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01 January, 2006

Mirror image of Dubai

A happy new year throughout the sandlands and beyond, as the UK Mirror encourages yet more hordes of Brits to enjoy the delights of Dubai:

"Ask any long-haul air crew about their favourite layover destination and they'll tell you that top of their list is Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates."

Is it really? Any air crews reading this, do feel free to check in with your comments. But what a fascinating range of alternately obscure, overpriced or seedy venues the Mirror suggests:

"The atmospheric Night Souk features stores selling fashion, accessories, electronic gadgets, cosmetics, jewellery, watches and a range of exotic goods such as Persian carpets and spices.

"Open from 8pm to 3am, this is the hottest place to shop in the coolest part of the day, while the newly-revamped Global Village next door brings together music, dance, arts, handicrafts, theatre and cuisine and is a much sought-after destination."

Are there Persian carpets at the Night Souq? From memory, it offers discounted, outdated consumer electronics and factory clearance jeans. And "next door" to the Global Village? Yes, if you live on a remote ice station in Antarctica and your nearest neighbours are 30 miles away.

"Lots of tour firms offer 4x4 desert safaris, visiting bedouin camps" - bedouin camps, yes, with plumbed toilets, alcohol, resident henna ladies and belly-dancers, and only two ancient, over-decorated camels per tribe. "Golf vies with horse racing as Dubai's second religion - Islam, of course, being the first." - a statement of both questionable taste and accuracy: money is Dubai's second religion. "Falling off your windsurfer is like plunging into a warm bath" - not in winter, unless you're the Antarctica family again, and your water heater is broken. "And despite all the offshore building work - they are currently constructing the Palm, a huge offshore island - the sea is surprisingly clear" - is it? Certainly compared to the pristine turquoise glass of four years ago, before the dredging started, it isn't.

But for the average Mirror-reader-coming-to-Dubai, there are at least a couple of pieces of useful advice:

"If you're after something more basic, there are three McDonald's in Dubai as well as Burger Kings, KFCs and a couple of Pizza Huts."

"Cyclone The Club, in downtown Dubai, is one of the biggest venues in the Middle East."

Mirror readers will be delighted to find out precisely what it is "big" for.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first business trip to Dubai consited of being treated to a day of client visiting which included *GASP* lunch at KFC, dinner at Irish Village ( fish and chips ordered for me) and a shock surprise visit to the Cyclone when I asked if there was any local entertainment to fill in the evening.
Being female I hesitated..made it as far as the Id check for my "nationality". I am Canadian but my friend had muttered something about me not looking TOO Russian ( I clued in later). At that point I took a pass on the whole experience. Bit too much of a freak show for me, and I have seen my share of life, but this started to border on sureal.
(Does anyone else see the elephant in the room?)

01 January, 2006 05:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Been there done that and don't miss it one bit since I left it.

Whatever seems to attract people and make them stay is often beyond my capacity of understanding.

Locals are the most abnoxious bunch after the Kuwaitis, but with even less education.

Total racism even the indian shopkeeper can be bigotted.

Let's see how far the bubble will keep inflating itself with all this second class PR for the blind before it bursts...

01 January, 2006 09:11  
Blogger Al Ain Taxi said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

01 January, 2006 09:12  
Blogger Al Ain Taxi said...

SD, I completely agree with you about the state of the sea. I used to be proud to take visitors to Jumeirah Beach Park, despite the ciggy butts. Now I say " It used to be really nice until they spoilt the view out to sea" I tell them how you could watch a sunset without the silhouette of a bulldozer in the way.

These days I take them to Al Mamzar instead, the centre 'bay'...

Yes, I'm too broke to use one of the hotel beaches plus the views no better from them either!

01 January, 2006 09:16  
Blogger flamin said...

loooooooooooooooooooooooooool. every other place in dubai these days is 'big' for all the wrong (and shady) reasons :P

01 January, 2006 10:41  
Blogger snow white said...

Well, looks like Dubai's really put itself on the map for the right reasons ... Which is worse, to be known as the place for fake Gucgi (sic) bags and Rollex watches, or the place that everyone's heard of for building islands and snow domes? In retrospect, definitely the latter. Mind you, says a lot about Mirror readers.

