At least we are not Dubai

Among all the gloom about our country, we tend to forget the richness and the diversity of our cities and culture. We have a lot to achieve, but we overlook a lot more that we possess. George Fulton expresses his disdain for Dubai, a ritzy burgeoning middle eastern city that portrays itself as a coastal quasi-western city of choice for businesses and tourists. We may not fully agree with George’s assessment of Dubai as just a glamorous and materialistic cosmopolitan. Yet his comparison of Karachi or Lahore (with their rich culture, traditions, intelligentsia, linguistic pluraity and democracy) with a drab city (run by an autocratic dynasty and inhabited by empty fops looking for relatively quick riches) do ring a loud bell. (AZW)

 

 

By George Fulton, The Express Tribune

http://tribune.com.pk/story/7950/at-least-we-are-not-dubai/

We haven’t got a lot to be thankful for these days in Pakistan.

But at least we are not Dubai.

Fed up with loadshedding, bombs, and TV cynicism pervading Pakistan, I recently escaped to Dubai for a holiday. Big mistake. Huge. Ten days later I returned, gasping for Karachi’s polluted, but far sweeter, air. Dubai may have the world’s tallest building and the world’s largest shopping mall, but it also has the world’s tiniest soul. It’s a plastic city built in steel and glass.

It has imported all the worst aspects of western culture (excessive consumption, environmental defilement) without importing any of its benefits (democracy, art). This is a city designed for instant gratification a hedonistic paradise for gluttons to indulge in fast food, fast living and fast women. It’s Las Vegas in a dish dash. You want to eat a gold leaf date? Munch away.

You want to drink a Dhs 3,000 bottle of champagne? Bottoms up. You want a UN selection of hookers at your fingertips? Tres bien. Let’s start with the malls. These cathedrals of capitalism, these mosques of materialism are mausoleums of the living dead. Slack jawed zombies roam around consuming food, clothes and electronics in a desperate attempt to fill the emptiness of their existence.

Whilst at the Mall of the Emirates the azan goes off. Nobody appears to move to the prayer room; everyone’s too busy performing sajda before Stella McCartney, genuflecting before Gucci, and prostrating themselves at Prada. With Dubai, one recalls F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

The people are modern day Gatsbys, buying shirts that they will never wear and books they will never read. Like Fitzgerald’s roaring 20s America, Dubai is a moral failure a society obsessed with wealth and status. Everyone is trying to keep up with the Jones’ or the Javaids. You see the goras with their perma-tans, streaked highlights and their flabby cleavages.

The upwardly mobile South Asian man prances around wearing a silly shirt with a large picture of a polo player on a horse, whilst their women wear oversized sunglasses and carry oversized handbags. And the Arabs walk about with enough gold bling to blind you at ten paces. But not everything that glitters is gold. And Dubai is not only morally bankrupt it is also financially bankrupt.

Lately, Dubai, and its ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Maktoum have been compared to another piece of literature — Percy Shelley’s famous poem Ozymandias, which illustrates the inevitable decline of all leaders and the empires they build. Shelley finishes it thus: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains.

Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away With $80b of debt and a stock and property market that has tanked, the comparisons with Ozymandias are apt. Abu Dhabi may have bailed them out but can Dubai survive as a regional hub in the long-term? Or will this city of hubris built on sand and folly sink back into the dunes a desert mirage that evaporates once the public relations people, the speculators and the tourists disappear?

So for all you naysayers that bemoan Pakistan and its numerous problems please temper your pessimism. Take time to celebrate our cultural, religious, linguistic plurality and richness. Stop the cynicism coursing through your corroded veins. For all its inadequacies, at least we have a democracy.

For all its irresponsibility, at least we have a robust media. For all the police corruption, at least we are not a police state. For all our littering, at least we have paper wallahs. Remind yourself that at least we have a heart. At least we have a soul. At least we are not Dubai.

16 Comments

Filed under ancient civilisations, Architecture, culture, Democracy, Karachi, Lahore, New Writers, Pakistan, Politics, public policy, Society, UAE

16 responses to “At least we are not Dubai

  1. Najma Naizi

    Dubai a copy of sin city was built on the backs of poor hourly laborers from India* Pakistan*Bangladesh. The rich Arabs tend to help their Muslim brothers by using their hard labor and paying them with wages which would be considered slave pay.
    But yet there is little or no outrage to the corrupt Arabs that have built a playground for the rich.
    ALL PEOPLE should boycott this “garden of evil” since it only benefits the rich corrupt Arabs and destroys the poor who built it.

  2. Anwar

    Welcome to Sheikhyland…

  3. muhammad nadeem

    why doesn’t the media cover the targetted murders of punjabis in balochistan.those who have lived there for decades,are serving as teachers,doctors are deliberately targetted because of their ethnicity.all the anchors raise hue and cry if any balochs get killed,but very deliberately avoid mentioning the deliberate killings of punjabis in balochistan.the media is busy projecting just one side of the story.in today’s pakistan ,it seems being of punjabi origin is the biggest sin:you’ll be murdered but no one will report or condemn it.

