Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tonight on ITV1: Piers Morgan on... Dubai

Despite everyone being struck down with the credit crunch bug, it seems there's going to be no let-up in programme-makers packing celebrities off to glamorous locations to make travel shows. It sort of works, though, since no one will ever be able to afford to go on holiday ever again – but sending king of smugness Piers Morgan to Dubai, where the spookily clean streets are paved with tax-free gold, does seem to be rubbing it in a bit. 

Never mind, because Piers actually does a pretty good job of it, meeting both the expats and the rich Arabs who live in the country and gawking at some of the impressive sights dreamt up by PM Sheikh Mohammed. These include such follies as the new seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel which cost so much to build, it’s expected never to make a profit (despite charging £12,000 a night for one of its top-end rooms), the 800m- tall unfinished skyscraper (160 floors and counting), and a theme park which, when complete, will be bigger than Birmingham. As Piers says more than once: "This is absolutely ridiculous."

The former Mirror editor is from the Jeremy Clarkson school of confident motormouthy presenting, at one stage pointedly telling a pair of investors who've just plugged $50m into some redistributed sea bed (i.e. sand): "You've both completely lost your marbles" – but with such enthusiastic camaraderie, it makes the interviews sparkle, as well as making this pair think they're crazy maverick pioneers.

The dizzying figures make for an eye-opening watch, the material feeling fresher than Griff Rhys Jones's recent Greatest Cities trilogy. Piers doesn’t quite get to the bottom of it all, though: it might have been good to hear from, say, someone who has come to recognise Dubai for the soulless money pit it probably is, or – perish the thought – a poor person.

by Will Parkhouse, Wednesday 28 January 2009 

Originally published on

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