Dubai: Behind an Urban Spectacle

Elsheshtawy, Yasser. Dubai behind an Urban Spectacle. London: Routledge, 2010.

This book by Yasser Elsheshtawy, is  pictorial as well as narrative account of the city of Dubai, beyond the glitz and glamour that one sees or is portrayed to us. The author begins to peel apart the layers of the city, to expose what he defines as ‘the other side of Dubai’ . He begins to categorise as well as differentiate the lifestyles of different communities as well as ethnicities that live in Dubai, and the metaphorical segregation that beings to manifest itself in the society. He calls Dubai, a city of constant struggle and ambition, an urban experiment with constant interactions and tensions between, the needs and aspirations of different sects of poeple. He begins to look at Dubai, at the level of the micro-community. An interesting ‘terminology’ he uses in the book, is that, the city of walls, to emphasise the degree of social exclusion between these different communities, the reasons behind which are highlighted in the book. He also begins, to look at these Micro-Communities, with a much more magnified lens, to talk about, the social structure, living typology and existing hierarchy with respect to other communities, within each community and with respect to the city’s urban structure in general. He also touches open, a topic that we were targeting our research towards, which is the living conditions of the ‘migrant labor camps’ in Dubai, particularly Sonapur. Thus, his account is of particular importance to our narrative, as the richness of his story telling, starts to bring alive the plight of the people actually living within these camps.


Elsheshtawy, Yasser. Dubai behind an Urban Spectacle. London: Routledge, 2010.

2 Comments on “Dubai: Behind an Urban Spectacle

  1. This is a great summary of the existing literature. It will be great if this ends up giving the first hints of the notion of Dubai being “instant,” since it is such a strong guiding theme in the remainder of the entries. If it is not the idea of instant, perhaps other ideas like experimentation and tension may be equally interesting. Whatever the case is, try to set up this summary as a way to foreground the findings to come.

  2. Thank you so much sir! I am happy to hear that, as this was the book we used as the starting point of our argument. It seems like, the author put a lot of his personal emotion and experiences into the writing of the book, which one can notice in the subtleties and tone of his speaking. At many times, one feels like one is reading a fictional novel, as he goes about describing the city, the spaces and the people. We have tried and will continue to try to use the background from this book, as the foreground for our future findings, as you have suggested. Thank You so much sir!

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