Perceptions of Dubai: A City With No Soul?
It is a subject which has frequented the web and international newspapers – a great example is Germaine Greer’s article which appeared in the Guardian after her whistle stop tour of the city on board the local tourist bus – with many claiming that Dubai simply cannot compare with other international hubs due to its perceived lack of culture and relatively recent ascension to worldwide recognition. Although Dubai is determined to compete with other international cities, I find it slightly unfair that so many are so quick to deride every fault given the incredible successes that have been witnessed here over the last 30 years. To the best of my knowledge, few cities have progressed so rapidly or achieved the level of attention as Dubai has and, apart from the last year or so, was not only positive but was largely aspirational). The recent global economic crisis has undoubtedly exposed many of Dubai’s flaws. These range from placing priority on egotistical developments over sound and sustainable planning to the widely broadcast draconian laws relating to unemployment and bankruptcy. These mistakes, which could crudely be categorised as naive oversights are, in many ways, fairly typical of how Dubai currently operates. However,to dismiss Dubai as a destination or as a place to live is, in my opinion, shortsighted. Although natural resources allowed Dubai the initial capital to begin its expansion, a realisation that diversification was required to achieve long-term prosperity has led Dubai to create the vision of a tourist, business and trade centre like no other. In order to facilitate this, a huge number of expatriate workers and professionals has been required. The resulting population mix is heavily in favour of expatriates from all over the globe. This in itself gives Dubai an incredibly distinctive feel. In my experience, I have never been able to interact at both a social and professional level with such a variety of nationalities and individual expressions of culture. Essentially deciding whether a city possesses soul really depends on how you define the term. Dubai’s long and unique history as a key trading port between the East and West is often overlooked because of a lack of old architecture which is in abundance in other great cities like Paris, London or New York. However, the soul of Dubai in years gone by is another world away from its current situation. For me, Dubai’s culture and essence is of a place looking towards what they can create out of what they have been afforded. The beauty of Dubai stems from the fact that it is a city in transition. Whilst Dubai is by no means perfect, neither is the vision complete. Although this may not compare in many ways to established international cities, I do believe undoubtedly that it has a special and unique soul.