  4. Mustafa Shaban

    I agree with this article to a certain extent, Dubai is very artificial and its got major problems. Good article, the author is correct. There is also a counter article presented titled Atleast we are Dubai. Another article is by Johann Hari in Independant or Guardian (usually confuse the two) called the Dark Side of Dubai, its a brilliant article.

  5. Dubai has a Peaceful life, wish we were Dubai!

  6. Vajra


    These cathedrals of capitalism, these mosques of materialism are mausoleums of the living dead. Slack jawed zombies roam around consuming food, clothes and electronics in a desperate attempt to fill the emptiness of their existence.


    Dubai has a Peaceful life, wish we were Dubai!

    Indeed.😀

  7. It is interesting to note how much of the soul of Indian cities (and I presume South Asian cities in general) is really generated by the poor, lower middle classes, through both economic and cultural activities.

    If I think about my own hometown, Mumbai, most Mumbaikars would agree that its soul comes from people’s ‘get on with it attitude’, Bollywood and Marathi drama industries and the hugely diverse cuisine and religious festivals.

    It occurs to me that most of these are there mostly because of the poor and lower middle classes. Although not usually true today, most Bollywood stars of yesteryears (actors, singers etc.) either were or came to Mumbai as part of the underclass. The stalls with the diverse cuisines are operated mostly by the poor. And the festivals are celebrated with the most gusto in the poorer bastis.

    Unfortunately, they are also the most prone to religious riots, nefarious politicians/officials and shoddy governance. Why are there water shortages in a city that gets a 100 inches of rains and has (or had) numerous lakes and rivers ? The elite and the middle class (both consumers and supporters of the soul) either exploit or stand by quietly.

    I would say that if Dubai lacks a soul, it is due to the fact that it does not allow its own poor (the poor from other Arab countries) to settle there. Instead it prefers either the elite or skilled from across the world, or the poor from South Asia, who are exploited and cannot hope to call the place their own.

  8. Vajra

    @Vikram

    From anecdotal accounts of the great Pakistani cities, especially Karachi and Lahore, your perceptive analysis probably applies with very little change to them as well. Bciv should be able to comment on this, at least with regard to Lahore, along with a host of others, and I am sure Karachi will have its experts with similar stories. In fact, if you have come across that other very fine blog-site All Things Pakistan, you will probably quickly get corroboration of your hypothesis.

    That’s why Mumbai’s periodic ‘de-slumming’ exercises are so alarming; they are totalitarian efforts and wholly anti-people.

  9. AZW

    I agree with this article to a certain extent, Dubai is very artificial and its got major problems. Good article, the author is correct. There is also a counter article presented titled Atleast we are Dubai. Another article is by Johann Hari in Independant or Guardian (usually confuse the two) called the Dark Side of Dubai, its a brilliant article

    MS:

    Can you please post the two articles’ links here in the comments section. Thanks.

  10. karun

    was it Deng Xiaoping who said “being Rich is glorious” .
    Look whr China has reached with this basic Mantra. Hope pakistan takes a leaf out of it.

  11. Fazal Jaswal

    Yes, I second author. Dubai is good with you till the time you have money, good business or work there. Time has gone when Dubai was famous in supporting the labourers. Now this city is for one who can spend more and more.
    The moment, you are in crisis, Dubai does not belong to you any more. No one would be ready to see you. It is a material world. But in our South Asian cities, if you have lost you work, money, business you have not lost every thing but if the same case in Dubai….you are gone

  12. @ vajra

    That’s why Mumbai’s periodic ‘de-slumming’ exercises are so alarming; they are totalitarian efforts and wholly anti-people.

    I agree wholeheartedly. In fact, I have been trying to develop a notion of urban land reform in this context. If we think about the cruel economies of rural India, there are many parallels in the urban centres as well.

  13. Mustafa Shaban

    @ I have posted the links, please read the other articles, quite interesting.

  14. AZW

    Mustafa:

    Great article, especially the Independent one. Reading it gives me an uneasy feeling. When it seems too good to be true, it is almost always too good to be true.

    Cities are renowned due to their common masses, and Dubai seems nothing but an artificial construct based on a class ridden society governed by an autocratic ruler who borrows heavily to create his fantacized vision. Debt fuelled crisis are always pernicious and Dubai seems like a disaster waiting to happen. I fear it will become an example of exactly how a world class city should never ought to be.

  15. vajra and others, this video gives us an example of the ‘soul’ of Mumbai.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8470603.stm

    Note that all the cooks and workers are from the lower middle or poor classes. Most of the consumers are from the lower middle and middle classes.