An A-to-Z of Dubai: A handy guide for lazy journos

EDIT – 22 March 2014: As this is a rather old post, some of the context of the time seems to have been lost. I wrote this post to mock the British press’s view of Dubai at the time – all the things listed below are the types of things that were being printed in the UK media – and are patently not true.

So – I am not making fun of Dubai, or Arabs, or anything else in the list. I am only making fun of the British press, which regularly comes out with this sort of rubbish.

Carry on…


As Dubai is back in the British press again, thanks to Liam Fox’s little escapade, it seems columnists with nothing better to do are having another pop at the emirate.

To save everyone time, here’s a little A-to-Z guide of those must-have “facts” any self-respecting op-ed writer has to squeeze into their piece.

If you can think of any more, or better, entries, feel free to post in the comments…


A-rabs: All Arab people are fabulously wealthy, tasteless, boorish, arrogant and drive expensive cars in the case of the men, or are covered head to toe in lavish burqas and abayas, etc, in the case of the women (unless they’re Lebanese, in which case it’s lipstick-and-jewellery time). Poor Arabs? Arabs living modest, sensible lives? It’s just a myth, innit.

Burj Khalifa: The tallest building in the world – and also a metaphor for Dubai’s greed/stupidity/arrogance/whatever. Aesthetics are secondary.

Construction: There was lots of it, but now everything has stopped, and Dubai’s skyline is haunted by the haunting sight of so many silent cranes (also haunted. By the ghosts of dead labourers). Remember: if anyone tells you about some new building that just opened, ignore them – IT’S A LIE.

Dirty (or Dark) Deeds: Along with a Mossad assassination, the shooting in the car park of a Chechen warlord, the murder of some Lebanese singer by her jealous Egyptian lover, a covered-up knifing in the Burj Al Arab and the continuing presence of unsavoury former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra, Dubai now welcomes a not-so-chance meeting between defence-industry bigwigs and a British Secretary of State for Defence. Ok, that last one is a bit crap, but it’s the best the Brits can do right now.

Excess: Dubai is ALL about excess, baby! The tallest, the fastest, the longest, the biggest – if it hasn’t got a superlative attached, Dubai isn’t interested.

Fast Cars: Everyone who’s anyone in Dubai has an absurdly fast car. It is a statutory requirement for Westerners to acquire an SUV and/or supercar within 7 days of starting work in Dubai, or they risk a daily beating by squads of locals in Lamborghinis. (Indians get a Dhs5-off voucher for a bicycle, or something – who cares, it’s not like they’re white. Or can read.)

Greed: Everyone in Dubai is on the make, just out for as much money as they can swindle out of everyone else. Wallets bulge with cash and people flee the country with suitcases stuffed with $100 bills.

Homes: If it’s not marble-tiled, gold-plated and larger than Buckingham Palace, then it isn’t a real Dubai home. Unless you’re…

Indian: Anyone who’s not Arab, Western, Filipino or African is an Indian. Or possibly Pakistani. (There’s no real difference, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought.) All Indians live 20 to a room, make a dollar a day, and have to wash using wet-wipes stolen from Chili’s.

Jews: No Jews allowed in Dubai – not after what they did in Palestine. (What was that again? I dunno, something about invading? Wait – all Jews are Israelis, right? Ok, good.)

(24) Karat Gold: Dubai is the City of Gold, and it is customary for all wealthy residents to buy at least 1 kilo a month, and then drape it over their persons.

Loss: In 2008 Dubai lost all its money after making some really stupid investments like giant palm-shaped islands and buildings that transform into giant robots (probably). No wonder they went broke – what morons! (Wasn’t there some sort of global financial crisis in 2008? No, you’re right, probably unrelated.)

Maktoum: The Maktoum family are rulers of Dubai. Hmm, maybe don’t piss them off too much personally – they might stop advertising.

New: Everything in Dubai is really new. The oldest building was put up in 1992. If it looks old, it’s probably fake. Or just falling down.

Overpriced: Everything is just SO expensive in Dubai! Hotel rooms are $2000 a night, and a meal out is five-figures minimum. (There’s still just the one hotel in Dubai, right?)

Planes: Dubai has an airline – it has lots of planes. All the other airlines hate it, because it’s stealing all their passengers. And eating their planes in mid-air. Probably.

Queer: Oh Emm Gee – Dubai is, like, SO un-gay-friendly! And, like, you can get locked up for it, like, what-EVER. Totally gross. (Yeah, that’s how gays talk. No, really – some of my best friends might be gay. You what? Gay bars, in Dubai? You’re having a laugh, you are…)

Racist: All the Arabs in Dubai are really racist – they make Indians lick their car clean and Filipinos work 28 hours a day mopping the floors and stuff. Just because they’re Indian and Filipino. Of course the Brits don’t WANT to be racist – but it’s really hard, when everyone else is. And, let’s face it, it’s just a bunch of foreigners, right?

Sex (On The Beach): Some mouthy bird and a bloke called Vince once had sex on the beach in Dubai and it was THE BIGGEST OUTRAGE EVER PERPETRATED IN THE HISTORY OF HISTORY. How dare they jail people having sex outdoors – that would never happen in the UK! And so what if she swore at the policeman and threw something at him – just high spirits, innit.

Trains: Dubai has a Metro thing – and all the funny foreign people think it’s the most amazing thing ever. God, how can they be so unsophisticated!

Ultra-Violet Rays: Everyone’s always tanning themselves in Dubai – especially the cast of EastEnders. Try to get a pic of that one with her tits falling out of her bikini.

Vacation: Remember, Brits – if you go to Dubai for your holidays, you’ll probably be arrested for walking down the street, minding your own business after hardly any drink at all. It’s an Islamic Theocracy, you know.

Workers: Oh, the poor, poor workers of Dubai – they’re basically slaves, you know. If only they could read or write and weren’t so stupid or smelly, they wouldn’t have got into this mess. Remember, only try to interview labourers in controlled situations – otherwise you could risk spooking them and set off a stampede. (Yes, they are a bit like cattle, aren’t they…)

X-Rated: Hookers! Lots of hookers! Hookers everywhere! Wayhey! (Hang on, what about the Islamic Theocracy thing? Well, no, I know it doesn’t have to make sense, but… Ok, ok, just wanted to point it out, no need to shout.)

Young: Everyone in Dubai is young. Old people aren’t allowed to stay. (Can I work in a Soylent Green reference here? Oh go on, please…)

Zzzz: Huh? What? Dubai’s in the news again? Oh, come on, haven’t we done that already? Fine – just make up a few quotes and steal something from that Johann Hari piece from a few years ago. That should be reliable enough.


  1. There is sarcasm and then there’s this. Fine line dear blogger. And this is a very ill-informed, biased and fairly silly post.

    • Hi Yasser – thanks for your view. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it. To be clear, these are the types of things the British media were saying about Dubai at the time – I thought they were ill-informed, biased and fairly silly, too.

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