Tuesday, July 01, 2008

100% Genuine, Authentic Faux

Over the course of a long and mis-spent life, I have been to many 'Old Towns'--cities that have been around for centuries, with the oldest parts set up as museums where actors try to reconstruct life as it was back when the city was new.

But only in Dubai have I seen an 'Old Town' built in the 21st century.

English has a word for the authentic version of the Dubai Old Town, and that word is 'medina.' The word was only used by English speakers travelling through the Maghreb, where the French had built towns with European architecture around ancient Arabic villages. The 'medina' was the old, pre-French, Arab part of the town.

But in Dubai, the developers have put up yet another fake traditional village, and called it 'Dubai Old Town.'

The first fake souk that I saw was in the Madinat Jumaira, where I would take new arrivals in summer. The Madinat Jumairah has a section described as a 'traditional Arabic souk,' with the traditional Arabic Starbucks, and the traditional Arabic Prada, and all air conditioned. I would explain that real souks have similar architecture, but are not air conditioned, and so are not really feasible for new, European arrivals in summer. (I took visitors who arrived in winter so see some of the souks that are as authentic as Dubai can manage.)

Then Wafi, already a faux Egyptian shopping mall, added a fake souk under the main Mall.

And now Dubai Old Town has traditional-looking-but-ultra-modern (TLBUM) housing, and a TLBUM souk.


Anonymous Muttrah Souq said...

It will be the old town by the time the new one is finished.

Amazing the chapcha (letter thingy) is jnnsvip - perhaps there are vip jinns

11:48 pm  

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