The naughty step for A. A. Gill

Dear Mr A. A. Gill,

I’m writing to you regarding your article on Dubai (published in April’s edition of Vanity Fair

On behalf of the many ordinary housewives and families living here, I’d like to point out that we were a demographic most poorly represented in your story (we weren’t even mentioned at all). So, I’d like to offer a few comments which might be of use to you for future articles on Dubai, should you ever be allowed back into the country.

You state quite wrongly that western expats are, ‘parasites and sycophants for cash,’ who are, ‘young, single, greedy, and insincere. None of them are very clever…. they live lives that revolve around drink and porn sex and pool parties and barbecues with a lot of hysterical laughing and theme nights, karaoke, and slobbery, regretful coupling.… these expats on the short-term make don’t expect to put down roots here, have children here, or grow old here.’

Clearly, you’ve fallen foul of that old journalistic phrase, ‘Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.’

The vast majority of western expats are decent ‘married-with-children’ folk, and you only have to look at the number of private schools in Dubai to ascertain that. So, I must flatly contradict you. Thousands of western people have moved here, only to meet their spouses, have their children and happily put down roots.

The truth is that families love Dubai for a number of very good reasons. We can leave our handbags  in public places without them being stolen. We can leave our cars unlocked and they won’t be driven off by joyriding/drug-taking illiterate thugs. If we forget a mobile phone in a taxi, it will be returned the same day by a polite and honest taxi driver. Why? Because zero tolerance works.

There is no sex or swearing on TV. We are mercifully free from East Enders, Jonathon Ross and Kate Garraway in the morning. Little Johnny will never be able to accidently access internet porn while doing his homework either (unless he’s bypassed the proxy server again). So hurrah for censorship and all it entails!

The amenities are marvellous. Our children play in beautifully landscaped public parks that are manned by uniformed staff. The loos are clean and fully functional. They have proper lavatory paper, doors on the cubicles and squeezy soap venders. Even better, there are no used condoms or syringes hidden in the sandpits, no graffiti on the slides or roundabouts (or anywhere). And, there are no glowering, granny-bashing hoodies (tongue-snogging their 10-year-old girlfriends between drags on their Superkings) to contend with.

There’s no such thing as ‘Adam and Steve.’ Our children’s’ classmates (all 15 of them) have, by and large, never known the pain of divorce or single-parenthood or the confusions a transplant, ‘modern’ family. Instead, they come from terribly nice, middle class, well-educated and conventional two-parent families. We can have the entire class over to tea and know that not one single child will forget to say ‘thank you’. We don’t need to hide the silver, worry about the cat being burned with cigarettes, or panic that the Porsche will be taken for an uninvited test-drive. Need I say more?

You talk about the terrible heat, the appalling humidity and never being able to spend any time outside. Next time you visit (and you will, because journalists – especially Scottish ones – never turn down freebies)  it might be sensible to come at the right time of year. Just make sure it’s between mid-October and mid-March. During these months, the temperature is a steady and beautiful 25C.

Your rude comments about the Dubai World Cup and Meydan were simply made to shock. Our ladies (in general) are very well-dressed and wonderfully free from MacDonald’s muffin tops. It’s a fact that 99 percent of western women in Dubai have, and make use of, private gym memberships. Yet, you refer most unchivalrously to their ‘wobbly thighs in too-tight dresses’. I have just one word to say to you. And that word is… Aintree.

Dubai World Cup ladies

Aintree ladies...

What’s wrong with Ski Dubai? I think Narnia is very pretty! Did you get short-changed in the Snow Park or something?  I am yet to see a convincing sand-boarding and sun dome facility in Europe. Even the Eden Project in Cornwall, which is to be admired, is ever-so-slightly-dull-and-boring when compared to Dubai’s indoor ski-slope.

You correctly mentioned that there are a lot of empty buildings – reminiscent of the crash in 2008. But what you failed to mention is that we residents don’t mind seeing those empty buildings one bit. Every empty building represents the time of change – when Dubai had to drop its rents by at least half. We small people have never had so much negotiating power – and it feels good!

Your driver says he gets lost every day. I suggest he is either lying or stupid. The roads do change every few months or so, but they generally change for the better. To suggest Dubai’s road system is as elusive and confusing as the moving staircases at Hogwarts, is just plain silly.

‘Dubai suffers from giganticism’. Guilty as charged I’m afraid. But the world and his wife is happy to admit that the Burj Khalifa ( in all its erect and silver splendor) is a damn fine piece of architecture. So, I can only conclude that perhaps, Mr Gill,  it is someone else who is suffering from the penis envy?

And on that note I must finish, as I’m already late for my yogalates class. I do hope you find my comments helpful. Indeed, please feel free to contact me for any advice when you are next in the neighbourhood. I know for a fact that DH would be delighted to show you around.

Finally, I’ve attached my very popular recipe for date and mango chutney – it’s a big hit at the Ladies’ Cross-stitch and Quilters Guild. And (so I’ve been told) it’s an excellent remedy for ailments of a delicate nature, which you may find useful. Two teaspoons at bedtime with a dram of single malt, should suffice…

Yours most hospitably,

Housewife in Dubai


20 thoughts on “The naughty step for A. A. Gill

  1. Wait a minute, there are TWO Dubais, one full of vapid drunk single expats(as per AA Gill), the other one is families escaping the grinding misery of life in the YOOKAY (as per DH points out).

  2. Great response, one correct, but you have just done the same as him by highlighting ‘Aintree’ and posting a picture of the few that don’t look as fashionable and beautiful as most of the girls in Liverpool. Two wrongs don’t make right, you should not have said that.

  3. DH you have summed up perfectly. I think AA Gill is perhaps suffering from a touch of envy and is hence trying to slate Dubai. He may get over it, but I doubt it. Such people rarely do.

