Photo of a residential subdivision in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Why Do They Call Dubai A ‘Fake City’?
The critique comes from people who actually lived in Dubai, mostly due to the idea that Dubai doesn’t have the features that other cities have like community and culture.
Say you’re an Arabophile who wants to live in Dubai for a while to experience Emirati-Arab culture.
Just one problem
Less than 10% of Dubai’s population is Emirati. So you won’t be able to interact with many Emiratis. The vast majority of the population is foreign-born expats like Indians, Filipinos and Pakistanis.
Now you might think that this is alright. Surely those Indians, Filipinos and Pakistanis must learn to speak Arabic in order to work in an Arabic city. Well…
English has developed into the de facto lingua franca, and it is common to hear Emiratis do business in English with Filipino baristas, Indian shop assistants, or Pakistani taxi drivers.
Source: Multilingualism and the role of English in the United Arab Emirates
So the first issue appears: Dubai lacks a local culture
Despite the fact that Dubai is a city founded by Emiratis, it is not an Emirati city. Emiratis are an uncommon sight and Arabic is only used in government offices and signs alongside English.
This applies even to architecture. To quote an article from The Guardian that discusses one project:
Walking up the hard shoulder of the roaring highway of the Palm today (there is no pavement; everyone drives), the feeling is less one of an exclusive private enclave than that of a generic slice of American suburbia. The houses have been packed in cheek by jowl, at three times the original planned density, leaving rows of McMansions looking across at each other between thin strips of stagnant water.
Now one can overlook this lack of Emirati culture by stating at least one can make lifelong friends in Dubai.
The problem with Dubai’s community is best seen in this article discussing dating:
For many expats, Dubai is not the final step in their life’s journey. Their time in Dubai is considered as a transit phase until they move on to the next destination or go back to their countries. This instability or uncertainty about the next move makes that bunch of people restless and unable to keep a healthy and long-lasting relationship. So, if you fall for someone who is in a “transit phase,” either destroy their passport or be ready to smuggle yourself inside their travel bag (not in a creepy way though).
Usually there is a permanent community that is the majority of the city’s population. In Dubai, that is not the case. The vast majority of residents plan on staying in Dubai for a few years before moving on. You will encounter a lifelong resident here and there but they’re still a minority, a growing minority, but a minority nonetheless.
This is why some former and current residents refer to Dubai as a “fake city”
Many believe that Dubai isn’t what a city should be like. It’s often seen as a glorified tourist trap, a city with houses but no homes.
Now this brings us to the final question:
Does that mean Dubai really is a fake city and is it a bad place?
Whether Dubai is a fake city or not depends on your expectations. I’ve heard good things, and I’ve heard bad things. I know people who love the city and are now happy lifelong residents, I have met people who despise the city and are glad to be gone.
– Ahmed Abdelhaq Zaydan