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Friday, June 20, 2008

Breaking News: Orientalist Dubai Dream Tour Shattered! (Part 2)

By Terry*
So, where were we? If you’re just joining us, see this post
about an Orientalist fantasy of an article on Dubai in The Sydney Morning Herald by an anonymous author who I'm calling 'Anon':

Anon writes:
* “The encampment is furnished with modern flush loos…”
Yes, they’re all the rage in Dubai now, the Sheikh apparently has a gold one! Clearly the author wanted to pee in a dark, smelly, open pit. Damn you, oil money!

* “Locals in traditional white dishsasha robes and headdress are commonly seen getting happily loaded on alcopops in hotel bars.”
Alcopops? Probably not a local. Common? Nope. And the robes are more commonly known as ‘dishdashas’ which means robe anyway, so Anon's said they’re wearing ‘robe robes’, but that’s a minor point an editor could have picked up. If there was one…

* “Men from neighbouring Saudi Arabia, which has a much more hard-line approach to liquor, frequently slip over the border for a quaff before driving home.”
Hard-line? It’s illegal in Saudi. And that’s a long way to drive home drunk from Dubai, a round trip of at least 800km (see this map.) Perhaps the author meant Bahrain where Saudis drive across the Johnny Walker Bridge, woops, I mean, King Fahd Causeway to imbibe. But the vision of drunk Saudis driving home all the way from Dubai would probably make a great road movie. Especially if they sang ‘99 bottles of beer on the wall’ in Arabic...

* “Like our ‘desert experience’, much of Dubai is essentially fake. Forty years ago, Dubai was a dusty fishing village on the banks of Dubai Creek.”
Clearly, Anon wanted it to stay like that so he could have an authentic Orientalist experience. How dare they build new ‘fake’ buildings. Damn you, oil money!

* “Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also prime minister, and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates, is estimated to have a personal wealth of US$16 billion. Yet he apparently has the common touch: his FaceBook site has 6995 registered fans.”
Clearly a lot more than Anon, but what’s the point?
Sheikh Mo also has his own website.

* “The sheikh has bankrolled some of the city's more fantastic constructions, such as the Burj Al Arab hotel - the only six-star hotel in the world - and the world's tallest building, the Burj Dubai, which is under construction.”
None of which is entirely true, and yet another ‘journalist’ gets the Burj Al Arab’s hotel rating wrong. Dubai has a five-star rating system at the moment. The Burj Al Arab is not classified although they claimed to be the world’s first ‘seven-star’ hotel. So Anon isn’t even close no matter which way you look at it.

* “I find myself wondering how New Zealand would spend the money if we suddenly had trillions of dollars injected into the economy: massive rugby stadiums in every suburb, perhaps?”
Really, did an editor – either in New Zealand or Australia – actually read this dribble? Did Anon even realise he typed this instead of just thought it?

And yes, indeed, if you can believe it, it gets even worse.

* Terry Carter is my husband and co-writer.


Alexander Santillanes said...

I think you showed exactly what was wrong with his thinking when you pointed out that he felt having an Egyptian performer was 'fake'. Why should it be fake to have a cosmopolitan, multinational population? It shows that he was expecting an isolated, 'untouched' culture.

This is the worst sort of travel writing. It reminds me of a photographer who came to Bangkok and was disgusted to see a modern city, and not the traditional 'Siam' he had dreamed of. Somehow he felt that was the fault of Thailand for not remaining 'traditional', and not his fault for having unfounded expectations. It takes a real arrogance and egotism to think you should be allowed to be a modern world-traveller, but people of other nations should remain primitive, isolated, and 'traditional'. -X

Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree. It's funny, but talk of 'Siam' always reminds me of 'The King and I' and Yul Brynner. Of course I had no expectation of that the first time I went to Bangkok, just great food! It delivered.

The funny thing is xander, I just saw a layout of a magazine story on Dubai that I contributed to and it was totally 'Orientalist' in its pictorial coverage, despite the piece being written as a general introduction. The photo editor clearly wanted to show the 'exotic' and nothing else.

Thanks for taking the time to read the story!