Opinion: It’s not a new genre, and it doesn’t seem to be improving…

There’s a new Dubai-bashing article. You know, one of those pieces, filled with similes and metaphors rather than much fact. It’s called The Dark Side of Dubai and it claims that we live in the “most toxic culture in the world”. A rather definitive call.

Dubai is a city of 2.8 million people. These expats and citizens are diverse and each have their own experience. I’ve met people who don’t like living here, but say they continue to do so to support family back home (but in every city I’ve lived in – 10 in total – I’ve met people who don’t like a place). I’ve met second- or third-generation residents who’ve lived here their entire lives, and truly call it home (even if they don’t have citizenship).

I’ve spoken to taxi drivers who proudly show me videos and photos on their phone of the palatial homes they’ve built in their country, I’ve met workers who say they’re glad to live here as it’s less rampantly corrupt than their home countries. “I LOVE Dubai,” a man from Somalia told me just yesterday. The world is messy, Dubai is a haven for many (however, not for all).

And yes, I’ve met people who are vacuous in Dubai, and who need a reality check. But, and I hate to break it to you, these people are everywhere.

Why am I ranting? Well, this week a story was published on an Australian news site, it’s called The Dark Side of Dubai and it’s like the dozens of articles that came before it, using sand and skyscraper metaphors to sum up a city. I respect that the author of this piece didn’t like Dubai. That’s her prerogative. I don’t, however, enjoy how she painted everyone in Dubai with one singular brush and presented fallacies as fact.

The 3 things that bother me the most about the article…

The way it talks about Emirati people

First off, she says that Emiratis in the ’60s “were camel dwellers; clueless and uneducated about what to do with the literal pot of wealth”. I take serious issue with that.

Grammatically, I’m pretty sure they didn’t live inside or on camels, as this sentence suggests. Also, yes, the Emirati experience in the Sixties was mostly one of bedouin and fisherman. But to call these people, who managed to thrive in a harsh environment, build cities from nothing and end tribal fighting to boot, clueless? That’s just offensive.

She then makes the somewhat startling claim that “an Emirati millennial never has to use an ATM” (umm?) and then says that Emiratis are “being rewarded just for existing”. How terrible that a government treats its people well.

She says that “the government pays for your education” – okay, surely that’s a good thing and one that we should all campaign for worldwide? Don’t we applaud the Scandis for that?

But then says “all overseas holidays are paid for” for them. Not true, I’ve checked.

After this she says that if Emiratis “want the new iPhone before Mark Zuckerberg?” It’s “done”. Not true.

She also states that if they “want an UberChopper to land in their bedroom”. It’s done. Well, the logistical issues alone on this one…

By all means, criticise a country’s policies or politics, but don’t generalise its people like that.

How her experience is treated as the experience

She says Dubai is vacuous, but her experience (likely from being a lifestyle journalist while here, who probably got to try many things for free) is clearly quite unlike the majority of the expats in the city. She was in a privileged position, but she doesn’t seem to acknowledge that.

She calls her life “ostentatiously curated”. She says she “was lost in [a] Michelin-starred, edible-flowers-on-a-plate, amuse bouche-flavoured Dubai bubble. Like every expat.” Like every expat?! That’s painting Dubai’s population with rather broad strokes: for starters, there are no Michelin stars here yet. Secondly, most expats never, or barely ever, go to the city’s swankiest restaurants.

She says you zip through “Sheikh Zayed Road in a shiny red sports car”, “swim with a shark in an aquarium at a hotel” and that “hotel bars serve $1000 worth of champagne on tap”. Tap Champers?! 

My average Friday starts with cleaning my apartment, maybe going to the Garden Centre for a coffee, seeing friends, going to Stray Dogs UAQ to walk the dogs and then heading home to watch Netflix. I acknowledge that this is different to most people’s Fridays, which is why I don’t write articles about it.

*ALSO READ: Sultan Al Qassemi’s response to this Dubai-bashing article is perfect*

The way she completely misses the middle class out 

She says, definitively, that there are three groups of people in the UAE…

#1) The idealistic class: “i.e. the local Emiratis who are inexhaustibly wealthy. You know you’ve spotted one if you see a polished metal Jaguar carrying a furry pet Jaguar in the front seat. Exotic animals as pets are illegal in the UAE, yet a common sight among the rich.”

Ask a local woman working in a Union Coop in Ras Al Khaimah how it feels to be “inexhaustibly wealthy”… there are many kinds of Emirati people, some are rich, yes, but some aren’t.

#2) She says are the “rich foreign workers” who are the “brains of the nation” (umm? Maybe ask the eloquent Emirati Lubna Al Qassimi, the world’s most powerful Arab female politician, about that call?). She says these “rich” “brains” are the “CEOs, bank managers, project heads”.

#3) The third and final layer in Dubai she says is the “poor foreign worker who nobody wants to discuss”.

To reduce all blue collar workers (or all workers in general) in Dubai into a one-dimensional mass with only one stream of thought is simply not true. Yes, the labour laws are still forming to protect workers from all angles – but, you know what? Let’s at least acknowledge that in the past 10 years they’ve changed a great deal, and for the better (you can read about some of those changes here), and let’s get behind and encourage that change.

*ALSO READ: New law guaranteeing housing for labourers in the UAE*

Also, she’s missing out quite a large group between #2 and #3.

What about the middle class Indian, Filipino, Ukrainian, Armenian, British, Kiwi (me!), Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Iranian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan (just to name a few) workers who live in modest but adequate homes here. These people send money back home to save for a house one day, while eating most of their meals at home with their family in a safe environment.

In fact, why not tell me your Dubai story? Send me a message to What’s On Dubai’s Facebook page that tells your unique Dubai story, and I’ll share some of them with our readers here…

*ALSO: This picture sums up one of the reasons Dubai is great*

She says “double-standards are polluting the minds of every expat in town” in Dubai – I take offense at that too. I don’t think the Australian woman who started the Ramadan Sharing Fridges project has a polluted mind. Nor do I think the people who spend every waking moment volunteering at the city’s many dog shelters do either. And the list here, obviously, could go on.

Cities are diverse, please respect that Dubai is too.

In fact, when she says: “the palm tree-dotted beaches would be swamped with sun-dried British expats getting sozzled beside a Muslim woman in a burqini lathering her five-year-old with SPF 50” as a bad thing about Dubai, I think, isn’t that a fantastic sign of Dubai’s tolerance and diversity?

Right, rant over, I’m off to my Lambo’ to drive to a ‘seven-star’ hotel for a caviar facial…

I’ve called Dubai home on-and-off for 10 years. It’s introduced me to wonderful people, many cultures and has allowed me to expand my mind. I thank it for that.

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