View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Searching for the Soul of Dubai

Dropping in on Dubai
Travel writer for the popular Huffington Post, Andrea Vaucher, dropped in on Dubai in search of its soul.

Vaucher’s article is overwhelmingly negative and may fall into the genre of Dubai-bashing but there are some points from which UAE residents and tourist operators might learn, even if the writer’ stay and assessment was short and superficial.

Downside Dubai
These are some of the negative points Andrea Vaucher makes:
* Dubai does not have a soul
* It is totally lacking in authenticity
* Dubai has benefited little from city planning
* The city is smoggy and noisy
* Where is the Middle Eastern food? “I was there for three days before I even tasted Middle Eastern food.”
* There is zero tolerance for drinking and driving so Dubai diners and drivers Vaucher ate with did not imbibe a drop
* There is little that is old even in the old part of the city

Upside Dubai
* It is loads of fun
* Dubai is home to the most diverse and international communities
* High class international cuisine with a wide range of fine wines
* Many restaurants with sensational views
* The old Bastakiya district along the Dubai Creek where abras (wooden boats) crisscross appeared to the writer to be the only traditional part of Dubai
* The malls convey a sense of how liberal Dubai has become

Concluding Remarks
“Dubai is a crazy hard-to-define place.” “Las Vegas on steroids without the gambling.”

Some Implications
Here are some implications that we can draw from Vaucher’s experience and descriptions:
* Tourists generally long to see and engage in traditional Emirati culture, to visit old buildings and to taste Emirati food and drink.
* The indefinable nature of Dubai is not necessarily a problem or a negative thing for Emiratis but it is a challenge to identify more clearly the features of the UAE that are truly indigenous and to showcase these more explicitly and confidently to visitors.
* To Emiratize the tourism offerings would be a positive step for the Emirates.

To see some of the above points in context and to read the complete article, follow this link:
Andrea R Vaucher, Along for the Ride: Dubai, Huffington Post, 26 November 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: Spices in a Dubai souk. (Photo courtesy of HP at the above link)