On March 20, The Guardian (UK) ran an opinion piece by Simon Jenkins, which essentially trashed Dubai.
The inflammatory editorial included inaccuracies and innuendo, and not a lot of fact or substance to support Simon’s dire predictions that what has been one of the Middle East’s fastest growing financial, tourism and real estate centers will, according to him:
one day be seen as a punctuation mark on the architectural follies of the past half century.
Jenkins goes on to say:
….the towers of Dubai will become casualties not of human greed but of architectural folly. Their lifts and services, expensive to maintain, will collapse. Their colossal facades will shed glass. Sand will drift round their trunkless legs. Animals will inhabit their basements.
Thousands of residential properties, if occupied at all, will be squatted by a migratory poor, like the hotel towers of the Spanish littoral or Corbusier’s blockhouses of Chandigarh in India. Refugees will colonise the camps where Indian workers have lived as they built Dubai. Gangs will seize the gated estates and random anarchy will rule the soulless boulevards.
Surely you jest Mr. Jenkins?
Of the 170+ comments generated by the piece, many, including my own, took offense to the offhand and irresponsible way in which Mr. Jenkins voiced his opinion, seemingly without either proper research or the slightest understanding of the place about which he spewed such vitriol.
Even comments by some who claimed not to be Dubai lovers eschewed the tone of the Jenkins editorial. One comment read thus for example:
I say this as no great fan of Dubai, but this article reeks of intellectual snobbery, Colonial-type arrogance and is, overall, hideously if not shamefully pompous.
The Economist’s travel blog (Gulliver), quoted Jenkins’ op-ed piece the following day , and referred to similar comments from a February article by Elizabeth Farrelly which appeared in both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Brisbane Times.
Farelly had the temerity to write in her opening paragraph that she:
…wanted to write on Dubai as a ruin. Not that I’ve been there, and one does normally avoid slagging places one hasn’t actually eyeballed. But Dubai is the folly of our time, the ultimate money-bubble mirage. So reality is hardly the point and Dubai, I figured, was fair game.
Please! “Not that I’ve ever been there”?!?
She then goes on to “slag” Dubai at length, stating as fact the same urban myths about cranes and cars that I debunked with an hour’s worth of research a couple of months ago, the results of which I posted on this very blog at How High is High in Dubai and Taxi Drivers Keep Their Ears to the Ground.
Jenkins and Farrelly are certainly entitled to their opinions. No quarrel with them on that.
An Informed Opinion, Instead of a Blind Guess
But as journalists, they have a professional responsibility to back up those opinions with research that supports their views, and not to perpetuate misinformation and urban myths that have little to do with truth and reality.
State your opinion if you like, but stick to the facts and leave out the fiction.
Yes, things have slowed down in Dubai over the last year, just as I hear they have around the world. It’s hardly surprising. This is after all, a worldwide recession. No place, not even Dubai, is immune.
Is it any worse here than anywhere else, I don’t think so. Will it get any worse here than anywhere else? Maybe. Maybe not.
I’m not an expert. I’m not an economist, or a financier. I don’t write for The Guardian, or the Sydney Morning Herald. Not yet anyway.
I’m just one woman who has a small Dubai-based communications business, one amazing website and an opinion.
But surely my opinion, here on the ground in Dubai, in the shadow of the world’s tallest building, is as valid, if not more so, than those of people who are several thousand miles away, and at least one of whom, by her own admission, hasn’t even bothered to see the place for herself before stating hers.