly seriously there is a huge demographic pyramid such that there would just be rather few old Emiratine to actually be seen,
(iii) I would wager the oldest slices of Emirati population may find "Dubai Land" in all its bizarreness a bit disconcerting, and thus avoid. Hell, I do when I pass through for business. How many East Euro. working ladies can one's poor old heart take in one shopping expedition?
(iv) Perhaps putting bounties on retirement homes - although to be frank I hope Dubai doesn't, the Maghreb has to have some angles left, and cheap sun-and-retirement living is one of them

05 June, 2006 00:47  
Blogger trailingspouse said...

Whenever I leave Dubai one of the first things that strikes me about other countries is the number of old (retired) people. It's almost freaky until I realize that it's just that I'm not used to seeing them in Dubai. You have to wonder what effect it has on society to essentially have a whole generation missing.

05 June, 2006 01:02  
Blogger Parv said...

Now, now, you don't see geriatrics hanging about because that would just conflict with the youthful, untarnished image of this city. Geri couples are a no-no.

It is only acceptable when geri MEN aged 60 and above, pop their blue pills and frolick about with dippy women half their age.

Now that you'll see plenty of. :)

05 June, 2006 11:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This data is old, but should be pretty consistent with present numbers. Number of people over 60 in UAE (Emarati + Expat)

05 June, 2006 11:27  
Blogger Woke said...

Sharks with an indigestion problem.
SD, I liked that comment on ancestry.

Click310, Could you provide that link? I would like to know how the population distribution in the UAE is in terms of age-groups.
There was a report recently that China is going to have over 70% non-working people above 60 in 25 years time because of its strict population control it is excercising now.

05 June, 2006 12:16  
Blogger Mise said...

Lounsbury ... point well taken about 'Arab' culture ... and yes, I would much prefer to retire to the Maghreb region, which I visited recently ...and true to it's metaphorical sense, it has tended to be 'eclipsed' by all things Khaliiji by those of us living here...

05 June, 2006 13:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont think most retired expats would want to stay here even if they were provided visas. Quite a few expats talk about returning to their motherland "when I'm through with this country". But more importantly, how many retirees can afford to stay here? With the cost of living spiralling out of control, most retirees would have their savings wiped out before they hit 70. Dubai is simply not the city for retirees: its fast, aggressive, business minded, expensive - nothing that a retired man wants! Its precisely why so many brits move to spain or cyprus after they retire.

05 June, 2006 14:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One serious problem in Dubai is mobility for people in wheel chairs. The older malls and buildings (Lamcy, City Centre) and even some new ones (Madinat Jumeirah) for example, have limited horrible access: very steep ramps, few and often ridiculously small elevators, and so on. And on the streets it does not get any easier, since this city was not designed with pedestrians in mind.

05 June, 2006 14:22  
Blogger the shadow said...

kinda reminds me of Logan's Run...hit 60 and pfffsssst! suddenly disappear in a puff of smoke.

05 June, 2006 14:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HANG ON...they have wheel chair parking here.... i thought that was a special sign for the locals and sheikmobiles....

05 June, 2006 21:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

مشكور على الجواب
"secret dubai"
nijaz you are correct, i am an arab from yemen, specifically bani qahtaan, where most khalijis originated from.

so this blogger is an african with chinese in him, how do you work that out man? Are you an expat living in dubai? I am new to this blog.

06 June, 2006 00:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

اخ اسمح لي و لكن ما فهمت الرد اقرى المواقع - يقول لك الكاتب انه بني ادام و ليس من المهم العنصر الحقيقة اقول لك ان القبائلية الخليجية مملة

06 June, 2006 00:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


No worries, were I note somewhat Maghreb centered I would surely forget it existed (for all that the "pan Arab" Sat TV gazes at its Leb and Khaliji bellybuttons). Very human I suppose.


Don't be starting any retiree campaign. And I am going to be in for a conference I believe.

06 June, 2006 00:29  
Blogger secretdubai said...

And I am going to be in for a conference I believe.

About time! And now I have to find someone who can translate the Arabic you just wrote.

06 June, 2006 01:28  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"About time! And now I have to find someone who can translate the Arabic you just wrote. "

he said something like:
My brother, forgive me, but i do not understand the reply's/comments on this website. The blogger explains that he is a son of adam (human being), which is not important, the truth is the khaleeji (gulf) tribes are boring racists.

Lounsboury: We shall never forget about Maghreb, where men were born to defend the ummah al'islaamy!!
التحيه الي شعب وقباءل المغرب
حياك الله يا اخي

06 June, 2006 02:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I would not have translated that as "boring racists" - boring tribalists.

I was telling our Yemani brother that he didn't get your comment, that you (SD) were saying that you're a human being and origin (ansar) isn't important. And Khaliji tribalism is boring/annoying.

Bloody irritating typing in Arabic though, stupid Word never edits right.

And my dear Anon, you guys ALWAYS forget about the Maghreb except when you want to make Arab numbers bigger.

06 June, 2006 03:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Conference of course, SD is conditional on this whole cancer green light. But all looks good, despite my whinging on.

06 June, 2006 03:19  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I suppose when we say "Middle East" here we often really mean Gulf, sometimes with a bit of the Levant thrown in too (but never THAT unmentionable, internet-domain-blocked land of course!) And with Egypt tagged on as well. But not so much the rest of it.

06 June, 2006 03:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This place does not want nor need any 'handicapped' people whether they are old, infirm, blind, deaf physically disabled or mentally retarded. Most add little or no value to the Economy, don't look good are a drain on health resources and would require major re-engineering of sidewalks, roads, shopping malls and other public buildings. Most of them would probably be run over whilst attempting a 'pedestrian' crossing in the first month. Nothing must get in the way of economic prosperity and that includes old folk

06 June, 2006 18:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to our dear maghrebi brother...Where i am residing now, there are many maghribis & algerians, mashah'allah i meet many of them in the mosque...they are very pious and respectable.
If you trace your heritage and roots, there is a very big chance that your originally from a land called hadramout, in yemen, hence the original arabs, where nearly all arab tribes originate from. we had a big discussion about this about a week ago in the mosque.
Anyway nice talking to you brother.

07 June, 2006 03:28  
Blogger BuJ said...

lovely post.. melancholic.

07 June, 2006 11:58  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How About Old City- where all those Geriatrics worth over US1m can buy freehold property and live amongst each other. That way they are tucked into the corner and like the labourers are kept away from the beautiful people?

07 June, 2006 16:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

07 June, 2006 16:31
What is your bloody point- that all Arab nations are disunited and have no common links other than language and religion? I think we already know that

07 June, 2006 16:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hindi is not a nationality, Hindi is a language. Also there is no such sect called Malabaris, they are Malayalees from the state of Kerala.

The Visa rules are draconian and not renewing visas for expats above 60 and the fact that boys over 18 cannot be on the father's visa goes to show that all expats are really transiting through Dubai. That is what the AGCC is, a transitory place for expats. So long as that is understood, we can be at peace.

10 June, 2006 20:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm old - frequently drive up and down the SZR but haven't had a heart attack. Haven't caused one either.

Safa Sarah

10 July, 2006 21:04  

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