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Over the past two decades, thousands of Western professionals have viewed Dubai as an Aladdin's Cave of riches. This dynamic city-state — part of the United Arab Emirates — has expanded astronomically, creating unprecedented demand for foreign labour. Since the 1980s, foreigners have been lured here by attractive packages, tax-free wages and the chance to live in this exotic Arabian port.
The Hong Kong of the Gulf, Dubai is a freewheeling commercial centre where glass towers rise above bustling spice markets. While its citizens are devout Muslims, the city is glitzy, glamorous and remarkably liberal. Restaurants are world-class and the nightlife sizzles like a shwarma grill.
Unlike other Gulf States, Dubai has a diverse economy with a range of sectors including construction, healthcare, media, IT and engineering. Now a popular holiday destination, jobs in hospitality and retail have boomed as hotels and malls soar skyward.
That said, Dubai isn't the expatriate paradise it used to be. Rents have recently risen and you now need a decent wage to pack away some dirhams (the local currency, linked to the US dollar).
"It's not the bargain it was when we first got here," says Sue Hunt, from Australia. "Rents have risen dramatically over the past few years, but we manage to do OK."
Hunt's husband works in the petrochemical industry, where packages improve the longer you stay. She is on a spouse visa, however, and cannot work, although she adds that it is possible to secure her own work visa.