The Transformation Of Dubai Merchants Cultural Studies Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Dubai has been transformed from a small creek were its inhabitants were fisherman and merchants to a generic city that its population is global instead of local. This dream city has been developed with the reliance on oil revenue which has been the development of iconic infrastructures and properties resulting in the improving of financial services and tourism.

This great transformation accelerated in 2001 when a great deal of UAE money came back from the U.S to be invested in the UAE. Dubai was thriving on a new type of post global conditions and new changes were visible. One example of this was among an immense museum of architecture where each building was unique but not connected to one another. It was about developing an ultimate luxurious dream city where there was no horizontal and vertical limits. Even the impossible structures were made possible

Dubai was increasingly becoming a global hub of business due to the lifestyle and affordability to its residents and the willingness of its rulers and citizens to provide to a diverse clientele. This globalised city is even imitated by other Arab cities that competed to build the tallest and the largest ever built architectural and urban statements. Many questions that will be answered in this essay consists of; How far can you go? What are the consequences of becoming global when locals are minority in their own country? How about culture and national identity? What would happen when the next generation is confused about its heritage? Are you losing your heart and soul to the globalisation? Are the projects ethnical and sustainable? Now, that the financial crisis has halted majority of the projects and reduced property prices by seventy percent, what would happen to its citizens? Does Dubai's culture stop from changing?

This essay will argue the branding of Dubai as a city in the global culture, a generic city that the impossible was nonexistent. The content of the following chapters is prior to the current recession, which has been catastrophic.

Within the first chapter, the following topics will be discussed; national culture of Dubai by looking at Greet Hofstede's national culture dimensions and how countries are different in terms of their attitudes and beliefs. Would these cultural differences become problematic in a global city? Finally looking at the national westernisation and heritage of Dubai's locals and discuss whether it was thoughtful to mix local with global.

Chapter One:

Culture can be interrupted in a number of terms such as literature, architectural heritage and performing arts. Culture can be distinguished by belief, attitude, principle and ambition shared within a community. In analysing Arab culture Greet Hofstedes opinion is that Muslims faith plays an important part in the peoples life. He argues they are highly rule-oriented with laws, regulation and controls in order to reduce uncertainty while inequalities of power and wealth have been allowed to grow within the society. [1] 

Static culture is non existent and culture changes and evolves as time passes,

Dubai has risked loosing its culture and identity to become more westernised and recognised in the world. "I'm afraid stopping growth in Dubai now will not stop their culture from changing. If they focus on westernisation the society will lose everything."

For instance, for a business to operate in Dubai, fifty one percent of the business must be owned by a Duabi citizen's which gives a great deal of control and revenue to local citizens.

The current cultural situation in Dubai is not being managed in an appropriate manner were by traditional cultures are being respected by tourist. An example of this can be illustrated with the French culture, when the French are confronted with an English-speaking individual they will respond in French. This is not true for Dubai; English is slowly becoming a dominant language.

I utterly concur with Hofsetede "Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster" [2] . The mixing of local with global cultures interferes in the development of unique mentality of the people of Dubai.

Dubai appears to embody the mix of the local and global, the Islamic and the cosmopolitan as Sadik argued in "Dubai's Iconic Urbanism" it is mixing the promotion of the diverse with the preservation of the ethnic." [3] 

Dubai is truly a place unlike any other city in the world. It's literally a city of strangers; eighty percent of its inhabitants are expatriates. Dubai houses two hundred nationalities. "A larger portion of that foreign population is there for one purpose, to work day and night to construct a modern city from scratch." [4] 

If we compare the national culture of a European country for example United Kingdom to United Arab Emirates we will understand the difference. Duabi has a collectivist culture where there is a large power distance, high uncertainty avoidance and high Masculinity index. This indicates leaders are virtually powerless with high authority, low level of lenience for uncertainty, local women are limited in their rights and the ultimate goal is to control everything. Whereas the United Kingdom has a low power distance, High individualism and moderate masculinity index. Therefore conflicts of cultures will be apparent.

