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Photo taken from the Burj Dubai by 7-70. Feature photo by millyarder.

Is Dubai a modern day Babel?

Few places exemplify the surreal juxtapositions of the modern age like the boom-town of Dubai.

Dubai is a city built on bubbles and sand, a free market playground for the global elite.

Yet Dubai is also a labor camp for countless economic migrants, a dictatorship where an obscenely wealthy prince was recently caught torturing an Afghan merchant, then driving over him in a Mercedes SUV.

Photo by Sharif


Here at Matador, we wonder if Dubai might be a modern day Babel, a place where ambition outstrips empathy.

The tower of Babel fell because the men who built it were unable to communicate with each other. Does the same communication gap divide the bankers and bricklayers of Dubai?

After all, the official website of the Burj Dubai Tower, the highest in the world, has this for a slogan:

Burj Dubai will be known by many names. But only a privileged group of people will call it home.

The Burj Dubai under construction. Joi

We Want Your Voice

If you are an ex-pat living in Dubai, we want to hear from you. We want your dispatches from the front-lines of the global economy.

You will be our Dubabel correspondent, so we expect a somewhat critical take on things. Your writing should target the gap between the height of excess and the reality of mortal limits.

“The New Mecca” by George Saunders is, in our opinion, the pinnacle of Dubabel journalism. Too bad it’s not available online, but you can listen to a long excerpt here and read an interview with Saunders over at Worldhum.

Finally, it’s OK if you like Dubai, and it’s even better if you love it.

After all, if you didn’t care about the place, you couldn’t write about it well.


Please leave a comment below with a link to something you’ve written about Dubai, and we’ll get back to you.

For details about what writing for Matador entails, please visit our guidelines.


Abha, Matador’s expert on Dubai, left a PR job in the UAE after reading the inspirational book Vagabonding by Rolf Potts.

Here are some Dubai blogs we enjoy:

Secret Dubai Diary

One Big Construction Site

Dubai Consumer Mirror

Dubai Thoughts

Trip Planning


About The Author

Tim Patterson

Tim Patterson is a long-time contributor and former contributing editor at Matador Network.

  • Tim Patterson

    Check out Baxter’s article on Arabian Bull Wrestling for a look at the pre-DuBabel side of the United Arab Emirates.

  • Hal

    Cool idea, Tim. I hope we get to hear an on-the-ground perspective soon. Dubai is utterly mystical in my mind (only more so after seeing that wild opening photo!). I’d like to go, but am also a bit intimidated.

  • Carlo

    I look forward to our DuBabel correspondent’s stories!

  • Tim Patterson

    You mean, there’s not a writer in Dubai who thinks the Babel analogy might be apt?

    “Closer, closer to paradise. How cold!”

  • Faisal

    There’s probably more U.A.E. nationals than ex-pats that would see it as an appropriate analogy. A while ago, in Sharjah (city bordering Dubai) I did see a building actually called Babel Tower and I was following the signs heading towards Lord’s Beach Hotel at the time.

    • Tim Patterson

      I’d love to see submissions from U.A.E nationals on the DuBabel theme…

  • Pingback: byK – Dubai’s Burj Khalifa

  • Grace Fujimaki

    Have you found your DuBabel Correspondent? I’m an expat in Dubai, United Arab Emirates for 4 years now. I love the articles here at Matador Network, contemplating on submitting drafts about Dubai, living and working here, enduring the heat in summer but enjoying the sun in winter, sand and dates (the fruit) all year long. :-)

    • Heather Carreiro

      Hi Grace! You can feel free to submit drafts and pitches on articles about expat life in Dubai to heather [at] or sarah [at]

      • Pamella de Leon

        Hi, what about now, have you found a DuBabel correspondent? 

        I’m a college student who grew up in Dubai, although my parents are expats. I’d love to contribute and give some insight.

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