The Stepford Wives. I’ve never read the book, but I’ve certainly seen the film. A story about an eerily perfect suburb in America, with eerily perfect people populating it. The lawns are impeccably trimmed, the cars spotlessly clean and the church always full on Sunday, complete with proper-people in proper-clothes.
Its eeriness lies in its near perfect, particular vision of utopia. Of course, everything comes crashing down when the mechanisms of that haven are laid bare and destroyed.
Dubai is perfect. The zebra crossings are inset with marble. The street lights are a silky stainless steel with a shiny, Arabic pattern down some sides, sculpted into a contemporary, perfect shape. The streets are wide and immaculately clean. Granite blocks form several walls.
The futuristic train stations would fit perfectly in a Star Trek utopia, along with the architecture. Huge, glass towers are packed tightly together, monuments of the wealthy companies residing within.
Then there’s the cars. In Dubai, it isn’t possible to buy a car over 10 years old. Cars over 20 years old are banned. Taxis older than 5 years are also banned. And, along with all that, there’s seemingly no crime, it is all kept very well hidden.
The heat is, obviously, searing. On my visit, a quick stop from a holiday in India, the temperature reached 43°C. As a result, the streets are pretty much empty. Much like the roads.
Don’t get me wrong; on my short stay, I absolutely loved Dubai. It was fascinating and beautiful. Built in the middle of the desert, all the plants – trees, bushes, grass – have to be watered. The last rain they had was last year – the only rain they’d had the whole year. Sand has to be continually brushed away.
The city is only around 40 years old, with most of the buildings having been built in the last decade. The shopping malls are incredible, with every major and highstreet brand we’re used to such as Prada, Gucci and Armani. The UK’s staples of River Island and Top Man and America’s behemoth Banana Republic and Gap are even here. You can still eat in TGI Fridays, McDonalds and KFC.
It‘s a very familiar and comfortable place to be. It’s a familiar western style haven in the middle of an Arabian desert.
If you go, you’ll love it. What you won’t be able to get away from, however, is a stale, plastic feeling. An odd feeling that something’s just not quite there. It’s like being in a computer game. The graphics are great, but it’s still just not real. For some reason, the city feels soulless. There’s no meat on the bones.
Maybe that’s the nature of the beast. The heat means you can’t have the outdoor café culture we’re used to. Maybe it’s because it’s been built so fast, full of block building and planning with no organic development making vast swathes of the city feel like a brand new development. It could be the entire artificial island with row upon row upon row of exactly the same apartment building, as far as the eye can see. A dream from the movie Inception.
There are things you can do, certainly. Museums, skiing on snow (an artificial snow slope), ice skating and, talking to the people, they seem happy and would never want to move back to their home countries such from America to Sri Lanka . The standard of life is apparently high. Away from any politics, however, I just can’t get away from the sense that there’s no meat on the bones. It’s all just a little too perfect.