In this new series for ITV1, Piers Morgan showed us around one of the world’s most luxurious playgrounds of the super rich, Dubai. And I have to say, I had thought this would be as enjoyable as watching paint dry, but I was very pleasantly surprised.
I’d assumed it was going to be something between and advert and a journalistic dig for dirt, but it was neither; it was genuinely entertaining and seeing how Dubai has extended itself out to sea and how the ‘other half’ live was an enlightening hour!
Piers took a look around some of the extraordinary developments in the city, meeting people of wealth and influence along the way. He also looked at the party lifestyle of the ex-pats who co-exist in relative harmony – most of the time – with Dubai’s Muslim culture.
It seems that the key to avoiding punishment for breaking some of the most rigid of Dubai’s laws is to a) have a lot of money and b) only be ‘hedonistic’ in areas designated for it, such as ex-pat hotels and homes.
So continuing this look at a city that 20 years ago was nothing more than desert, we followed Piers as he travelled as the wealthy locals do; by helicopter, sports car and yacht and as he sampled a £12,000-per-night suite in the only seven-star hotel in the world.
Everything in Dubai is bigger than big; for instance, in the world’s biggest shopping centre – which contains a giant aquarium – there’s a shop selling jewel encrusted mobile phones for a mere £110,000. You’d just buy two wouldn’t you, in case one got lost…
One of the most interesting parts of the show for me was looking at the lifestyles of the rich and the famous at Palm Jumeirah which is a lavish housing development on an island shaped like a palm tree that can be seen from space! David Beckham, Ashley Cole and Michael Owen own properties there and a Palm address is seen as the ultimate status symbol.
But even those wealthy people couldn’t hold a financial candle to the billionaire who bought a personalized number plate for $2 million and who owned a – one of only six in the world – designer car.
Piers also went up to the top of the world’s tallest building, which is still under construction but already has more than 160 floors and is 611m tall. He showed too the plans for the world’s biggest theme park which is currently being built and will be bigger than Birmingham when complete.
We saw a model of the park, which is to include life-size replicas of the Taj Mahal, Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Egyptian pyramids and the Las Vegas strip. I’d give my right arm to go there when it’s done!
Piers also met up with celebrity chef Gary Rhodes who’s opened a restaurant there and is living the good life in Dubai but two of the most interesting residents are two men from London who moved to the city four years ago and have just spent $50m buying a sand island. Their purchase is one of 300 man-made islands which have been created four miles off the coast of the city and have been positioned to represent the countries of the world when viewed from above.
Safi Qurashi and Mustafa Nagri bought the island which represents England and they told Piers they’re planning to build 100 luxury villas on it which could sell for up to $5m each. That’s a nice profit if it comes off and in a place where audacious ideas are the only ones that work, they can pretty much take that money to the bank.
Piers said of the men: “Safi’s a perfect example of a Dubai dream. Four years ago he arrived here skint having lost everything in a failed internet firm, now, thanks to a series of shrewd property deals he’s the King of England.”
And this seems to be a common theme in Dubai. Piers met many ex-pats who’d come from relatively humble beginnings in Britain and are now worth a fortune thanks to wise investments on the ground floor of Dubai’s property market.
Piers also took a look at what might happen if the credit crunch hits Dubai, but as one of Piers’ interviewees, Mishal Kanoo said: “The credit crunch isn’t coming, it’s here, it already exists…it’s not going to be the death of the area. There’s going to be a natural timeout…to allow things to comeback to its normal position and then move forward.”
And forward it will go simply because it is possibly the only economic boom area in the entire world at the moment. There’s enough money in that small area to buy and sell most of the globe and therefore, it seems unlikely that it’s going to be affected by anything as mundane as global recession.
Ultimately, this programme left me wishing I could go there whereas before the show, I wouldn’t have gone if I’d won it as a prize! Cheers Piers!