03 March, 2009

A rant that keeps surfacing on the web

Around the web I keep encountering this rant about Dubai. It's over the top, but people seem to want to believe it and to engage in a bit of schadenfreude.

Some of the rhetoric:
Short of opening a Radio Shack in an Amish town, Dubai is the world’s worst business idea, and there isn’t even any oil. Imagine proposing to build Vegas in a place where sex and drugs and rock and roll are an anathema. This is effectively the proposition that created Dubai - it was a stupid idea before the crash, and now it is dangerous.
Drugs may be an anathema, but what about sex and rock and roll?

Dubai is a place for the shallow and fickle. Tabloid celebrities and worn out sports stars are sponsored by swollen faced, botox injected, perma-tanned European property developers to encourage the type of people who are impressed by fame itself, rather than what originated it, to inhabit pastiche Mediterranean villas on fake islands. It's a grotesquely leveraged version of time-share where people are sold a life in the same way as being peddled a set of steak knives. Funny shaped towers smatter empty neighborhoods, based on designs with unsubtle, eye-catching envelopes but bland floor plans and churned out by the dozen by anonymous minions in brand name architects offices and signed by the boss, unseen, as they fly through the door. This architecture, a three dimensional solidified version of a synthesized musical jingle, consists of ever more preposterous gimmickry - an underwater, revolving, white leather fuck pad or a marina skyscraper with a product placement name that would normally only appeal to teenage boys....


the real nick said...

Bit over the top to be sure, but the description of Dubai's architecture is bang on the money.

alexander... said...

*sigh* yes, and what are the chances that M. Galbraith has never been to Dubai?

He was put right quite nicely by Tom Spender (Tom S) in the comments, though - don't you think?

Dubai Entrepreneur said...

And you're giving the post more weight by posting it here with a link even?

Thanks for the contribution.

One World Travels said...

I think so too ALexander. I was quite impressed with Tom's defence of Dubai and it's 'excesses'. I read the article and the entire discussion (having found the latter more interesting) and I am still following it!

- Casey Andrews

Anonymous said...

The second paragraph is, amusingly spot on though

John B. Chilton said...

I think it's useful to know there are those who love to hate Dubai.

I'm not one of those.

What I do want to know is why some Westerners would like to see Dubai fail. Is it just satisfaction in seeing the mighty fall? Is it because they think Dubai is an exercise in bad taste? Are the same ones who didn't want Dubai to have ownership of U.S. ports?

John B. Chilton said...

I don't think Tom S. would mind having his comment reprinted:

tom s : Feb 17, 2009 at 2:30 am

Nice rant - but way off the mark. Here’s the point: Dubai is not a “business idea” - it's a real place full of real people. The reason it is as it is is precisely BECAUSE there is no oil. If Dubai had unlimited oil it could sit back and be Saudi Arabia. Instead, it has successfully diversified away from oil in a daring and existentially vital bid to get to a point where they don't rely on oil revenues at all. As a result, it has developed a western-style economy which is totally screwed now in the same way as credit-card economies like the US/UK etc.

There’s plenty of vice in Dubai, even if it is rather charmless (as I imagine it is in Vegas). Every hotel has a bar full of Chinese/Djiboutian/Ukranian hookers, while the Moroccans, Syrians and Iranians are preferred by the rich Arabs and so have a higher status. There is also plenty of booze (although not much harder drugs). The key to understanding the place is to read between the lines rather than taking the letter of the law. The code of conduct is basically “do what you want - anything at all - but just don’t shout about it”. There are rules about what you do in public, but what you do in the privacy of your own home is between you and your conscience.

While westerners are pretty visible in Dubai and tend to be the main preoccupation of other westerners abroad (like the writer of this blog), Dubai is in fact vital for millions of other people in a region of pathetically badly-run countries. It offers jobs and opportunity to Arabs from economic basket cases like Egypt, Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territories as well as loads of Indians and Pakistanis and an investment environment which, while incredibly opaque, is far less risky than home - places like Iraq, Iran, Uzbekistan or Ukraine. The place is also a vital node on the global transport map between Europe and Asia. Westerners may well leave, especially if the place introduces tax, but that doesn’t mean Dubai is dead. Far from it.

Dubai may not boast Parisian sophistication, and its own hubris has set it up as a target for opprobrium now things aren’t going so well, but I am still getting quite sick of all this nasty schadenfreude by western journalists who show up in Dubai, do an open-top bus tour for a couple of hours, and sneer that the place is a s---hole and a “bad business idea”. It is not charming, but it has broken the pervasive Arab taboo of not achieving anything at all and for that it deserves recognition. And I can’t help feeling that it is exactly that that makes some foreign commentators uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

"Dubai" was a bad idea?

God, Im sorry that a city that has been here for DECADES before Burj Dubai or City Center was a bad idea at the time traders decided that it served it's place in their routes.

This is played out, and it is not only played out, but also silly.

Because, sadly, as I have said before. Abu Dhabi will not let it's bratty little daughter Dubai to fall too much.

Anonymous said...

Every hotel has a bar full of Chinese/Djiboutian/Ukranian hookers, while the Moroccans, Syrians and Iranians are preferred by the rich Arabs and so have a higher status. There is also plenty of booze (although not much harder drugs).

And the Lebanese? lol. Me likes them! but dont have that kind of money.

My birthday is coming up though... if you wanna help a "brothah" out and get me a night with one!

Yeah, Im WAY too bored today. And Im only 1/2 kidding.

Kyle said...

Is it because they think Dubai is an exercise in bad taste?


More so, a sitting duck!

This also reminds me of an earlier thread where Mr. Peter Hellyer joined in to debunk allegations made by Dr. Christopher Davidson in his book: Dubai, The Vulnerability of Success.

As for this article & its comments, it's just another continuing episode of prosecution versus defense with no verdict in sight.

Everybody can go round and round with this discussion. It's not the first, it won't be the last but what matters most is what those who've been targeted would have learnt from such discussions. At this juncture, I'd say jack but then again, I could be wrong!

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