Racism and selective favouring is present in Dubai. With a society that has a large power distance most high paying jobs are positioned by Caucasians and Arabs while many educated South and East Asians carry out tedious labour work and are employed in lower management contracts. The city's Globalisation has created enormous population of slums on the dusty margins where immigrant's workers are crammed into squatter's camps with no sanitation [5] . In this regard there have been periodic workers riots, to which the Dubai government has reacted by tightening police control over the slums and developers who employ and often exploit them. (Oxford Business Group 2007:156) (Prouty Richard; 2009) Many of these working employees are shipped back to their original countries when unemployed. This indicates that racism and discrimination is present within Dubai and what nationality is held will determine what job title and rights to remain is prearranged. Many consider living within Dubai can be related with a protected bubble with its censored media and society's unspoken rules. One of the most common questions within Dubai is: "Where are you from?" the unspoken law is that an Emirati will be prosecuted far less severely that a non citizen would be, this indicates that there is no equal rights and the government will maintain its citizens after committing a offence such as fined speeding, reckless driving, parking tickets. [6] 

Rem Koolhaas sees Dubai as "mosaic of subcultures" a unique urban assembly of the locals, the expatriates, the part-time, the traders, the workers, the rich, the poor, the serious and the frivolous. [7] Dubai, in its own way, is turning into a multicultural city where people of all different nationalities are able to find something. [8] 

Westernisation of the National identity and Heritage:

Due to its Geographical location at the heart of the Arab world, Dubai has become a living metaphor centre. That links the west to the east with a difference of culture present.

In recent years Dubai has undergone a major shift towards globalisation by diversification of its economy from reliance on oil revenue. Dubai is a global hub of business due to the considerable economic opportunities and lifestyle offered by the Ruler. He created an unrestricted society, which allowed international businesses to travel to Dubai and vigorously participate in building an enhanced infrastructure and creating an improved business relationship with the West. [9] 

However with this transition to a globalized city comes along elements of Westernization. One of the main triggers of westernization in Dubai has been marketing and advertising by western entities. Advertising, as a communication tool, has the great ability to change; shape, and control the way people and countries behave and react. [10] 

It is believed that the Islamic morals and local traditions are present in Dubai, and maintain to be respected and cherished. This westernisation has interfered in the development of the unique culture; the Islamic traditions and heritage have been violated to attract investors and tourists. [11] Dubai has been constructed as the Las Vegas of the Gulf, a city that will allow gambling and other sinful activity to take place behind closed doors.

In the wake of a new generation it is quite likely that Dubai will face a loss of many aspects of its tradition, identity and culture. Khalfan Musabih, believes local Emiratis are now becoming a minority in their own country they are forced to live in housing provided by the government in the desert this is resulting in them losing their national identity, heritage and language and are concerned about the new generation "who feel like they do not belong to this land".

Some believe Dubai like few cities has sold its heart, people and future to the globalisation.

Given this Dubai is not yet blind to the fact that it is the next cultural city of the world, with many of the buildings being a direct and influence from the culture of the region. City planners, officials, architects, developers, and builders have incorporated advice from many institutions and museums to build cultural facilities in Dubai such as the Louvre and the Guggenheim including Frank Gehry and Jean Novel. This is done to spread the western culture in the region.

Utopia is the figure of the horizon. In the functioning of a city like Dubai, its structure formed by streets and dwellings, its partition between nature and culture, desert, oasis, water and sand, space cannot exist without limits and frontiers. Once a nomadic landscape, Dubai has now comprises of the latest technological means.

Many of the Arab cities have not considered preserving their historic monuments and buildings in result Historical districts have been destroyed and are becoming non-existent. Developing skyscrapers has modernised Dubai as a city, which has no consideration for its ancient building to become non-existent. It comes across that Dubai seem to be ashamed of their past and wish to create a city that is diverse and cosmopolitan. They are illustrating this by creating the largest, tallest and most modern buildings ever created. An example of this is Dubai was the first city to have an offshore man made island. This made Dubai unique but iconic with regards to its architecture. Not to mention a popular tourist destination.

