Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dubai vs Abu Dhabi

Today's Travel section of 'Sydney Morning Herald' has a piece on the rivalry between AD and Dubai.

Less hysterical reporting in this one than we've seen in the past, especially in the articles about Dubai. It looks as though the writer, Michelle Wranik, actually spent some time here and got herself out and about.

For example, in previous atrticles I haven't seen much about my favourite areas of Dubai, like this:

...you can find some of the tastiest curries and thalis at rock-bottom prices in Karama or Satwa – both grungier, though character-filled suburban areas.

It's in these lesser-known areas where Dubai hides most of its surprises. Like parts of the beachside Umm Suqeim or Jumeirah, where there are small mosques on every corner, ramshackle fishermen's huts and a well-loved sailing club. Or the scruffy commercial district, Al Quoz, where the number of art galleries sprouting up suggests a city ready for a cultural renaissance.

The labyrinth of souks in Deira, on the eastern side of Dubai Creek, also offers a glimpse into the city's past. The muddled rabbit warrens of stalls manned by Indian and Persian merchants sell everything from tacky magnets to fine silk, gold and spices. Walking along the creek at night when the calls to prayer sound in unison from the surrounding mosques feels worlds away from glacially air-conditioned shopping malls. There's even a Little India of sorts, in the form of Hindi Lane – a chaotic alley behind the fabric souk, packed with stalls selling flower garlands, incense and statues of Hindu idols.


The final para about Dubai was perceptive:

For those who fail to see beyond the fancy facade, Dubai is the epitome of gaudy. But scrape beneath the surface and that's where the similarity between Paris Hilton and Dubai begins and ends. It's not as synthetic as it looks.

One of the problems with most previous articles is that they've been unbalanced with plenty of inaccuracies. They've either been breathless, over the top reports of nothing but the new developments or 'dark side of Dubai' stories.



The article is here.

25 comments:

Keefieboy said...

Yes, but the Government Of Dubai seems to be intent on destroying those charming places: Satwa was saved at the last minute by the recession. Once things return to normal, I'm sure that Satwa will go, followed rapidly by Karama, Bur Dubai and Deira.

I don't think the Govt (translation: Sheikh Mo) have any appreciation of these areas. All they see is tatty, run-down, slightly dodgy, grungy stuff, and they think stuff like this will not appeal to tourists or residents. They could not be more wrong. These districts are the very heart and soul of Dubai.

nzm said...

Keefie: agreed. Some of my most "real" Dubai moments were in those suburbs.

Seabee said...

Very true Keefie.

And although the destruction of Satwa and Jumeirah is on hold there are big areas that have been demolished already.

Mai Abaza said...

Delighted that Satwa destruction is on hold. Been coming to work here for nearly 7 years now. Shopped at Deepak's with my mum 20 years ago. And I live in Karama. If those places go, then Dubai will become exactly how all those previous articles described it.

Well done to Michelle, who wasn't a lazy journalist and bothered to look beyond the glitz.

In a few years, I hope we'll still be able to say that.

Anonymous said...

seabee loves company...he finally found a journalist who writes about dubai in a way that agrees with his perception! and then of course, it gives him a chance to say, see all you foreigners, i am an almost local...local expert, i know more than you do, and i always knew you didn't see what i saw.

people often have no idea what miseries are behind the people who create the satwa and karama...as you only come there for your occasional lunch and dinner when you feel the need for some cheap spice and get to go home and sing praises about little india in dubai. oh..and that the govt hates it, and will rather wipe it from the face of the earth! it does not agree with the vice vision of dubai becoming a monaco..

Seabee said...

Prat!

Anonymous said...

Seebee, I have some sympathy with the comment from the previous anon. If you enjoy areas like Karama and Satwa so much, why don't you live there?

And since you don't live there, why do you think (if indeed you do?) that it is such a bad idea to redevelop those areas? Surely the government of Dubai knows better than you what is good for those areas? And if you think the government does no know better - why is this?

Anonymous said...