01 January, 2006 14:14  
Blogger CG said...

19 McDonalds in Dubai alone (not 3)
10 pizza huts (a couple?)

These were easy facts to verify, along with one trip to the Cyclone.
What a crock of crap the article is.

01 January, 2006 14:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like the piece was plagiarized, or the writer hasn't been here in ages, or the writer was drunk when he was here, or the writer was high when he wrote it.

And don't get me started again on the sea or the pollution. Sounds like more fluff and no substance...once again.

01 January, 2006 15:43  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

Resident belly-dancers who are from Uzbekistan, I might add.

This article is aimed straight at you average Mirror reader, which speaks volumes about their readership.

01 January, 2006 15:47  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A typical expat 'bitching' post and even better comments. Dubai is so dreadful these days - thats y the Westners are flocking in here

01 January, 2006 18:39  
Blogger kingfisher said...

I am a long haul aircrew guy - Airbus A340. Dubai is not one of our favourite nightstops at all. It kind of sucks - everything is overrated and overpriced. I recently skied at Ski Dubai on a stop - pretty tacky, though admittedly a gr8 feature for those who can't get close to snow.

The ocean is OK - there is a dearth of public access. We stay way out of town, near Jebel Ali free Zone and port. The water is OK, though it is dirty with garbage from local shipping and other marine users like the gas rigs... I wouldn't want to live downwind of all that crap spewing into the sky 24 hours per day.

Nice place to visit... ossasionally. I don't care for Cyclone... been there twice. I can see that it's good for Dubai though. I still like my tail for free - and isn't that what Ek cabin crew are for?

01 January, 2006 19:16  
Blogger snow white said...

Yup, according to Dubai legend, there are several ways of getting frequent flyer miles on Emirates - and it's not just through a Skywards card.... Bless those trolley dollies, saving the rest of us from putting out!

02 January, 2006 00:49  
Blogger Mr Smith said...

it appears there are already more than enough 'mirror reading' tourists here in Dubai, why not just go the whole 9 yards and get the discerning sun readers over as well, a little piece of the 'Costa del Sol' set in Dubai, its already started .....

As a Brit expat (though not arriving here from UK directly), Im saddened to see that Dubai really is trying to attract the average Mirror reader ... I s'pose money is the driver and not keeping a traditional or arabic feel to Dubayy but to attract any & all who will spend spend spend in its over glitz'd malls & tacky english bars & seedy nightclubs.

02 January, 2006 10:01  
Blogger Slagothor said...

A few months ago I was having a conversation with somebody, and I mentioned that if Dubai wants to meet their goal of attracting 60 million visitors by 2012 or whatever, they're gonna have to go downscale, because there just aren't that many wealthy tourists in the world, and besides, many parts of the world are fighting over them.

The other party in the conversation was adamant that Dubai would stick only to "upmarket" tourism. But this article looks like a sign that Dubai will be marketed to the lager louts pretty soon. How long before EasyJet starts flying here?

And if the locals complained about whiny expats and tacky tourists before, well, you ain't seen nothin' yet, as the saying goes.

02 January, 2006 15:19  
Blogger secretdubai said...

slagothor: I totally agree. At the end of the day, repeat tourism - which means the lower-end of the package market - is their only hope for sustaining huge numbers. Because anyone more discerning isn't going to come back year after year, when the world has things like Macchu Picchu (sp?), the Greek Isles, the Carribean, Sydney Opera House, Las Vegas, The Great Wall of China, Petra, Paris, the Mediterranean, etc.

Dubai is a one-off novelty break, or possibly an Asian travellers' stop-over (one night max for tax free shopping once you've already seen the place properly).

The concern I have about theme parks is that - at least when I was a child - they tended to be a once in a lifetime "treat" kind of holiday: a family would go once to Florida when their kids were youngish, but after that it was generally back to France/Spain etc.

The biggest myth I keep hearing is the "one billion consumers" (ie including the subcontinent) - just how many of those people are a dollar a day type? I would hazard a guess that there are less than fifty million people in the whole subcon region - if that - who can afford to stay at upmarket Dubai hotels. I could be wrong, but when you consider that Dh400-a-month labourers are among the lower middle classes there, educating their kids etc, definitely not the "poor" at any rate - it seems highly unlikely that the subcontinent is going to provide much tourism moolah.