Within any society or country exceeding the ordinary will result in problems, prior to the recession Dubai was not only progressing financially, but socially and culturally. Dubai has turned to a city of strangers where local's are a minority. Dubai's swift growth in the past few years created jobs for millions of international job seekers but the global financial meltdown has unfortunately ruined the dream for numerous people. When this happened it revealed that the city has been truly built from nothing except suppression, credit and near slavery for slums. The advantage of Dubai being tax-free does come with its limitations, these are as follows: no job security, lack of culture, identity and feel to the city. Dubai is simply a fictional place created with no consideration with regards to the people living there. This restricts the residents to have a emotional connection with the surrounding environment.

Chapter two:

Dubai's horizontal & vertical urbanism

The development within Dubai is a fine imitation of Las Vegas, this is a modernise city formed within a desert. Dubai expands from side to side going further than the older cores of Deira and Bur Dubai, linked by freeways and ring roads. [12] The construction of the skyscrapers has been hurried along vertically as well as horizontally with no consideration for the environment an example of this can be seen in the image below.

This is a very important image, which shows Dubai has no limits.

The plain stretching away as far as the eye can see, at the highest viewpoint possible on earth from a building, opens up space to the bewildered gazed to its visual limit and to the spatial frontier of the horizon where gaze and earth seem to coincide the horizon. [13] 

This horizontal urbanism has gone from sea to desert. The morphology of the landscape and seaside is becoming fabricated, the fabrication is so extreme that being able to distinguish between the natural and the constructed is visually challenging. Despite the many mentioned strategies used in the City Branding, a city branding exercise works within a set of inter-related parameters. These parameters, as will be elaborated later, place paradoxical demands when societal changes are considered within the city. The first perimeter is that the city brand will always present only positive aspects of the place. The re branding of the city selectively frames the metropolis and draws people's attention to positive images of the urban milieu. In recent years Dubai has grabbed the headlines with audacious offshore islands, rotating buildings and seven star hotels. Dubai is all about Luxury.

Palm Jumeirah the world this was a offshore world map that was sold privately and added a further 1,500 kilometers of beachfront. [14] 

One of the important examples of vertical urbanism is the World's tallest building, Burj Khalifa that has recently been opened. At more than 800m, Burj Khalifa smashed the previous world record, which was held by Taiwan's 508m Taipei 101.

Burj Khalifa is about twice the height of the Empire State Building, which is one of the buildings in the world. One can see its spire from far away and the exterior is covered in glass panels, which glisten in the midday desert sun.

The iconic skyscrapers of Dubai is Burj Khalifa, which is surprisingly developed from the patterning systems inspired from the Islamic architecture, with the triple-lobed footprint of the building based on an conceptual version of the desert flower Hymenocallis known to the native region. At the top of the skyscraper the core body finishes with a spire the floor plan is Y shape to maximise the view of the Persian Gulf. The architects have designed the structure in such a manner that the onion domes of Islamic architecture are not lost at any point throughout the building.

For example if the building is viewed from above or below it still evokes the Islamic values. It seems that Dubai has realised the importance of culture and decided to design the tallest building of the world to be related to the Arab culture and hence it's a statement of power.

The tower is composed of three elements arranged around a central core. As the tower rises from the flat desert base, setbacks occur at each element in an upward spiralling pattern, decreasing the cross section of the tower as it reaches toward the sky.

