,, On the tourism
front, Dubai is a total scam. Their marketing is great at persuading
people that this is a fantastic, must-see destination, but for me
it’s overrated. There are loads of big, modern buildings, and even
more that are still under construction, but all this generates tons
of dust, and when they finish one they get straight to work on
another; there seems to be an insatiable appetite for new buildings
here. On the main roads, there are continual traffic jams, and often
you can’t drive from point A to point B at more than a walking pace.
The air is often polluted and dusty, or else a sandstorm blows in off
There are lots of
shopping malls, bazaars, and shops, but the prices are by no means
cheaper than in Europe. The fact is, I didn’t find a single thing I
wanted to buy which was cheaper than back home. There was a fridge,
actually, but you can hardly bring that home in a suitcase! Anything
original is absurdly expensive, and if it’s cheap, that means it’s
a fake. We wandered aimlessly up and down the enormous MOTE (Mall of
the Emirates) and noticed all the young guys in white djellabas
looking down their noses at us. I couldn’t help feeling that in
their eyes we were just poor, infidel nobodies. Well, we were white,
at least, so we weren’t quite such nobodies as the South Asian
At least the local
women are interesting, hidden behind their flowing garments. If you
come in summer, though, you’ll bake in the 38°
heat. Oh, you’re looking for a shady spot? But is that really why
you traveled all the way here and spent all that money? To hide in
some dark corner because it’s too hot to go outside? Alright, there
really are some spectacular sights, like the palm island. People also
enjoy imagining how good it’s all going to look when it’s
finished. And how pleasant it will be for the people it’s being
built for. It’s possible to spend two or three days in Dubai with
some enjoyment, and maybe in a few years, it will be a prettier,
greener place. But it isn’t that yet. Oh, and beware of the taxi
drivers – they con you! It’s best to have a map handy, to check
if it’s really the shortest route. They can speak English because
most taxi drivers are Indian, and English is the second language in
India. It’s important to plan your trips so you don’t spend half
your time in horrendous traffic jams."
“I’ve been to
Dubai several times. I’m an intellectual, and in view of my refined
tastes, it would be logical for me to dislike Dubai for its
artificiality, its bling, and its fake, plastic character. The truth
is, though, I do like it, or perhaps it would be better to say it
impresses me. I’m impressed by the city’s purposeful development.
All right, you may say, but with that much easily made money it’s
not hard to turn grand plans into reality. The fact is, though, it’s
not the lucky locals I admire, but the foreign architects who dreamed
up and realized these beautiful masterpieces of modern architecture.
I also esteem the ruling family for their foresight in planning for a
time when money will no longer flow from plentiful oil supplies.
Incidentally, it’s worth knowing that the money in Dubai does not
come from the territory of the emirate itself, but from the other
emirates, and the revenue from oil production originating across the
whole Arabian Peninsula. This means that the leadership of Dubai has
been very skillful in maneuvering the city into a strong position. As
a tourist destination Dubai far outstrips the other major emirate,
Abu Dhabi, though that city has much greater oil resources. Dubai
deliberately chose this role for itself, and I like that.
Dubai is a haughty,
glittering, ornamental city, without any real substance or value.
Empty and superficial. In my opinion, it’s probably worth a visit:
your jaw will momentarily drop, but you’ll soon realize how little
this means compared to how a person actually feels in such a place.
Dubai shows the true essence of a consumerist society – that
dead-end of selfish self-aggrandizement it’s all leading to. All
this display, artifice, and pretense perfectly demonstrate that there
are some things money can’t buy. Dubai holds up to us a distorting
mirror, and makes us think: Is this really what we want? That may be
exactly why it’s important to see it. To anyone thinking of
visiting, I’d recommend making it only a stopover en route to
another Asian destination, with a stay of two nights at most. After
this, you’ll find in your heart a new appreciation of the ‘poverty
in some Asian cities, and of those virtues – the truly valuable
things in life – which make certain cities so loveable.” (2016)
“Dubai is a
fantastic place! Its strength probably lies precisely in its
multicultural values. If you want, you can spend the whole day
sunbathing by the Burj al Arab, or in the shadow of skyscrapers. Or
you could spend the day out in the desert. If you’re missing
Europe, you could while away the time in one of the city-sized malls,
or if you’d rather get to know the locals, you’ll find them in
the lanes and alleyways of the bazaar in the Deira district.
Everything in one place, and a thousand ways to relax and unwind.”
possible! A sandstorm blanketed the city so that we could hardly
see, but in the evening they used cloud seeding to increase humidity
and generate rain: the air cleared within two or three hours.
Dubai may be most
beautiful from above. Seaplanes take off from the waters of the Creek
canal and fly a thirty-minute circuit of the city. The palm islands,
Atlantis, the Burj al Arab, and the 880-meter-tall Burj al-Khalifa
There can’t be
many places in the world where it’s possible to play a game of
camel polo, but Dubai is one of them. My camel was quick, and a great
tactician, but I was simply incapable of hitting the ball!”
These days there seem to be a plethora of dystopian films. People are shown as alienated from society in an ultra materialistic world. I knew that Dubai reminded me of something. Someone actually said that ‘Dubai is like an unreliable Tinder date’ which is another way of viewing it. I’m not sure what I expected, monumental ultra-modern and ultra-shiny buildings, check. Futuristic islands reclaimed from the sea in fanciful patterns, check. A slight worry about being able to buy a drink, check. Stupid laws about holding hands, check.
I’ll pause at this point to say that I have been married for nearly fifty years and we have always held hands. Firstly form motivations of lust afterward for reasons of affection and commitment and thirdly in an effort to try and make sure the other one doesn’t fall over and break a hip. The number of times I was told by complete strangers that holding hands was not allowed was staggering. The only other time this has happened to me was on the wrong side of the tracks in Calcutta so long ago that hopefully attitudes have changed there at least. One person even threatened to call the police. Also, it appears telling these busybodies to f**k off is frowned on as well.
There are loads of things to love there as well and going to Dubai on holiday sounds like a very attractive deal. Uptown Downtown Dubai is spectacular. As you first approach cruising down the dramatic 12-lane Sheikh Zayed Road. You’ll see the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, and the grandiose version of Las Vegas’ Bellagio fountains.
Weirdly enough I’ve been to the original Bellagio and I don’t remember it being anything like this. The other thing that made an impression on me was the plethora of shopping malls. I don’t know how you feel about the fake opulence, or not, of a mall but apart from the fact that you are not baking hot, you can keep them for me. In fact, if you are prone to panic attacks leave a trail of breadcrumbs or you’ll never find your way out and end up a jibbering wreck curled up on the floor. All of those rich people in their designer clothes, which can be hideous, searching for some meaning in their lives through the media of shopping makes me want to throw up. I got the impression that everything was for sale, if it was nailed down that cost extra and if you wanted to nail it down yourself that was extra again. Perhaps ‘that will be extra’ should be Dubai’s motto.
Dubai is a Disneyland for adults. You can have the jet-set lifestyle you can look down on the workers you can live in your surreal bubble, you can ignore the exploitation. Always look up never down, don’t trust anybody, be rude and aggressive be more concerned about material possessions than anything else you’ll fit right in Dubai. It was great and I hated it. Enjoy. (Alan Durant, 2021)