"At last, a comprehensive expose of the economic and sexual exploitation that erected this utopia of greed.  Syed Ali has seen the future in Dubai and it doesn't work."  -- --  Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums and

City of Quartz  


Here are some reviews:

Andrea Schulte-Peevers writing in the Dubai city guide of the Lonely Planet (2010) calls the book a “close (and highly critical) examination of Dubai’s turbo-speed metamorphosis, the forces that made it happen and the brand created in the process.”

In The New York Review of Books (8/19/2010), Joshua Hammer writes:

Ali minces no words in criticizing Dubai’s “plastic” culture: its “grotesque grandiosity”; its environmentally wasteful architecture; its abusive treatment of the “socially degraded” workers who made possible its growth; its repressive, antidemocratic regime that has banned critical bloggers and jailed opponents; and its transient population that makes a “Faustian bargain” ... click here for the full review. (.pdf)

(Same review, in France [.pdf])

In the Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad (6/18/2010) Bernard Hulsman gave a nice, lengthy review of my book and a book by the famous architect and theorist Rem Koolhaas. He wasn’t that impressed by Koolhaas’s book as none of the contributors were critical of things in the Gulf. But Hulsman liked my book fine! Unfortunately I don’t speak Dutch, and the google translation didn’t give a clean translation. But if you read Dutch and you have a subscription, the review is here.

From the Guardian (UK, 4/10/10), a short, very positive review by Peter Smith. (.pdf)

From the Times (UK, 3/27/10), Hugh Tomlinson writes a lengthy, mostly positive review. (.pdf)

From the Independent (UK, 4/16/10), Christopher Davidson gives another lengthy, mostly positive review. (.pdf)

The Herald (Glasgow, 4/24/10) says the book “is a revelation of a place where people are happy not to have the vote, not to have citizenship and not to own property, as 90% of Dubai’s population comes from outside the region.”(.pdf)

The Times of India (3/5/11) calls the book a "compelling study of what lies beneath the breathtaking opulence of Dubai."

Traveller Magazine (3/1/10) said the book is “A probing insight into the transience of expatriate life in Dubai... This is an interesting read.”

Indian Business Journal (April 2011) had a very positive review on the release of the Indian edition. (.pdf)

Habibul Haque Khondker says in Contemporary Sociology “it is a book for social scientists whose eyes are tired of reading tables and for business travelers and general readers who will read it for pleasure and more for knowledge about Dubai. And they will get both.” (.pdf)

Marta Saldaña Martín, writing in the journal International Affairs, calls it a “brave [work] that tackle[s] sensitive issues usually avoided in studies of the region.” (.pdf)

Akbar Mahdi in Choice says “the book offers a balanced account and analysis of the liminal life of expatriate families in Dubai and what might lie ahead for them.” (.pdf)

Neslihan Demartis writes in the journal Cities: “Within the context of the growing interest in Dubai as a hypermodern metropolis that simultaneously incorporates the glittering results of neoliberal city structuring and its human costs, this book is a remarkable contribution to the literature.” (.html)


From the back cover:

In less than two decades, Dubai has transformed itself from an obscure Gulf emirate into a global center for business, tourism, and luxury living. Despite recent economic setbacks, the city remains a fascinating case study in light-speed urban development, hyperconsumerism, massive immigration, and vertiginous inequality. Its rulers have succeeded in making Dubai into a worldwide brand, publicizing its astonishing hotels and leisure opportunities while at the same time successfully downplaying its complex policies towards guest workers and suppression of dissent.

In this enormously readable book, Syed Ali delves beneath the dazzling surface to analyze how—and at what cost—Dubai has achieved such success. Ali brings alive a society rigidly divided between expatriate Westerners living self-indulgent lifestyles on short-term work visas, native Emiratis who are largely passive observers and beneficiaries of what Dubai has become, and workers from the developing world who provide the manual labor and domestic service needed to keep the emirate running, often at great personal cost.


Dubai: Gilded Cage, Yale University Press, 2010 (For UK, click here.)

Dubai: Gilded Cage, Orient BlackSwan, 2010 (Indian reprint.)