Very Good Sentences: A Tourist Looks in on the U.A.E. Edition

Ben is there now:

I visited the UAE for the first time last November, and found it fascinating. It was kind of like Las Vegas on steroids, minus the slutty clothing.

…It’s like Disney World for adults, with the biggest and most expensive of everything. And what I also find fascinating about the UAE is how international it is. It’s the only place outside of the US or Germany where people don’t automatically assume I’m a visitor, because it’s a country full of temporary residents. While the US might be a “melting pot,” the UAE is a salad bowl, with all kinds of cultures that keep to themselves.

I’ll be making my first visit there shortly as well and look forward to adding my own thoughts. Until then I’m strangely fascinated by takes like this.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I would seperate out Dubai – which is Vegas like – with the rest of the Emirates. Would be nice to see a review that gets a bit further than a pic of a suite and delves more in to something of the culture or environment. If visiting UAE, worth taking a little time to visit Oman for a sense of contrast. Oman is favored by tourists because less affected by oil money.

  2. Sort of surprised that gleff hasn’t been to DXB. I didn’t much care for the place a couple decades ago and still don’t find it to be for me, except as a convenient transit to minimize nighttime transit stays in South Asian cities and to meet up with friends or family in the region.

    Dubai doesn’t have much oil itself.. What oil money it had has largely been spent to such extent that oil-rich Abu Dhabi had to bail out Dubai a few years ago and propped it up before and still. Most of the UAE’s emirates aren’t oil-rich either but the country as a whole has a large percentage of its citizens who are millionaires in US dollar terms because of what Dubai and Abu Dhabi have done for them: spread the natural resource wealth in various (uneven) ways; enabled them to live off the fruits of low cost labor and/or sweet heart contracts; and made good use of a good geographical location for transport/shipping services.

  3. I would prefer your thoughts about the sentence following your quote “But here’s what’s depressing about the UAE — it’s the first place I’ve honestly felt sorry for the people serving me, be it in a restaurant, hotel, taxi, or elsewhere.”
    Life’s different from a Hyatt/SPG suite. But then again, who goes on vacation to explore the world of imported labor? That would be a new take on Wallraff’s approach.

  4. I first visited Dubai in 1979 when the airport was essentially a bus station with Duty Free shopping and Jumeirah was considered an outer suburb. I have had family, friends and business interests there for over 30 years. I don’t agree with Ben’s observations in the slightest.

    There is more to Dubai that the world of luxury hotels and upscale shopping malls that most western tourists inhabit. I think Ben’s comments are rather self-fulfilling – if you only visit the artificial environments, you shouldn’t pretend to be surprised by how artificial everything seems. Certainly, the local “culture” has been diluted by the influx of expats and tourists, but for the expats and tourists to then complain about the same dilution is rather ironic.

  5. There isn’t that much more to Dubai, besides cheap ethnic dining. Just about everything else you can find in most other GCC countries anyway. If you really want to see a more pure version of GCC culture, swing by Oman, as Levy Flight mentioned. It’s rather unique for the GCC, in that it hasn’t been taken over by steel and glass concrete jungles.

  6. Zz, I too thought Gary was going to talk that subject.

    Gary, this is misleading somewhat. Reading the quotes you picked from Ben’s article make it sound the post was praising the country. I went ahead and read it and it is depressing.

    I have been to UAE and other Persian Gulf countries. It is sad.

    This is what it feels like to be duped by “journalists” every day. Only selecting parts and pieces of an interview or article to gain readership.

  7. @Dee Tee – I didn’t take the parts I quoted to be positive, actually. And it captured an interesting side of how UAE is perceived, I read it as plasticy, gaudy, over the top.

  8. I am heading to Doha, Dubai and Muscat in March. I’m really looking forward to experiencing the GCC for myself.

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