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Karen came here from Canada when her husband was offered a job in the senior division of a famous multinational.
"When he said Dubai, I said – if you want me to wear black and quit booze, baby, you've got the wrong girl. And I loved him." All her worries melted when she touched down in Dubai in 2005.
In the mid-18th century, a small village was built here, in the lower Persian Gulf, where people would dive for pearls off the coast.
It soon began to accumulate a cosmopolitan population washing up from Persia, the Indian subcontinent, and other Arab countries, all hoping to make their fortune.
But something has flickered in Sheikh Mohammed's smile.
The ubiquitous cranes have paused on the skyline, as if stuck in time.
"When we realised that, I sat Daniel down and told him: listen, we need to get out of here.
He knew he was guaranteed a pay-off when he resigned, so we said – right, let's take the pay-off, clear the debt, and go." So Daniel resigned – but he was given a lower pay-off than his contract suggested. As soon as you quit your job in Dubai, your employer has to inform your bank. We were thrown out of our apartment." Karen can't speak about what happened next for a long time; she is shaking. Daniel was sentenced to six months' imprisonment at a trial he couldn't understand. "Now I'm here illegally, too," Karen says I've got no money, nothing.
In the dusty fort of the Dubai Museum, a sanitised version of this story is told.
One doctor told him he had a year to live; another said it was benign and he'd be okay. "Before I came here, I didn't know anything about Dubai law.
I assumed if all these big companies come here, it must be pretty like Canada's or any other liberal democracy's," she says. If you get into debt and you can't pay, you go to prison.
He dominates the Manhattan-manqué skyline, beaming out from row after row of glass pyramids and hotels smelted into the shape of piles of golden coins.
And there he stands on the tallest building in the world – a skinny spike, jabbing farther into the sky than any other human construction in history.