Prat!

Can you provide some explanation for this response? You appear to object to other people being offensive in the comments but don't seem to hold yourself to the same standards. Well, I guess it is, after all, your blog.

I for one would be interested in the reasons why you disagree with "Anonymous Prat!".

Seabee said...

Anon@1.08: You appear to object to other people being offensive in the comments but don't seem to hold yourself to the same standards.

Not at all. Your comment was nothing but sarcasm and I responded to that. You want to disagree with something I've said, that's fine. Childish sarcasm isn't the way to do it.

Anon@1.02, I do think it's a bad idea to develop older areas such as Satwa and Jumeirah if it means demolishing them and replacing them with yet more anonymous, soul-less, modern suburbs.

Go through my earlier posts on the subject of redevelopment vs regeneration, such as this one about Singapore.


By the way, you're not suggesting that governments always know best are you? That you believe every single decision your government makes is the correct one?

Anonymous said...

By the way, you're not suggesting that governments always know best are you? That you believe every single decision your government makes is the correct one?

Not at all; particularly when the government in question is unelected and unaccountable. But I was curious as to why you (apparently only an occasional visitor to these areas) disagree with the Dubai government's plans for their redevelopment. Do you know the views of the people living in those areas (perhaps they might to live in a development like the Dubai Marina)? So I ask again, would you be willing to live in Karama or Satwa in their current state?

Anonymous said...

i am the original 'prat', and i dont like my nom being hijacked by me too anons! there is no such thing as originality among anons anymore!

Have to give credit to seabee for not deleting my comments, which he finds highly offensive. but that is exactly where i will stop. he is obviously beyond the age where he can debate points of view which pulls down his argument, or proves them to be shallow, which is often the case here. He sees trees, lots of them, but never the woods. he believes he exists in this ethereal air above dubai where only he sees the truth, and no foreign writer does. and he has absolutely no issues when completely unfair policies are pursued and propogated by the govt. he finds it easier to close his eyes to that, and publish something on a traffic infringement on dubai, or street light not working , or cat shit on szr. thus he feels his sense of justice is balanced, as he has criticized the powers that are. and of course, then he goes on alluding all foreign writers are out to destroy dubai ( as if that needed any help, it is already done). existential convenience, that is where he exists. that is fine, this is your blog and you can do whatever you want. but do not feel that you have done justice to anyone, least of all your own intelligence. foreign consultants need to agree only during office hours for the money that you get, you can be your own man outside, and stand for democracy that your own country is rightfully proud of.

Anonymous said...

i am the original 'prat', and i dont like my nom being hijacked by me too anons! there is no such thing as originality among anons anymore!

Sorry prat anon. I'll need to wait until Seebee calls me a name so that we can be distinguished more easily (I recall that he once called me "dickhead" so perhaps I can adopt that name as my nom de guerre).

Like you, I have to say that Seebee's policy of letting through most comments is admirable. I enjoy his blog as a good source of local information on Dubai. However, I do feel that he is far too much of an apologist for the Dubai government and too readily overlooks the real injustices that such an autocratic system applies to many of the people who live under it and do not have the option to jump on a plane and fly back to a country with elections and the rule of law. Of course you have to be pragmatic to be an expat in Dubai - I just wish Seebee would acknowledge this rather than seeking to explain away/justify local injustices with lines such "we are only visitors/guests" etc. or some such.

Keep it up Seebee - I do enjoy disagreeing with you.

Thunder said...

I just spent hours walking around Satwa and Deira. It was a wonderful respite from the sterility of so much of Dubai. I do not know if the poster below commenting about the miseries of those behind the satwa and karama has thought it through. I did not see misery, but quite normal life.

How about the misery of very young ladies from Vietnam cleaning hotel rooms for visitors from Germany. Or the Eastern European prostitutes filling hotel lobbies after midnight? There is much misery to serve the glitz.

Seabee said...

Three Anons to respond to it seems, so in order that the comments were posted:

Anon@3.57 It makes no difference to the quality of their decisions whether a government is elected or not. For example, do you agree with everything the US, UK, Australian government of the day does?

