Here’s a piece that caught my eye in the UK’s Daily Telegraph – echoing my sentiments pretty accurately about the United Arab Emirates, and in particular, Dubai. I’ll happily pay extra money for my ticket to see family downunder to avoid stopping over there:
Sterile and morally destitute Dubai shows what happens when you chase heavy pay cheques at the cost of all else, says Alex Proud. London, take note …
As the days draw in and the nights get colder, my thoughts turn to Dubai.
I hasten to add my thoughts do not turn to Dubai (or DOO-Boyyyy as many of its fans call it) as a potential vacation destination for the Proud family. Rather, I find myself thinking of it as an eternal, enduring mystery. Namely, why anyone would want to visit this ghastly place?
It’s not just the onset of autumn either. The other reason I’ve been thinking about Dubai is that the Saudis are getting all sorts of bad press at the moment. I despise Saudi Arabia. It’s a hideous, brutal, oil-rich theocracy that exports terrorism. But you know what? It really doesn’t really pretend to be anything else. You know where you stand with Saudi Arabia.
Dubai, on the other hand, markets itself as fun in the sun, a kind of Las Vegas on the Persian Gulf. Yet it has far more in common with Saudi Arabia than you’d imagine. Before you say, “But Alex, Dubai is the forward looking part of the Middle East that wants to engage with the world,” I invite you to consider the case of Marte Deborah Dalelv.
Dalelv is a Norwegian fashion designer who was on a business trip in Dubai in 2013. During an evening out, she was raped. She later reported her attack to the police. The authorities’ reaction? Ms Dalelv was charged with perjury, having extramarital sex and drinking alcohol. She received a 16-month jail sentence.
There was an international outcry over the case, and eventually Ms Dalelv was pardoned by Dubai’s rulers, almost certainly because of the bad PR. Except it wasn’t “bad” PR. It was accurate PR, and it made Dubai look like what it is: a nasty little theocracy in a shopping mall.