Alexander McNabb

Dubai’s International City: Where Freehold Isn’t So Free

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international city

“I can’t get to my Shiny. The door’s locked.”

“Really? Try using a key.”

“What are you doing with that magnifying glass?”

“Inspecting you. Right, thanks for dropping by for this little chat. Always lovely to see you.”

“No, hang on. I’m not talking about the key to my own door. The door to the whole building is locked.”

“Yes, that’s right. It’s to stop overcrowding and illegal subletting. Only one person per 200 square feet will be allowed to occupy any apartment or villa.”

“But this is my freehold property. If I want to share it, that’s entirely up to me.”

“Not according to the accepted practice of nmkl pjkl ftmch. That’s what we’re applying here.”

“Hang on. When you sold me this Shiny it was freehold and then you said it was usufruct and now it’s nmkl pjkl ftmch. What does that mean?”

“It means we have the right to inspect you, to use CCTV cameras to monitor you and an access control system to stop people coming to your apartment. And to fine you if you or your tenants don’t comply with our regulations what we make up every now and then.”

“Why don’t I go and live in a concentration camp?”

“We just branded it differently. We hope you’re daring to dream and loving life itself.”

“So where’s my access card then?”

“You can’t have one until you’ve been properly inspected.”

“Well you just said you were inspecting me.”

“And so I have. Here’s your satisfactory inspection form. Now remember, inspections are daily and you’ll be fined Dhs108 per square metre if you decide to let the property and your tenants overcrowd it.”

“You mean I’m responsible for policing my tenants’ adherence to your arbitrary regulations if I rent my ‘freehold’ flat out?”

“Of course. That’s only fair, isn’t it?”

“So where’s my access card?”

“You have to apply for it. Right. Super to see you again, do give my regards to everyone.”

“Where? Where do I apply for it? What do I need to apply? How long’s the queue going to be? What’s it going to cost? Where do I collect it? How long does it last for? What about visitors who want to come for tea and cakes? How do I apply for an access card if I want to let my apartment to a tenant?”

“Lalalalalalalalalalalala. Gone yet? Lalalalalalalalalala.”

* International City is installing an access control system.

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