I am not 'an occasional visitor', I've spent a number of years living here.

I disagree with the government's specific redevelopment plans, which involve the demolition of the existing suburbs. I'm in favour of regeneration and renovation of older areas - of any city.

As for whether I'd choose to live in a particular area, that has nothing to do with whether they should be demolished or renovated. Every city needs a mix of accommodation, from low-cost to luxury.

But as you seem to insist on knowing where I'd live, there are plenty of areas I wouldn't choose to live in, Palm Jumeirah for example. I also love old thatched English cottages but would I live in one? No, they're too small and cramped. Would I live in Karama? No. I hate Karama, it's an example of bad development and bad planning. Satwa, yes I'd be happy to live there but as a foreigner I can't buy property there.

As for the people living in low-cost accommodation you talk about, I know people living in 10-to-a-room villas who can afford to move to their own unit but prefer to stay where they are. People being threatened with eviction under the 'one villa one family' rule are finding ways around it so that they can stay where they are.

Anon@4.42 I have no idea what you're trying to say.

Anon@5.27, did I really call you a dickhead? I don't recall that.

The evidence of my posts is that you're completely wrong accusing me of being an apologist, overlooking and not acknowledging injustices.

If you go through my posts you'll see plenty of criticism about laws, about the treatment of workers, lack of planning, the way government-related companies operate, bad service from government departments and all the rest of it.

You're also way off the mark when you claim that I explain away/justify local injustices. Where have I ever done that?

And: 'with lines such as "we are only visitors/guests". Can you find those lines anywhere in my nearly one thousand posts? I've said that this is a guest worker society which means it's a different culture to the societies we're from, but that's a very different thing.

Anonymous said...

"Anon@4.42 I have no idea what you're trying to say"

finally lost all capability in comprehension, in addition to selective perception i can see! bet you would, less messy to avoid the debate by claiming temporary insanity.

and oh yeah! there are turkish girls in germany, there are scottish girls in london, there are philippino girls in timbuctoo, nigerian girls in america....yeah we write about them on those blogs about those places. this i thought is a blog about dubai, not about vietnam girls in germany. talk about the how aboutery...

as for someone who says that the quality of life of people is not affected by their living in democracy or in autocracy, i have nothing to say. i have posted here scary stories about what happens to individuals here in autocracy, that you gently erase by hitting the delete button.

you can help the blind, you cannot help those who act like they are blind, just to take a few dirhams home.

Seabee said...

Anon@11.59, you're still talking absolute gibberish.

Can anybody else understand stuff like this?:

and oh yeah! there are turkish girls in germany, there are scottish girls in london, there are philippino girls in timbuctoo, nigerian girls in america....yeah we write about them on those blogs about those places. this i thought is a blog about dubai, not about vietnam girls in germany. talk about the how aboutery...

What does any of that have to do with my post? You think I've been talking about Vietnamese girls in Germany? Where did I do that? You must be reading another blog and leaving comments for it on here by mistake.


I did sort-of understand this bit: as for someone who says that the quality of life of people is not affected by their living in democracy or in autocracy, except that it bears no relation to the subject, which was the quality of decisions made by governments, not the quality of life of people.

I erase your stories on here? I have two comments on that claim.

One, your own blog is the place to post your stories, not other people's.

Two, I only delete libel, racist, obscene comments, or those which are completely off-subject and use my blog simply to make a point. If I deleted your comments they must have come under one of those categories.

Anonymous said...

suddenly i see complete light...seabee..we bow to your absolute knowledge, wisdom, and connections in the sheikhy world. now onwards, yours will be the last word in all matters relating to all stuff, on any blog. superior beings indeed need to be treated with such respect...praise the lord! and good bye!

Anonymous said...

It makes no difference to the quality of their decisions whether a government is elected or not.

Do you really think that the decisions of unelected rulers answerable to no one except a narrow elite (and constrained only by the threat of being overthrown) are of comparable quality to those of politicians who have to periodically face the voters?

