Dubai: At first look, you can be forgiven for mistaking the housing cluster near the Abu Dhabi border for a gated residential community.
The streets are shiny, the walkways are lush green and the buildings look new. The tenants have room service, 24-hour security, and their laundry is taken care of.
Except that the residents aren’t well-to-do professionals — they are labourers.
Welcome to Labour Village 2 in Dubai Industrial City (DIC), one of the best workers’ accommodations in town.
The all-male population of the village — around 26 blocks that house roughly 13,000 workers — enjoy comforts rare for labourers.
When they leave for work, “room boys” tidy up their rooms, make their beds and pick up laundry. The belongings are neatly tucked away in sturdy cabinet-style closets.
At night, the tired workers return to a clean room and tidy beds, with the laundry ironed and returned in neat piles. The same goes for bedding and linen. A professional organising and labelling system ensures the clothes never get mixed up.
The labourers leave their work boots outside on a shoe rack on each floor. Inside, there is a smaller rack for slippers and home shoes.
The rooms, which have a mini lounge area of sorts, have central air conditioning. The ambience is quiet and cool, just what the toiling labourers look forward to.
To unwind, roomies typically catch their favourite shows on a flat-screen TV mounted on the wall, beaming the latest content from popular satellite channels from the Indian subcontinent, where most of the workers are from.
They also socialise in the room’s central seating area, sharing jokes, stories and news from back home. Each room has four bunk beds, meaning there are eight people to a room. The size of the room is spacious enough under labour housing rules.
There’s other indoor entertainment too — rooms for table tennis, foosball, board games and playing cards. Those still left with energy to spare have the option to visit the sports grounds, for cricket, football, basketball and volleyball.
All the work and play undoubtedly stirs up an appetite, but there is no need to spend time and effort cooking. In fact, there is no kitchen inside the residential blocks. The meals are instead served thrice daily in huge dining halls common to each cluster of blocks, which can seat 600 people at a time.
After swiping in with their access card, which each village resident has, the workers line up for the trays and sanitised plates. They queue again at the food counter where they are served. On the menu is every dish commonly found in the typical cuisine of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
An industrial dish washer takes care of the plates, freeing the workers from another chore.
Behind the scenes, a massive operation ensures the food is fresh, safe and hygienic. The system, fit for a five-star hotel, conforms to the strict HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) standard in place in leading restaurants, besides local municipality and health authority rules.
There are daily lab tests on site as well as external lab reports coming back in. After the food is checked, it is prepared in an enormous kitchen in enormous pots. The kitchen staff look like scientists working in a dust-proof lab, wearing white masks, caps and overcoats. The meals are then taken to the dining halls in a convoy of warmers.
Attention to safety and security permeates the rest of the village too. Security guards are on duty round the clock, making their rounds on scooters and buggies. Each building also has an assistant that coordinates all facilities management issues 24 hours a day. The village even has its own water reservoir only for use in firefighting (besides an on-site sewage treatment plant, which also recycles water for irrigation).
And soon, the village will have supermarkets, a money exchange, restaurants and other retail outlets. There is also a large mosque on site.
“We’re very fortunate to have it so good here, I wouldn’t want to move out,” said Harjinder Singh, 37, a carpenter from India who has been a resident here for 10 months.
Besides Labour Village 2, there are other identical clusters in DIC, housing tens of thousands of workers from scores of different companies. At Labour Village 2, all blocks have been rented out to construction giant Arabtec. Meanwhile, Hirmas Facility Management is handling the services and amenities there.