The Phantoms of Al Quoz
(Dubai City, United Arab Emirates)

During the past months a series of news reports has begun to circulate in relation to certain mysterious conditions found at a residential development located within the Al Quoz section of central Dubai City. Last year, during the early months of 2011, it appears that at least one of the community’s apartment buildings was fully evacuated, due either to what management officials stated as standard plumbing & maintenance issues, or instead to certain alleged “hauntings” that have since been described to local media sources by a group of fast-food employees who had, at that time, resided on the property.

On any casual stroll past the structure in question it seems clear that the entire premises have been fully abandoned; the presence of a vacant parking structure covered partially by an ever-growing mound of sand, padlocks on all formal entrance doorways and the constant surveillance maneuvers of a private security fleet solidify this belief. However, what in actuality might be taking place behind the padlocked doors could be something completely different from the outward state of appearances.

In recent discussion with a former taxi driver from the Sonapur–Global Village transit route, known only as Thierry, it was learned that a great number of “smokescreens” are constantly taking place throughout the recently formed and already faltering metropolis. Upon further elaboration it appears that these so-called smokescreens are solely just diversionary tactics used by lower-level workers in order to devise and run secret businesses or to start illusive private clubs; In a way they are simply a form of reverse advertising used to distract attention from mainly subversive activities. The taxi driver stated that he believes these recent hauntings are a newly designed method used to clear a path towards the formation of illegal and underground situations: gambling dens and sex parlors, black market trading rooms and unregulated internet lounges. What better way to keep the public from noticing too much, Thierry believed, than to create either a contagious or feared environment?

From deeper investigations, more detailed information over this theme has since been received: The security service (whose name can actually not be found in any official city record) roaming the above described complex have also been connected with at least 5 other properties in the city, each of which at some point have appeared to the public eye as either standing abandoned, or at least in need of major construction repairs. In each of these 5 accounts there appears as well a relationship in some form or another to either formal declarations of otherworldly hauntings, emergency evacuations or even contagious health risk scenarios.

Prolonged discussions over the changing city and its possible futures continued with both Thierry, as well as his business partner, a salesman known as Ibrahim: a native of Algeria, with a gentle swagger and an elegantly outdated style (was it always the same chocolate-brown suit?) straight out of the early 1970s. Thierry later stated that his friend Ibrahim, a sort of pleasant dreamer who prides himself on his extensive knowledge of the life and career of the U.S. film actor Gene Hackman, was known previously to have maintained a prominent presence in main train station in Milan, Italy. During those years, working as a type of hotel booking agent and “fun expert”, he was always on the move, searching for new customers amongst the weary travelers in need of a good night’s lodging. Ibrahim himself stated that he had learned a great deal at that time about how to remain invisible in plain sight and that this knowledge had paid off well for him in Dubai.

During one late night discussion with Ibrahim and Thierry about the mysteries and “shadow zones” found in the cracks of Dubai’s postmodern design, many charades—oddly both half-criminal and half-liberating—were described. Amongst one of their favorite so-called “sleight of hand” schemes elaborated on was the formation of (what appears to be?) the world’s highest elevated private workers’ club, a secret location frequented by a subtle and discreet group of local Somali migrant workers. In fact, these same men had begun their time in the city by working up to 14 hours a day, for slave wages, on this actual building’s construction. The workers’ club was a scheme designed by a group of Thierry’s former taxi driver colleagues, in collaboration with a hidden network of certain well-placed service & maintenance employees, and even a hand full of local government workers. It was created as a type of “Robin Hood” maneuver: as a way to temporarily co-opt an unused space and open it up to new unsanctioned possibilities for the former marginalized. The precise location of the private club was described only as “somewhere above the 100th floor” in one of the city’s most prestigious architectural towers. Often lacking in proper funding, locations such as this one were usually very sparsely furnished; As Ibrahim noted, there was no champagne and caviar to be found here, it was more a calming place to rest amongst friends, while enjoying the pre-installed carpeting and luxury climate control, along with state of the art kitchen and bathing accommodations.

How long this quiet collaboration of Somali men can maintain the informal title of the so-called “highest located workers’ club in the world” is unclear. With massive building vacancies and a ghostly feeling of emptiness, the future looks stable. Whether or not there is enough work to sustain the Somali’s presence in the city of Dubai is another story.