Just 37 years old, Arif Mirza is one of the few people in the world who can afford to live on the 35th floor of the towering Burj Khalifa. Never mind the building’s crappy human waste management system, this is luxury that some people dream of having. But Mirza plans to give it all up for 33 days.
As though arriving in Dubai for the first time with nothing but $272 in his pocket, the Pakistani-Canadian entrepreneur will first get a job as a scrap collector and then work his way up from there. He will live with eight or ten other men in squalid conditions – like so many do in Dubai – and document the entire process with a three-person film crew.
Inspired by a young Pakistani scrap collector he met, Mirza wants to see how far he can stretch his initial sum of money in order to highlight opportunities for the poor.
Once he gets a leg up as a scrap collector, he intends to find other jobs either online or using newspaper classifieds. He will exchange his services for room and board, if he can.
He will then distribute the DVD that Mirza Productions will generate over the 33 day ordeal for free. He will also pass out 100 survival kits to some of the most enterprising people he meets along the way, which will include mobile phone top ups and a Nol card that provides a few rides on Dubai public transportation.
This kit will also include tips for eating well and suggest places for purchasing nourishing food.
Mirza seems to suggest that with a touch of pluck and ingenuity, even the most uneducated person on the street can improve their lot. And it’s an interesting experiment.
But it’s also borderline insulting. With his camera crew and pedigree, employers won’t treat him with the same disdain that many foreign workers experience in the Emirate and he already has “reached the top” if living in a giant skyscraper is one’s definition of the high life.
He does acknowledge this, but claims that his project is about demonstrating to Dubai’s shadow people that it is possible to get somewhere from nowhere. In theory at least.
“The idea is to bounce back in 33 days, not to make millions but be stable,” Mr Mirza told The National. “Let’s see what Dubai has to offer.”
We’re kind of hoping Dubai has a nice big serving of humble pie on the menu.
Image of Burj Khalifa, Shutterstock