    My own comment is Game Set and Match to DH and Dubai.

  4. Hoorah for a well-written response to AA Gill’s appalling article. I lived in Dubai from 1986 – 1994 and returned again in 2003 and I am very happy to be here. Whilst every country has its flaws (and I have lived in several) Dubai is one of the best.

  5. I had never considered writing to the tabloids about the endless dross they wrote about Dubai, but this article really made me mad. I wrote a blistering letter to Vanity Fair but I somehow don’t think it will make the letters page. I agree with a previous comment that it is based on envy. Those poor souls suffering from a terrible English winter, high petrol prices, and all the other woes that seem to beset our homeland just don’t like it that we have got off our backsides and are enjoying a good life here.

    • Thank you for your comments. Dubai-bashing, it seems, has almost become a national pastime for the UK press. And while it is far from perfect here (where is?) there are so many advantages to living in the UAE, that most expats balk at the thought of returning home again – especially if they are raising kids. I’ll stick with my clean parks, safe streets, two-parent families, fab outdoor life, great schools and zero tolerance – thanks very much! 🙂

  6. Well put. Agree and liked the retort – aside from a somewhat blinkered viewpoint that single parent families do not exist. They do in significant ratios (and so do some gay ones no doubt) and, being one of them, I see fully functioning loving single parent families all of the time, with equally lovely well adjusted well mannered and educated middle and upper class kids. I perhaps realise the point might have meant to be held in comparison, for example, to UK housing estates but to position single parent families as some sort of slur on society that Dubai is somehow immune to feels far too misguided & blinkered in another way to the original author.
    But good someone stood up to the Dubai bashing for certain.
    Otherwise, well said even tho it is only painting a picture for a certain existence for a number of western expats rather than melting pot of lives that is Dubai.

  7. Very well written, its a shame that only the plastic side of Dubai is seen, I would much rather live here than anywhere in the UK.

  8. AA Gill I think may have got some elements of UAE wrong, but on the whole the article is very close to the truth. I lived in Dubai from 2004 to 2010, through the boom and then the bust. My son was educated there and I liked living and working there. BUT it does have a down side………check out butane sniffing teenagers that die, privately arranged paying parties with alcohol & drugs included for the teenagers, under age sex is rampant and the kids learn to lie and cheat their parents. those parents that think it doesn’t happen are just naive!
    I for one am glad for the terrible English winter, high petrol prices, and all the other woes that seem to beset our homeland. I am financially better off here away from the hidden costs of Dubai, and am enjoying the freedom that comes from being in my homeland.
    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret my time in Dubai but lets be honest it isn’t the fairy tale city that some portray.

  9. Don’t try to make Dubai out to be some wonderful little fairyland where nothing ever goes wrong. I’m 21 and I spent my entire childhood in Dubai (17 years), until I finally left to Australia. How can you act like everything there isn’t a farce? Arabs are proud of their tall buildings but was it them that even laid down one brick? Or do you just forget the bus load of expats you see being carted to and from them?
    You are so impermanent to a country that has no loyalty to you. Doesn’t it bother you that all you will ever be is an expat and to put so much into a country and it not give a damn about you?
    My father died when I was 13 and I had to watch my mother slave away at her job just so I could be put through school (because I couldn’t even get a job until I was 18) and live in a house because there is no form of any government aid for people.
    When I left for university, my mother was made redundant because out of nowhere a local had turned up and wanted to “restructure”. This left her with no Visa, because god forbid that country gives people who have spent their entire lives there a passport.
    I now realise that you homophobic housewives (Because oh your prudish heart couldn’t stand the idea of two men raising a child together) with nothing better to do than yogalates cannot even fathom what it’s like in the real world. God forbid something happen to your husband, just think about where you would be and who would help you in Dubai.
    And you are right. It’s so safe there, but it feels just awesome to be leered at my local men! I mean thats why I get dressed in the morning, so old men can stare at me.
    Please don’t chalk this up to envy because you can keep your air conditioned train stations with wifi. I really don’t need them and leaving that place was the best thing I ever did and I have never been happier.

    • Everyone is entitled to their own opinion – thank you for sharing yours on my blog. I do think you need to take a chill pill though – life’s too short for so much bitterness. Have a nice day 🙂

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  11. To say that this piece of writing is tosh would be to understate the case. Perhaps as a housewife you have reached your station in life and aspire to nothing better or brigher. Certainly from your writing it transpires that you are slightly limited in the scope of your vision and understanding of the inner machinations of hte United Arab Emirates. Dubai is at heart a backward desert outpost with misogonistic views, homophobic attitudes and corrupt systems. But you clearly don’t care, and it clearly seems to fit your peronality type. And clearly, too, you have a nice life there where your spoilt kids can go to nice schools learn to say thank you. Of course there are no Adam and Steves there – at least not within your limited field of vision. But there are plenty of homosexual activity happening in broad daylight, including coercion and rape of young boys. Then of course there is the corrupted legal system, based on Sharia, nepotism and random luck-of-the-draw justice.

    I live in a country called Australia. You may even have heard of it, in between your many and busy jobs as a housewife. We have here people of every hue and size; of every nationality and persuasion. I work with young, old, men, women, gay and straight . We drink, we have meals together at the beach. The boys can kiss their partners, same sex or otherwise, without fear and prejudice. The girls wear bikinis if they wish and the guys can go topless. You’d hate it here.

    I hope for you that you will never be implicated by association of anything even vaguely illegal (such as getting yourself into debt or having consumed alcohol – both a familiar passtime here) because you may then realise that you are not living in a civilised place; you may even find that it is a very unjust system that will deny you access to legal defense.

    Go well and I hope you find time, in between your many preoccupations, to think about the larger picture of life and get one yourself.


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