The stretching buildings range from small, medium to the tallest skyscraper in the world and far as the eye can distinguish. The Burjal Khalifa the maximum viewpoint possible on earth from a construction, opens up space to the bewildered gazed to its visual edge and to the spatial frontier of the horizon where gaze and earth seem to coincide. [15] 

Many of the buildings have a cultural connection to the region. The culture of the Middle East is embedded within the design of the skyscrapers. Conversely the designers have fewer or none cultural connection themselves with Dubai and the Islamic religion and consequently are not entirely aware of the consumer demand. Many of the buildings are designed based on concepts derived from symbols and Arabic scripts. A good example is the Dubai central Library this building has been developed with culture and religion in mind. The inspiration for the design is a folding, cross- legged wooden bookstand used in most Islamic countries as a Koran lectern. [16] 

The buildings constructed within Dubai are not all in one shape form or size, this in effect causes there to be a lack of connection among the building and hence create a no sense of community within the city. The city will begin and has developed a fictional feel to its occupants.

" For the urban sociologist, Mike Davis, Dubai is like a nightmare from the past in which the monumental style of the Nazis has been architecturally combined with the architecturally combined with the artificial world of Disney." [17] 

Cultural, Urban Development:

How many of these buildings cater to the lifestyle of the people living in them? The expat population in Dubai is searching for spaces where they can interact with their friends and families, unhindered by rising levels of traffic. Dubai's new developments fail to address these simple problems. Living in glass boxes or tucked away in enclosed apartments sees children yearning to be outside. Children need outdoor play for their physical and mental development and high rise glass boxes fail to seriously provide any such spaces. [18] 

Dubai's urban history is nonexistent; this has resulted in a number of new urban conditions being created. With the income of oil wealth Dubai has built "free zone" this consisted of three cities called, Media City, this city was developed and introduced to substitute Cairo as the Middle East's media capital in conjunction to broadcasting the vision and directness of the people of the United Arab Emirates. Internet City, this city was an attempt to formulate Dubai as the Arab world's IT hub and Dubai's International Financial Centre, a stock market control centre to compete among the worlds leading financial centres such as Hong Kong, London and New York. [19] 

However Dubai as a city that has no real urban centres or core; it seems to be nowhere and everywhere at the same time. [20] It is evident Architecturally and conceptually that Dubai's buildings are designed and developed on the concept of new, unique and elevation which can be seen in an act of ongoing self-stylisation and fantasy that is being fashioned out in previous and ongoing projects.

Sustainability is a myth in Dubai; the building of much urban design has taken less consideration about embracing good design and solid planning principles. It is evident that the focus is being concentrated more around the quality of the buildings rather than the height. [21] These so called master pieces of architectural forms have been created with less or no consideration for the end users, consequently resulting in countless number of buildings left unoccupied. Building developers have realised it is more important to have a building that is of a higher quality, comfort and sustainability rather than making a statement of power and wealth to the western countries.

As a result of the speed at which construction took place within Dubai, it has raised numerous issues over the sustainability of the building and construction quality. It is evident that the city has less or no consideration for sustainability. The fast pace development can be valuable for economic expansion, however if not achieved in a sustainable manner and high quality, this will result in problems which require attention at a later stage. A number of the mind-blowing construction projects undertaken in Dubai have developed problems with building quality, it is apparent that this is caused due to lack of time and consideration.

" A city made for speed is made for success." [22] However this has not been the case for Dubai, as we can see Dubai's fast construction has slowed down rapidly as a result of the recession, this shows that in reality Dubai is just like any other city or country in the world. Building a City is not just about whether it has the tallest iconic Architectural buildings, it is also about building communities that can be comfortable, pleasant to leave in.

Dubai is boomtown, a city of dream, bright lights surrounded by miles of desert. A city of architectural paradise and consumer surplus just like Las Vegas. A cross between Vegas and Mississauga, Dubai is in danger of becoming a ruin-in-waiting. The fast developments and the artificial Islands will not be able to survive in the future. Global warming is becoming an issue as governments are trying to tackle climate change, many scientists believe that due to the climate becoming warmer the sea levels will be rising and many parts of the world will suffer from flooding. Dubai is no exception to this rule over the next fifty years we will see the artificial islands flooded issue of climate change is not addressed by the world. These are made up of the palms, world and many other projects currently under construction. [23] 

Dubai's buildings in many cases contribute to the global warming; many of the swimming pools all around the city are cooled in the summer. The designs of mass construction of glass forms are not very energy efficient. In addition to their height and size, these buildings stand at above all their energy consumptions; this in reality is not sustainable.