For example, do you agree with everything the US, UK, Australian government of the day does?

Of course not, but at least the citizens in those respective countries have the opportunity to vote out politicians whose decisions they disagree with/object to.

It seems that you do not hold democracy in high regard?

Seabee said...

Anon@6.30, that's a perfect example of the childish, schoolyard sarcasm which Anons think is smart and clever but which in fact is completely unnecessary, inappropriate, rude and bad manners.

You want to disagree with someone then put your argument in an adult, polite way.

Anon@9.18 you're missing the context and you've gone off at a tangent to compare different forms of government, which is not what we were discussing. An Anon originally claimed that governments can make mistakes particularly when the government in question is unelected and unaccountable.

My answer was that any government, elected or not, can and does make mistakes. The quality of decisions depends on the ability of the individuals, not whether they were elected or appointed.

Somehow you've twisted that to mean that I don't believe in democracy. I can't work out the thinking that took you to that conclusion.

Democracy is far from perfect but it's the best system we've come up with so far. But it does not mean that democratically elected politicians are infallible and automatically make better decisions than non-elected leaders.

Anonymous said...

But it does not mean that democratically elected politicians are infallible and automatically make better decisions than non-elected leaders.

But would you not agree that on balance, democratically elected leaders do make better decisions and that countries with democratic systems have been far more successful than those without?

Seabee said...

Anon@12.43, on balance, not necessarily and yes.

Anonymous said...

on balance, not necessarily and yes.

I would have the thought that the second would have followed, in large part, from the first, although of course there are other (not unconnected) reasons why democracies are more successful (e.g. rule of law, freedom of speech, accountability to the electorate).

I think I understand now why you appear (on this blog) to hold the unelected rulers of Dubai in the same (if not greater) regard than the elected leaders in western democracies.

Seabee said...

Anon@1.07, as you've suggested it's a much more complex situation than the simple question you originally asked and I answered. There are very many reasons why democracies are generally successful, a few of which you list.

There's also the important fact that elected leaders making bad decisions can be replaced at the next election, or their constitutional term expires and they have to leave. Example, BushW made many bad decisions, and although he was re-elected for a second term he ran out of his maximum time and had to leave.

Leaders are human and no human is perfect. Some people are more competent than others and that applies in all walks of life, whether it's your co-workers, your car mechanic, your doctor or your leader.

The advantage with a democracy is that bad leaders don't last too long and over time their bad decisions can be reversed. That's another of the reasons that democracies are generally successful, the bad or incompetent can be replaced fairly quickly.

As for the regard in which I hold various leaders, if a leader makes generally good decisions then I will acknowledge it, whether he's elected or not. A competent unelected leader is better than an incompetent elected one.

The form of government, whether it's a democracy, an absolute monarchy, a one-party system or any other form, is another question entirely.

Media Junkie said...

wow - i got exhausted just reading all the comments.

Anonymous said...

Me too. I have to say Media Junkie is right, the quality and standard of that debate is frankly a waste of time.
To get back a little closer to the actual subject, isn't the point COMMUNITY? Almost everyone laments the destruction of the old neighbourhoods in Dubai, even if they wouldn't live there themselves. Satwa, Karama, these are areas where lower income people can find affordable accommodation and an atmosphere that they feel comfortable in. Without such places a certain ESSENTIAL class of workers in this city is bereft.
The locals may desire a fantasy perfect, glits and uber-glam city but they haven't thought it through. Real places take real time. They have to grow organically and their development has to be intrinsically honest. Satwa, Karama are just that. Growing as a product of the individual's actions, developing the real character of REAL Dubai, becoming communities that serve a real purpose.
So here we have, yet again, the conflict between Dubai as the local population imagine it should be and Dubai as the ordinary people create it in their process of living everyday lives.
Personally, I think the Emiraties will be the loosers if they deny the influence of the expats upon their city. Fantasy is just that, fantasy.