And then there's the weather. Dubai's peak weather is during winter, when Northern Hemispherers only get a two-week or so school break. The two-month summer holiday really is too hot for a lot of children and adults. Yes - there are some heat freaks that bear it - but at least in Spain you can dine al fresco at night, go for walks, etc.

Plus the booze is a whack cheaper ;)

02 January, 2006 15:32  
Blogger snow white said...

Of course, with the predominance of air-conditioned malls, chilled pools and covered activities, Dubai's tourist "offering" could be considered the same year in year out. After all, if you come for the shopping, the heat wouldn't bother you as much as if you wanted to walk, and see culture, like in Italy for example.

03 January, 2006 08:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'if you wanted to walk, and see culture'

That'll be because they have some.

03 January, 2006 17:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Culture's definition is: "The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought." (source: So, if you are an idiot enough to say that any group of people have no culture, you ... well, nothing really is to be said there.

I had Arab friends when we were in the States whining about how Americans have no culture. Expats here bitching about how the UAE has no culture.. what do you think culture is? A European thing? Jeez.

slagothor, you got it! Dubai _will_ adapt though. You don't build a name capitalizing on the middle class. You build a name by mobilizing the upper class with all their money. The middle class looks up to the upper class, hoping to get a piece of the action. Then, Dubai would start offering more to the other classes. I think they have it right.

Theme parks, SD, are not a once-in-a-life-time thing. They are however, not very frequent (yearly, etc.). Really, for a Middle Eastern family, it would still be considerably cheaper for me to come to Dubai than to go to Spain or Italy. Cheaper alcohol or not. Of course, for me, personally, I've been eying a tour around Western Europe for a few years now ;)

03 January, 2006 20:30  
Blogger Garthicus said...

Ahh the Mirror, fantastic stuff. Imagine the chavs throughout the UK and Ireland reading that article and buying a cheap flight over with promise of 'Night Souqs' and Cyclone. Fantastic, perhaps costal Spain will become a nice classy place to go now that the Chavs are on their way to Dubai!!!

04 January, 2006 00:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mmmm ... do I detect a hint of snobbery from our desperate Dubai media hack?

What chance would you ever get of working for the Mirror, anyway??!!

04 January, 2006 20:53  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Mmmm ... do I detect a hint of snobbery from our desperate Dubai media hack?

No - I love the Mirror and Sun - I'm a 100% tabloid fan. Snobbery against chavvy lager-swilling Brits, yes. They give us polite, Bateel date champagne-sipping Brits a bad name.

04 January, 2006 21:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

for those of you waiting for the dubai bubble to burst you should know that dubai's economy is tied to the us dollar and if dubai's economy flops then usa must be having some major economic disasters. anyway by the time the iraqis are done with america and her coalition, the shia south will control the smaller gulf states, and no westerner will dare set foot here. why do u think iran's top guy has been so emboldened! at least the traffic will be gone lol.

05 January, 2006 13:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been working for a tourism agency in Dubai for quite a while, I had them all: rich and poor Brits, those happy to stay at the Burj as those happy to stay at the Oasis beach hotel, or at the Gulf Inn, for what it matters.
The do come all here for the booze, they do come all here when Spain get boring, when Italy is too messy, when they've been to Egypt twice. When it's about being "exhotic" with an "excellent service", I guess they don't know what they talking about. They find the food to be "absolutely fabolous, and cheap, too!" Why is that the Brits write the restaurant reviews in this damn country? And I did personally saved some on them (many of them) from purchasing a property here. They don't know how summer is. When they know, they just want to be elsewhere.

05 January, 2006 21:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if Dubai will end up like Thailand. Dirty and destroyed from all the tourism with a handful of high-end resorts.

Prostitution and drugs, cheap copy handbags and wallets, taxed eletronics and a few entertainments. I guess, we also have the work-crowd too.

I also think at this stage, since we have los Sheikh Maktoum and Sheikh Zayed, who were the glue that kept everything running smoothly, maybe Dubai's time is over...

