Censorship after Dubai bashed by Vanity Fair

The artificial Jumeira Palm Island in Dubai ... tourism in the emirate is booming again as visitors avoid turmoil elsewhere in the Middle East.

“What money would look like if it were left to its own devices”. A scathing article about Dubai has appeared in Vanity Fair. Photo: AP

Vanity Fair has stirred controversy with an article panning the Gulf city state of Dubai, which has pumped millions into cultivating an image of high glamour.

The iconic magazine’s April edition is on sale in the emirate’s bookshops but with the three pages of the column headlined “Dubai on Empty” neatly removed, although a page of photos has escaped the guillotine.

Both sides of the story are claiming ignorance.

The National Media Council, a body that overseas print media in the United Arab Emirates of which Dubai is a member, told the daily 7DAYS it was unaware of the case.

The magazine’s publishers, Conde Nast, contacted in New York and London, declined to go any further than to express surprise.

Local sources suggested the action against the Dubai-bashing article may have been at the initiative of magazine distributors rather than a case of formal censorship.

But the author of the piece, which pans Dubai’s dramatic rise from a trading outpost in the desert sands to its current place firmly on the world map of major cities, was more forthright.

“There is no greater compliment for a journalist than to be hand-censored,” A.A. Gill said on Sunday in 7DAYS.

“If anyone has any doubt about what I wrote about Dubai, the fact that you can’t read it in Dubai makes the case.”

His outspoken 2000-word article in the glossy magazine on fashion, culture and politics slams Dubai and its expat and Emirati residents, as well as its giant shopping malls, its treatment of workers and legal system.

Gill even belittles the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building that is the pride and joy of Dubai, which has pumped billions of dollars to achieve the status of a business, services and tourism hub.

“Dubai has been built very fast. The plan was money. The architect was money. The designer was money … And if you ever wondered what money would look like if it were left to its own devices, it’s Dubai,” he wrote.

Locals and expats have joined forces to condemn the article and defend their city. Gill has been accused of racism and of being motivated by “hatred and jealousy”, in comments on Twitter pages and internet forums.

“He flew in, stayed for a day or two and flew out,” wrote an expat named Sam. “The same insulting article could have been written by me about holidays in the US, UK, Asia, Africa … if I chose to.”

AFP