Dubai Fake City Myth Debunked

Is Dubai Really A “Fake City”? (Myth Debunking)

Dubai has earned a reputation in some circles as a “fake city.” There are several reasons for somebody to make a statement such as this, and several aspects of the city bring some truth to it. However, to call a city “fake” is somewhat naïve without knowing more facts about the city and its development.

Dubai has many aspects that can be misunderstood as fake, whether referring to the population, architecture, culture, or infrastructure. It’s important to note that Dubai is extremely new and was built in a short period. Therefore, it is still forming its overall identity and is not fake but new.

Indeed, Dubai did not grow organically over a long period like other major cities such as London or New York. By comparison, it is extremely new, and an enormous amount of development has occurred in a relatively short time. As a result, Dubai tends to have a bit of a superficial nature, but this does not mean it is a fake city.

Is Dubai Really A “Fake City”?

Dubai Not a Fake City

There are several reasons somebody might refer to Dubai as a “fake city.” There is no arguing with some of these facts. Still, one needs to understand the context under which the city was founded to understand the complexities of why the city stands as it does today.

The city is not “fake,” as some describe it. It is simply a relatively new city compared to others in the world, and there are certain aspects of the city that are misunderstood.

The development of Dubai from a small fishing village to a thriving, sparkling metropolis has only happened in the last 50 years. This is an extremely short space of time for a city to develop. It differs dramatically from the slow, organic development of other major cities worldwide.

Unlike many other cities, Dubai was not born out of some major historical event or revolution. Instead, its development was driven simply by economics. With the oil boom, the city exploded from a small fishing village to a luxurious city in a short period. One could argue that the city is still trying to catch up with its growth.

Because it is a new city, many say there is a lack of urban culture and a city-to-soul connection. On the surface, the Dubai culture seems to be one of extravagance and luxury with little regard for human connection. However, there is far more to Dubai than meets the eye.

While the general theme is one of opulence, extravagance, and an overriding sense of materialistic superficiality and wasteful consumerism, a great deal of culture and intrigue is attached to this melting pot of a new metropolis.

Dubai’s Rich Local Culture

Dubai’s Rich Local Culture

Many have said that Dubai is “cultureless,” building the case against it as a “fake city.” This is an understandable claim, especially since most of the population is not native to the area. Residents of Dubai hail from all over the world. So there is a tendency to band together in groups according to nationality, creating a series of “micro-cultures” across the city.

The native Emirati population is small by comparison. It can be difficult to make your way into the local circles in Dubai. However, once you have befriended the permanent residents, you will be welcomed into a world rich in culture and tradition.

Much of the ancient culture of the Emirati is intangible – it is passed down through generations in the form of food, dance, hospitality, and general lifestyle. To properly experience the “old Dubai,” visitors are encouraged to make their way to the old part of the city.

Here you will find a more authentic experience of the city’s culture while hopefully experiencing some of the spectacular hospitality of the locals.

Dubai’s Transitory Population

Dubai's Transitory Population

There is a general trend in Dubai for people to pass through for a short period. People generally remain in Dubai for a few years to make money before moving to another destination. People often see it not as a permanent place to settle but rather as a temporary phase.

This trend can make it difficult to form meaningful relationships with people. Few people want to remain long-term and put down roots in the area. Besides the small population of locals, many people in Dubai are simply there to make money and leave, so there can be a general sense of transience.

This does not make the city “fake” but instead creates a melting pot of cultures constantly moving through and leaving their mark.

Lack Of Natural Resources

Dubai Lacks Natural Resources

Dubai is in the desert. No natural resources exist, so everything you see, touch, and taste must be brought in from elsewhere. This can give the city a sense of being fake, especially as none of the limited plant life would exist or survive without human intervention.

The weather in Dubai does not support agriculture, natural food, or natural life, so Dubai relies on imports for nearly all of its resources.

All buildings, roads, beaches, parks, and buildings have been built in the last fifty years, and there is a complete lack of natural greenery. The existing greenery comes in the form of manicured, highly irrigated gardens that give a sense of “fakeness” to the area.

While the lack of natural resources creates a need to bring in everything required, the plants, food, and other natural aspects remain “real.”

Dubai’s Complicated Political Climate

Dubai’s Complicated Political Climate

The political climate in Dubai is such that issues within the country cannot be spoken about without fear of retribution. There is often a false image of perfection portrayed in the media, but this is far from reality.

This fear-based governance controlled through harsh fines and penalties discourages autonomy and free speech. The artists and free thinkers generally don’t have much of a voice, and it can be difficult for any such people to make a real contribution.

The lack of transparency within the political realm can be seen as fake and unjust from an outsider’s perspective. However, Dubai has its own rules that serve its population, which must simply be respected.

Double Standards

Reality vs Double Standards Dubai

While Dubai is an Islamic city defined by conservative behavior, the local nightlife suggests otherwise. The vast population of tourists and short-term residents makes it difficult to govern the use of alcohol, etc. What happens behind closed doors is very different from what is portrayed in the media.

As a result, some people may describe the city’s external image as completely different from reality.

Mega Projects

Mega Projects Dubai Palm Islands

The so-called “megaprojects” in Dubai, including the Palm Islands and World Islands, are fake by their very nature. These artificial landforms are completely artificial, along with everything placed on them. An enormous undertaking such as this will contribute to the place’s “fake” reputation.

Despite being man-made, however, these islands are still made with real materials and have real people living on them.

Empty Buildings

Empty Abandoned Developments Dubai

Many of the enormous skyscrapers in Dubai are rumored to be empty or only partially occupied. It would seem that an enormous amount of money and effort was spent to create a series of externally impressive buildings without regard for who or what would occupy them.

These are still real buildings and cannot be described as “fake.” It may simply take time before the buildings are 100% complete.


Despite its tendency towards glamour and extravagance and a general lack of natural resources to give the city a feeling of organic growth, this burgeoning metropolis needs time to find its identity. While Dubai is still searching to define itself with a culture of its own, it is far from a “fake city.” One simply needs to ignore the rumors and take a closer look to see the city’s true nature.


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