05 January, 2006 22:07  
Blogger haji-o-matic said...

Well if you don't like the Cyclone there's alway the York Int'l.... Hahahhahahahaaa

06 January, 2006 17:13  
Blogger Nuppo said...

I have never been to the Cyclone (i wish i had gotten a fils every time somebody told me about that place though) but I have been "invited" to another nice place in the vicinity of the Burjuman mall - it is the place where the traditional uzbeki bellidancers (dayjob - desert safari) spent their nights and ask innoncent guys me if "they want girrrlfrriend". Nice to know such places exist...but really not nice to be advertised in any newspaper.

As to Culture - an european invention??? Well, I would never say that the local population does not a culture, they do have one but Dubai as a city lacks culture, it is a new city. I do see a lot of America in UAE: the malls, the fast food (by the way KFC should be banned for being inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates), the shop till u drop attitude, the cars that are driven here (automatic gears,SUVs...), mainstream american movies...UAE is definitely closer to US than to Europe - which is neither bad nor good, I guess.

Dubai is a huge Disney Land and living in a theme park is expensive. Theme parks do not usually attract the richest tourists.

I have been here for a couple of years and from time to time I consider going back to Mainland Europe ( i am not a brit)...but then Dubai is also addictive and who will complain about 25°C in January when my european friends freeze their asses off...

10 January, 2006 10:28  
Blogger Nuppo said...

oooopps sorry for that double post...first time for me.

10 January, 2006 10:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Visited Dubai in Spring 2000. Most creative, fascinating modern architecture! Shieks sitting at Starbucks! KFC in EVERY neighborhood and McDonald's nutritional info touts McD's as being very healthy and served in many UAE hospitals! Gold market was tantalizing. Most fascintaing mix of the old and the new. From total muslim cover to bikinis, bare midriffs and pierced navels for the ladies. Pick your poison, all is available here.

24 June, 2006 07:59  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in dubai may 2007. I stayed there for 2 months because I heard so many things about it. The fact is, dubai isn't what you see on the media, it is all plastic and the locals there act like Gods. I heard a dubai local say to another non-local Arab to shut up or go back home. I was then given the eye as if what was said went for everyone at the restaurant. All the locals there drive crazy while everyone else seems to stop when there is a red light and respect the other drivers. It seems that the locals in dubai think they are better than all the other non-locals even though they can't make a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. I'll never go back to dubai or the uae again and don't recommend it to anyone.

29 July, 2007 00:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to sharjah, which is a little city right next to dubai. I was told there to go home. I replied: Well, would you like me to take all my troops that are protecting you with me or should they stay??
the thick overweight woman walked away while running her mouth as she left elephant sized footprints behind...
what the locals in the UAE don't understand is that the help of foreigners is necessary for their country to survive..but no they would rather just play Gods...
Are you Kidding me !!?

29 July, 2007 00:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the life of me I can't see the fascination in Dubai. The whole world now has indoor shopping malls, you can get high fashion in every corner of the globe. Some Arabs decry the westernization of their culture, but even Dubai is taking excess to an excess. An indoor ski resort? A fake palm shaped island? Porsches flying about without control in between shopping malls and luxury hotels? Certainly they can spend their foreign-received money on something for the betterment of their region, not just a plastic rip off of Beverly Hills, Monte Carlo or Holland Park. I'd rather visit California, Italy or stay in Britain any day. At least we don't import labor and pay scandalous wages to the slaves. That, and the weather in those other places puts Dubai's to shame.

11 August, 2007 21:29  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a So-called Islamic state all the things like cyclone- whore house.. which is essentially explotation of women should be treated Islamically..i.e not allowed. And so should all non-Islamic things...e.g Alcohol consumption, sale, import/export. I understand there are non-muslims there but this then is Hypocrisy from the Muslims... and hypocritic Muslim is like venom. I have a great deal invested in UAE, but i would never raise my family there, and im from uk!! at least here my children wont get confused what Islam is as over there they may accept certain things to be Islamic and acceptable which they are clearly NOT!
Sorry rant over :-)

23 February, 2008 10:37  

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