They say Sheikh Zayed built Abu Dhabi, just like Louis XIV built the Louvre. But this is a myth. Vijay built Abu Dhabi more than Sheikh Zayed did. He built it growing deeper in debt each day, his feet sinking into the lunar sand.
An Emirati curator told me that these museums were Abu Dhabi’s “gifts to the region.” She refused to go on record, certain my article would overplay the UAE’s labor problems. But she allowed that quote.
She is wrong about the giver of the gift. Saadiyat is a “gift” to the UAE from Vijay, from Tariq, from Ibrahim—from all the men whose hands have built these cities. But migrant workers’ names are never engraved on donor lists.
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Molly Crabapple is an artist, journalist, and author of the memoir, Drawing Blood. Called "An emblem of the way art can break out of the gilded gallery" by the New Republic, she has drawn in and reported from Guantanamo Bay, Abu Dhabi's migrant labor camps, and in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, and Iraqi Kurdistan. Crabapple is a contributing editor for VICE, and has written for publications including The New York Times, Paris Review, and Vanity Fair. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
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