Why I take serious issue with the latest Dubai-bashing article...
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.
The way she completely misses the middle class out
Also, she’s missing out quite a large group between #2 and #3.
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…
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.