Nargis Fatima Hasan wonders why Dubai feels so compelled to beat all world records
The tallest tower, the biggest mall, the only ‘seven star’ hotel, the most expensive party, the biggest amusement park, the largest Carrefour, the grandest city centre. And so it goes: on and on, the roll call continues. Dubai is known to be lavish; that is its defining mark on the international map.
The place is full of billboards, adverts and public relations material all screaming ‘Come to Dubai, we have it all!’ As for moderation, it seems the word is not part of the city’s vocabulary. Instead, success is built on the never-ending round of fantastic, never-seen-before, one and only, completely original construction plans. Even if they’re not quite so constant since the doom of the downturn, they still continue to be our trademark.
It sounds like this is becoming a big rant. And, yes, the frustration is spilling over as I type. I grew up in a version of Dubai that existed minus the mega-projects, and that was a version I remember fondly. The city’s progress is incredible, change is expected, and the way the place has evolved has been something to watch in awe. But there is such a thing as too much.
Why the insecurity? That seems to be the only way to explain away or understand this desire to be the best, the greatest and number one in each and every aspect. Success is a wonderful goal. However, if insecurity, fear of being forgotten and a serious identity crisis is driving this goal then I’d argue that a step back – like the one we’re seeing due to the credit crunch – offers a welcome breather and a moment for reflection.
Dubai has plenty to offer – more so than many people seem to realise. It is young, but it has a sense of the past. It may not have been the location of the Gettysburg Address, or even the city that invented curly fries, but this place does have history. It has rulers with foresight and a mix of people from every corner of the world. There’s art, there’s literature, there’s tradition, good food and a chance to gain a well-rounded living experience. Skyscrapers look good, shopping is incredible, and swanky hotels are enjoyable once in a while, but personally, I’d love to forget about the splendour and remember what’s on offer beneath the surface.
I’ve lived here 20 years and I’ve never been to the Burj Al Arab. It is a beautiful building – but it’s not the reason I’m proud to be a resident of this city, and I’m sure I’m not alone.