Thom Maine has predicted that Dubai will become an "Ecological Disaster" [24] The tallest skyscrapers, the largest shopping mall and the first desert ski run have been or are currently being contracted. If development continues at its current pace Thom Maine prediction will no longer be a prediction but a fact. "Most people seem to be fascinated by this city from beyond tomorrow." [25] However this gigantic architectural concept, erected at high speed is not without its downfalls.


In examining the branding of Dubai as a city in a global culture we have looked at the

Cultural differences between inhabitants of the city and argued Dubai was not only growing economically, but also socially and culturally. Dubai has turned to a city of strangers where local's are minority which is only less than twenty percent of the population. Being global means selling your soul to the globalization.

In my opinion, Dubai, a city of dream, came to existence as a model to the world. A city not like any other, bringing Dubai to the mind and hearth of mankind. How successful is Dubai as a city it's only decided on its fate. My view is progression does not stop here, Dubai will expand and conquer new territories and cultures.

Dubai does not have enough expertise and the manpower to direct and help the city to flourish. In an attempt to develop other sources of revenue, Dubai has expanded its territories to integrate new cultures and conquer new dimensions.

If we compare culture of Dubai to Saudi Arabia we will understand the effects of foreign direct investment on the soul of its people. Women still can't drive in the Saudi while they are allowed in Dubai. Women in Dubai are not forced to wear Hijab (there are some limitations for Emiratis) whereas wearing Hijab in the Saudi is a must. Alcoholic drinks are not approved in the Saudi while alcoholic consumption is permitted in Dubai (within a framework).

I have understood that this generic city has become as westernized as a European city in terms of how people dress, talk, live but the question is to what extent are they willing to change ? When this transformation stops?

I am not opposed to the idea of change but this transformation should be supervised and managed carefully. Emiratis should preserve their national identity and heritage and shouldn't be tricked by exquisiteness that globalisation offers. They should consider the next generations who will be confused of what they really have.

If we look at this generic city from an expatriates view, we will find, this dream city has so much unspoken rules, which are not visible to the eye of ordinary but when you are trapped you will realise. Expatriates and Emiratis are not treated in a same way, for instance when I was in a Supermarket in Dubai, saw Emiratis were served first.

However this dream city is so mesmerizing that hypnotizes everyone. Impossible is possible and as said by others "The only limitations are your own limitations." One example of this limitless extravagance is Dubai's famous "seven star" Burj Al Arab Hotel. [26] 

Construction in Dubai is unique, monumental and iconic. It's the home of offshore islands, such as the Palm Islands Dubai, the world's continents, the tallest building on earth, the only seven star hotel in the Middle East and one of the most lavish places to live. As mentioned earlier there are no limits. Architects are now equipped with superior and sophisticated tools of designing the line between imaginary and real is blurred.

Dubai is all about luxury, bigness and newness but to what extent? Are these architectural fascinations sustainable? Would they worsen the climate change or will contribute to it?

The tallest building, the largest shopping mall and the first desert ski resort, all seem extravagant but this massive architectural concepts erected at super-high speed are not without downfalls. The dumping of untreated sewage in to the sea and global warming are destroying the gulfs coral reefs. [27] 

Dubai's buildings in many cases contribute to the global warming; many of the swimming pools are cooled in the summer. The design of mass construction of glass is not very energy efficient and stands beyond their energy consumption.

So, Dubai is losing its identity and heritage along with its natural resources and landscapes and this process will never stop. Some believe that Dubai's success as a dream city has been one of luck rather than a thought-out development [28]