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Breaking News: Ignorant Westerner Doesn’t Like Culture He Doesn’t Understand

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We read “Who in their right mind would visit Dubai?” in the Telegraph yesterday and at first laughed at the gall of this pompous git for lambasting a place he’d never been to.

But credit where credit is due, Alex Proud’s article managed to bring together every single over generalization and criticism of Dubai we’ve all heard countless times before in one short article. Null points for originality.


But after a serious editorial discussion….


We figured it was worth countering some of the rubbish and offering our readers an alternative view. Afterwards you can tell us whether you agree with him or us. Going beyond the ridiculousness of the claims, this debate is actually really important. Dubai is one of the world’s fastest growing cities, it’s going to have a bigger say in the future of the world than grey Europe and gridlocked America. A debate about the pros and cons of visiting or living in Dubai is worth getting stuck into.

The author, Alex Proud, from the Telegraph made some audacious claims…let me start from the top…

“Modern Slavery”

How is Dubai different from London? Was London not built by Jamaican slaves and colonial exploitation? When we drive through London we’re sickened by the riches in the vast collections that have been pillaged from across the Queen’s empire. And how is it different from America? Was the country not built on the back of African American slaves who were owned by their masters?

We agree the construction workers in Dubai have to work way too hard. We want more than anything for the rights of these workers to be better protected, when we hear of injustices we’re just as upset as you are. But if Mr Proud took some time to visit and speak to some construction workers, he too would understand there is another side to this. On paper it’s easy for a well fed westerner to look down on a system he doesn’t understand. Many of the laborers are working because there are no jobs at home, saving to build a house at home and will return there; providing education for their kids so they will have a better life… Is that not what the British did in the past? Worked hard so their kids could study and not be laborers? It’s too easy for Mr Proud to sit on a high horse and lampoon from an ivory tower, an ivory tower that was built on the backs of those without a wage.

He Thinks He Knows Us…

Proud then goes on to bamboozle people like me, the people who live in Dubai. He cleverly avoids using the derogatory term “chavs” but it is essentially what he means by the “brassy subset of the middle-classes…who drive SUVs with personalised plates… probably don’t have many books on the shelves”. What an intellectual snob. Reading books doesn’t mean you are a good person. Some of the hardest working and most honest people I’ve ever met don’t have fancy Oxford degrees or have libraries in their homes. Asian and Western workers have in fact migrated to Dubai in search of opportunity. Opportunities our home countries no longer provide.

Where We Stand On The Law

Proud highlights instances where the legal system in Dubai hasn’t been just and fair. We agree with him. The rape laws are truly horrendous. But on the other hand, I can also point to countless unbelievable miscarriages of justice in the UK where the government has treated its people terribly… and let’s not even get into how the UK government has treated the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Similarly, Dubai is way safer than the UK. Crime rates in Dubai are a lot lower than in Western countries.

He also goes to criticize Dubai rulers for not liking bad PR. Coming from a country run by spin doctors, that’s rich.


He further laments the “oppressive censorship”… As Peter Oborne (who resigned from the Telegraph because they were censoring his investigative stories about HSBC) will tell you, those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, my friend.

There’s More To Dubai Than Shopaholics

We’re a city of shopaholics, says Proud. That definitely makes a lot of sense to someone who’s never visited. But Mr Proud, we’d like to invite you over. If you actually leave the airport this time, you’ll see that Dubai is a melting pot of cultures. Arabic, Indian and Western. Sure some Westerners can be crass idiots, but if you head down to the creek with its lovely old abras, souks and cheap restaurants you’ll see a different side to Dubai. Bronze Age settlements et al – and to Wadi Bij, with its amazing topography, as well as old Dubai port.

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One of the claims that had us on the floor was his leader: the climate

Yes, indeed. The guy who lives between East Sussex and London tells Dubai that we’ve got an awful climate. I’d take Dubai’s climate over the UK any day. You can enjoy your fog, cold and rain. I’ll be sitting out in the sun and swimming at the beach.

He also wasn’t impressed by our carbon footprint

Proud also doesn’t like that we’re living in a desert and hence use air conditioning. But he himself lives in a cold country that uses central heating for at least half of the year. While lambasting the carbon footprint of us in Dubai, he then goes on to lambast upscale architecture. For a man high on reading books, this again is rich. If he was to do even the most basic research into our impact on the environment he would realize that urban density is a good thing for the environment. If our planet is to survive, we can’t all have gardens out the back.

He doesn’t like the shiny new buildings in London which he believes are built for rich foreigners, not “people like me or you”. Here the successful entrepreneur with multiple homes plays ‘the poor man’. What he fails to acknowledge is that the young workers in London are moving into new apartments in tall buildings as they can’t afford the two-storey red brick homes with gardens out the front, the likes of Mr Proud lives in.

It’s Over To You Now…

If we haven’t made it clear yet we don’t agree with the guy who’s never visited Dubai’s take on Dubai. The article is typical of a westerner looking down on “conservative Islamic culture”. It’s also the narrative of modern imperialism. Westerners, and governments, taking the moral high ground about human rights abuses, while profiting on the side. The British castigate countries like the UAE for human rights abuses yet spend all of its time trying to ‘free trade’ to allow companies from the UK to make profits in the same countries. This reeks of double standards.

Are we mad to live in Dubai? Or is Mr Proud a bigoted snob? Here are some of the responses we saw in response to Mr. Proud’s article on Twitter. What do you think?

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