Dubai – glittering metropolis on the Persian Gulf. For many, the capital of the emirate Dubai is the perfect example of suppressed freedom of speech and the violation of human rights. While for others, it is the perfect holiday destination. Luxurious hotel complexes, breathtaking architecture and an extravagant nightlife make Dubai a hotspot for party tourists from all over the world and a mecca for influencers. Is a vacation in Dubai still morally justifiable? With his latest show the German satirist Jan Böhmermann kicked of a controversial debate concerning this very issue.
We are on our way to Deira, the historic commercial centre of Dubai. Together with the Bur district, Deira forms the historical core of Dubai. Situated on the right bank of Dubai Creek, the first settlements were built here from the 19th century onwards and lay the foundation for an economic boom. Driven by the influx of Iranian merchant families, the spice and gold souk, still popular with tourists today, came into being. In the meantime, Deira has lost its great economic importance, but at the same time is becoming increasingly popular with tourists. With a length of 14 kilometres, the Dubai Creek is a central element of the city and a vibrant place away from the skyscrapers of Downtown Dubai. To cross the shore from Deira to Bur Dubai, you can use the so-called Abras, small motorised wooden boats that are used especially by the locals and guarantee an exciting crossing. If you still want to push your way through the alleys of Deira before sunset, there is another highlight: Admittedly, the Yacht Club at Dubai Creek Marina sounds rather pompous at first. But QD’s Café, behind the Park Hyatt Dubai, is anything but a place for the rich & famous. A relaxed atmosphere, friendly service and moderate prices make QD’s the perfect place for a sundowner, a shisha or a quiet dinner with a view facing downtown – a dream setting guaranteed. Here at the Creek, between spices, trade and traditional restaurants, you can sense what Dubai once was: a small fishing village on the Arabian Peninsula.
We change the scenery. Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. No other building stands more for the rise of the Arab metropolis. Surrounded by luxury hotels, restaurants and the Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping centres in the world, this is the place of longing for many Dubai tourists. While people shop extensively in luxury boutiques during the day, the world-famous Dubai Fountain water feature puts on a breathtaking show for spectators in the evening. Downtown Dubai continues to grow inexorably. What began with the first hotels and high-rises on Sheik Zayed Road, the main highway, is progressing significantly and offering more and more superlatives. All according to the motto “Bigger, better, brighter”. While many tourists appreciate the urban life of the Mega City and seek out the city’s many bars and restaurants in the evening, some prefer the no less luxurious variant of “beach living”. Palm Jumeirah, an artificial group of islands, is becoming increasingly popular. Here, the motto is “see and be seen” and it is therefore very trendy, especially among the Instagram influencers mentioned at the beginning. The FIVE Palm Jumeirah Hotel is one of these hotspots where the Kim Kardashians of tomorrow loll around at the pool in their bikini. Cool drinks, selfies galore and the work of many plastic surgeons provide a dream setting of a special kind and a breeding ground for social criticism à la Böhmermann.
Of course, many things are wrong in Dubai. Human rights are being ignored, the many immigrant workers from Pakistan, India or Asia work under partly undignified conditions and the ruling family acts and reacts more than questionably. But one must never forget that there are two sides to every coin. Like everywhere else in the world, there is good and bad, luxury and poverty, downtown and Deira… Egypt discriminates against gays and lesbians, Cuba keeps political prisoners in penal camps and many more examples could follow. So is it still morally acceptable to travel to these countries? In the end, everyone has to answer this question for themselves.