This is absolutely disgusting.
Dubai - any of the hipper guidebooks will advise - is the 'Bangkok of the Middle East', populated by thousands of Russian, Armenian, Indian and Iranian prostitutes controlled by various transnational gangs and mafias. (The city, conveniently, is also a world centre for money laundering with an estimated 10 percent of real estate changing hands in cash-only transactions.)
Sheikh Mohammed and his thoroughly modern regime, of course, disavow any connection to this burgeoning red-light industry although insiders know that the women are essential to keeping all those five-star hotels full of European and Arab businessmen. But the sheikh himself has been personally linked to Dubai's most scandalous vice: child slavery.
Camel racing is a local passion in the Emirates, and in June 2004 Anti-Slavery International released photos of preschool-age child jockeys in Dubai. HBO Real Sports simultaneously reported that the jockeys, 'some as young as three - are kidnapped or sold into slavery, starved, beaten and raped'. Some of the tiny jockeys were shown at a Dubai camel track owned by the al-Maktoums.
Sheikh Mo - as he's affectionately known to Dubai's expats - who fancies himself a prophet of modernisation, likes to impress visitors with clever proverbs and heavy aphorisms. A favourite: 'Anyone who does not attempt to change the future will stay a captive of the past.' Yet the future that he is building in Dubai, to the applause of billionaires and transnational corporations everywhere, looks like nothing so much as a nightmare of the past - Walt Disney meets Albert Speer on the shores of Araby.