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Faded T-Shirts, Faded Dreams: Nepal's Gulf Returnees

On February 3, 2010

The Gulf returnee is an increasingly common sight in Nepal. Whether you are in the capital city or a remote village, you can always find people (usually males) who have returned home after a stint working in the Gulf. Most of these individuals have worked in low-skilled jobs such as construction work, while others have been employed as tailors and shop assistants. For some, a few years away from the family being a wage slave in the Gulf is a golden opportunity earn enough money to buy land or support their dependents. As we have mentioned before on this blog, economic opportunities in Nepal are extremely limited for young men

However, some Nepalis come home from the Gulf with broken dreams and the burden of a heavy debt from having to pay off a middle man who set them up with their job in the first place. Many will have left Nepal seeking a better life but ended up back where they started. For every individual, there is a different story; some are tales of social mobility and achievement, others are tales of exploitation and disappointment.

You see a lot of guys in this part of the world wearing faded T shirts with slogans such as 'I love Bahrain' and 'Hard Rock Cafe Abu Dhabi' (see below, if you look carefully) or pictures of famous buildings in the Emirates. This guy that I got talking to recently had done a few years working in Abu Dhabi and now works at the airport in Kathmandu hefting luggage around for passengers.


With the economic crisis, I am sure that we are likely to see a lot more jaded guys wearing slightly crumpled  t-shirts bearing a picture of the Burj Khalifa (or one of the other monuments that migrant workers helped to build) on the streets of Kathmandu as the construction jobs continue to dry up.