The tenants, a rather quieter voice, are being slowly ushered out – in cases this is happening before the rent cycle has finished and cheques are still being presented for rents on houses that people are being evicted from. Of course, in this instance, the tenant has no rights at all in terms of stopping these cheques: the landlords often ‘discount’ the post-dated cheques that tenants have to give for the coming year’s rental period, which means the landlords sell them to a bank in return for a percentage of their value in order to get cash up front. A cheque’s as good as cash in the UAE, so you can’t stop a cheque and if you fail to meet it, you’re immediately in the ‘wrong’ in the eyes of a legal system that likes to deal with simplicities to a degree of absoluteness that often descends into black farce. So if you default on a cheque, the beneficiary has the right to go to the police and have you arrested. The police won’t be interested in why you defaulted: the fact of the matter is that you did. So the tenants have to choice but to pay and then try to get their money back from the landlords. And, as anyone who’s had more than 10 minutes experience of living out here, that’s harder than getting your kid back from the Social Services.
I was down in Satwa Friday morning: I had to pop by the office. It’s wonderful to see the place waking up (which it does a great deal later on a Friday than on a weekday): the smells of cooking from the various restaurants and the garish shopfronts of the Dhs10 shops; the car accessory places already hurriedly slapping sheets of tinting on impatient customers’ Patrols and Altimas; the growing bustle in the supermarkets as an often bewildering array of people from all over the world wander along the sunny streets past the hanging displays of plastic toys, saris, second hand televisions and cooking pans. It’s a marvellous place, a real place: one of the few areas of
And they’re going to replace it with yet another copy of
What the people doing this fail to realise is that Satwa is part of what makes
Cities need this: they need layers. What makes Cairo or Beirut great cities is that they are like great oak trees: they have the triumphs and scars of the ages written on them like the rings of a tree’s trunk: their walls and roofs reflecting the accretion of years of ordinary human beings living their lives, creating a diversity and tale of the passing years that makes the city so human and real. Even Amman, mostly settled since the 1920s, has layers of history from the past 2,000 years to the present day. So what if Satwa’s only a little piece of the past - it’s
And not one solitary person who lives, works, shops or owns property in Satwa today wants this for its future.