Vote of the week: Should theme park fans visit Dubai?
This week's announcement that Six Flags will join the Dubailand project brings the Arabian peninsula emirate one step closer to becoming the "Orlando of the Middle East." Six Flags, Busch and Universal all are licensing theme parks in Dubai, with Busch building its largest project to date - a four-park resort in The Palm Jebel Ali.
Sounds like a theme park fan's dream, right? Maybe not. Dubai, as a tourist destination is... not without controversy.
It's a Middle Eastern, clan-controlled, oil-rich kingdom, after all. Critics have accused the emirate of harboring indentured servants and its banks of laundering money for al Qaeda. Its oil helps fuel the global warming that threatens the planet's environment. And its massive tourist developments have made the United Arab Emirates the biggest per-capita energy consumers in the world, even worse than the United States.
But... unlike other Arab states, Dubai has developed a well-earned reputation for openness and accessibility. The emirate permits dress, dance, drink and music that would be forbidden elsewhere on the peninsula. Anyone can visit Dubai, even Jews and those with Israeli stamps on their passports -- visitors who would be denied entry to many other Middle Eastern states. Its airline has won international praise for great service and its tourist developments dazzle, making the emirate one of the top international destinations for Europeans.
So... is it "right" to visit Dubai? Does visiting the emirate help support the nastiness critics decry? Or does it help engage the emirate with the Western world, rewarding it for transcending the Muslim fundamentalism elsewhere in the Middle East?
For the record, none of theme park companies mentioned above are building parks in Dubai. They are simply licensing their brand names and designs to local developers who will build and manage the parks. Does that absolve these companies of responsibility for what's happening with labor in Dubai, or not?
I don't know. What's your call on these question? Vote below, and leave your thoughts in the comments, please.
I think Dubai is pretty harmless. I've got buddies from Dubai, and it really is quite different than the other states of the United Arab Emirates.
I like Joshua's idea of it being a personal question, a "would you" kind of thing, because I don't think it's clear cut. I do think the US has done plenty of things to deplore, so others could, indeed, wonder about visiting here! However, the Arab countries haven't been flawless, either.
My first draft of the question was "Would you visit Dubai?" but I changed it because I was afraid that people's financial inability to afford such a trip would prompt many "no" votes. And I didn't want the question to turn on finances, but rather people's ethical, or emotional, reaction to Dubai.
I think that I may have already said in the past that hundreds of thousands of us Brits visit Dubai each year, with hundreds of thousands more of us living out there. As a matter of fact when you are out and about in Dubai all one seems to see driving on the roads, in the shopping malls, supermarkets etc are Europeans. As a matter of fact when you are there you could easily think that you are in southern California or Florida. I think it's very wrong to tarnish a whole region on account of the actions of a few.
You can find "bad" things about any country hosting any other theme park in the world. Look at it this way -- by visiting, you can help YOUR values propagate by spreading them to that country. Engagement is better than denial.
I think by having more of the big name theme parks around the world it will help the environment as it will save people (like me) jetting off on long haul flights to places like Florida to experience some sun + fun. Actually I'm surprised Disney is not out there.
I think the UAE is really what we should be hoping for in all of the arab states. It is really an example of cooperation among different groups with slightly different beliefs and cultures, but all working together. I have family in Dubai and they have found it to be a welcoming culture.
My Soccer team "Arsenal" is sponsered by Emirates Airlines, the new stadium is named the Emirates stadium and the advertising banners constantly flash up with "Visit Dubai".
I dont care about the socially reponsible aspect, but I might be willing to visit some day if I felt it was safe for me and my family.
The same week I read about Seaworld, I saw another Dubai story. It was about a guy that got 4 years in prison under a zero Tolerance drug law because they found .003 gram of marijuana stuck in the tread of his shoe (which is a tiny amount, and could happen to anyone that's been to a rock concert) and a woman sentenced for poppy seeds that fell off her bagel in another airport. You'd have to be mad to want to visit anyplace like that.
Personally, no matter how accessible, nice or pleasant those areas may be, I wouldn't go anywhere near a Middle East country if I could help it. Not that I'm racist or anything, but going anywhere near those places, especially in the condition things are in, and can be, in that general area, just almost screams 'death wish'.
I'm having a hard time figuring out why Theme Park Insider felt that visiting Dubai deserved a cautionary question like this. One could come up with a host of politically charged criticisms not to travel to any given country. US occupation of Iraq, French neo-colonialism and occupation of the Ivory Coast, Japanese & Canadian government sanctioned whaling, and so on. Hate to think the motivation here was nothing more than anti-Arab bigotry.
I'm sorry but this thread has really annoyed me. It seems nothing more than blatent racism!
I wouldn't call it blatant racism. And good point, Robert - didn't think about the economics of the "would you" question.
I think too many American are so shallow minded. Go back thru history. Germany had Hitler, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, IRA bombed parts of UK and Ireland and the innocence Americans had Civil War and Slavery. All these places have great Theme Parks and we all visit them not thinking about what has happened years ago. If you want to condemn Dubai for being in the Middle East then you should look at your past and condemn your own country for what has happen in the past. I think people should get off there high horse and be open minded. You have a country that has open its hearts and pockets to the world and have built wonderful and amazing things. The crazy thing is I bet 100% of you that think Dubai is a bad country and you have no clue what you are talking about. Dubai was under British Protection and Rule from 1892-1971 also Dubai has never been in a war or has had a terrorist attack. Bottom line Dubai is safer than a lot of major cities including NYC, London and Tokyo.
I've been on vacation to the States, all over Europe and Asia including Dubai. To be honest I felt safest in Dubai. As a matter of fact I felt that as a European I had better treatment. Also hardly anyone speaks Arabic there. I say to all you sceptics - go visit (when it's all complete).
This has been one of the more interesting votes, hasn't it? ;-)
I have to admit this has been one of the more interesting threads on TPI, controversial or not. This subject has produced some great comments (although we can do without the 'flaming'). From what I have seen, I think Dubai would be a fascinating travel destination, not just for theme parks, but for shopping, indoor skiing (in the desert!!) and sightseeing in and around this engineering marvel of a city. For a country with very limited coastline, they have made every mile count!
I dont find anything racist at all about this question being asked!!!
I'd like to step back a moment and not talk about the politics and social responsiblity issues and just focus on THEME PARKS- which last I checked, is what this site is all about. :)
I don't think it is "racist" to not want to visit. The fact is all we (Americans) hear about "that" part of the world is violence. I don't want to debate the media, but it is true all we hear is the unrest etc. in that part of the country. I think it is natural to want to be safe. Is America unsafe? You betcha! Yet, it is an unsafe we are familiar with. Personally, I don't think I'd visit New York either. Am I missing out? Yes. I felt very unsafe when visiting LA, but felt perfectly normal in SD and SF. Why? I guess I just hear so much bad about LA it hits my subconscious on some level. Yet, people are murdered and raped EVERYWHERE.
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