Thousands of East African workers have made the Middle East their home, helping to drive the region’s growing economy. Shaml Puri met some members of the Kenyan community living in Dubai
With stars in his eyes, 26-year-old Eric Kariuki packed his bags last September to start a new life in the Middle East. He had dreams of earning a lot of money and sending it back to his home in Nyeri.
Eric is one of the more than 40,000 Kenyan guest workers living and working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The growing economy of the Emirate and its rapid development has created the need for expatriate workers from many developing countries, including Kenya.
“Life is very good in Dubai, much better than what I experienced in Kenya,” says Kariuki, a security guard, adding that he has made a point of remitting part of his salary to his family back home.
Kenyans play a large part in the development of Dubai, alongside workers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Their sweat and hard work have helped to build the city’s expanding skyline.
A large number of Kenyans in Dubai work in the construction, hotel and entertainment industries. Many more are employed as domestic workers, while others are business people.
They are also present in Dubai’s travel sector, servicing the buoyant tourism sector. Our national carrier, Kenya Airways, has a busy office here.
Henry, 27, who did not wish to reveal his surname, is one of the hundreds of Kenyans working at the Dubai International Airport. He says he has a strenuous daily routine but is content.
“I’m happier in Dubai than I was in Afghanistan. There is safety and rule of law here,” Henry says.
I also meet a Kenyan working for Du Telecom as a processing clerk. Asking for anonymity because his extended family is highly influential in Kenyan politics, he tells me that life is ‘very good’ in Dubai and that he prefers to live here than in Kenya.
However, there are very few Kenyans in top-level administrative jobs in the city. Some of these are those who own businesses, for instance the Kenyan who owns a hotel in the Deira suburb.