Dubai, I’m afraid we can’t be friends any longer – at the very least, I think it’s time we took a break. It’s not that I don’t like you – I really want to like you. We’ve always had our differences, but you’ve changed. In 2006 I wrote that my main concern with Dubai was its treatment of workers from the subcontinent.
Excess can either result in excitement or boredom, and Dubai seems to be successfully cultivating the latter. During the heady days of a decade ago, Dubai proved you could built something out of nothing. Now it seems to be about how much can be built out of nothing. The exclusivity of the mid-2000s seems to have dried up with the money, and in their place are washed up bogans in culturally and decade-inappropriate maxi-dresses, and ageing faux-intrepid short-wearing kangaroo-routeing men. The rash of unremarkable and indistinguishable shopping malls and other such ‘attractions’, each as ‘unique’ as the last, are breeding an ennui usually reserved for airport departure lounges.
This was always going to happen- the naïve excitement of 2006 was spurred on by an intelligent government masterplan to ensure Dubai received tourists, and therefore an income, after the oil ran out. The bittersweet truth is that the plan seems to be working; rather than a classy-but-slightly-crass Monaco-by-Arabia, the result is much more Las Vegas meets a gaudy Arabian Nights fantasy. And it’s not pretty.
I still return to Dubai often, as a result of my stopovers while travelling (I still love Emirates Airlines). But I now know what to expect… and for me, the magic has gone.