By now, dear reader, you know the tropes of a reality show set in Dubai.
Gold, lots of gold. Yachts. Super-cars. Diamonds. Shots of the Dubai skyline. Designer boutiques. More gold. More diamonds. Panoramic shots of the desert. Dubai Bling, Netflix’s new eight-part reality show set in the emirate, ticks every one of these off within the opening minutes.
Exuberant displays of wealth are apparent from the outset, but we knew that was coming, right? The show is called Dubai Bling.
“Many people have become millionaires in Dubai, and I am one of them,” says Zeina Khoury, chief executive of Highmark Real Estate.
The show switches between English and Arabic, and the first episode introduces the cast and lays the groundwork for some of the coming drama.
They are not all household names, but most UAE residents will be familiar with Virgin radio DJ Kris Fade, who is featured with his then-fiancee and now wife, Brianna Ramirez. Looking ahead, the final episode is called Hitched, so let's assume their wedding will be televised.
The show strikes a similar tone to Real Housewives of Dubai, the divisive Bravo reality show that came out in June. There are yachts, flashy hotel lobbies, B-roll of fast cars and parties, lots of parties, with fireworks, acrobats, popping bottles and sparklers.
Money seems to be the only core theme in Dubai Bling. In the introduction alone, Fade gives Ramirez a Tesla for Valentine’s Day.
The only other theme seems to be feuds and fights, toeing further into Real Housewives territory. Although, this promises to offer a refreshing balance of men and women squabbling at the table, so hopefully we’re not just going to be served footage of six women tearing each other apart for eight episodes.
“Alright, I’m going,” Fade says explosively as part of a montage, then throws his napkin down on the table. It’s still part of the introduction so little context is given for the outburst, but I am sure it will be explained (inevitably in great detail) later on.
Khoury acts as an unofficial narrator and the glue of the show, introducing the various cast members.
She used to work with Safa Siddiqui, an Iraqi-British influencer, and is friends with both Lojain Omran, a Saudi television presenter, and socialite Loujain Adada, who is known as LJ. Single mum and influencer Farhana Bodi appears to be a frenemy of Khoury’s. And the property mogul is friends with Fade, having met the DJ on Instagram after she messaged him to say she liked his Fade Fit snacks. Khoury’s husband Hanna also stars. He says he is a private person and keeps himself off Instagram … but features in the show.
Much of the drama in the first episode comes care of Siddiqui and her husband, Fahad, who appear to have been cast to bicker at every opportunity.
“I’m materialistic and proud,” she says, before she is seen throwing her husband's clothes out of a wardrobe and into a pile because there isn’t enough room for her things. For context, the walk-in wardrobe is bigger than some studio apartments. If you’re looking for relatable content, you won’t find it here.
Siddiqui’s proposed solution comes care of Khoury, whom she calls, telling her they have “outgrown” their five-bedroom Palm Jumeirah mansion and that they need a new house. She later buys a Dh10.3 million necklace from Bulgari in an attempt to teach her husband a lesson. Which lesson, exactly, is unclear.
For his big opening, Fade emerges from a private jet with his two daughters and Ramirez, who says they’re returning from a five-week holiday in Australia. I think we’re meant to believe the jet flew them back to Dubai from Down Under.
We then cut to Adada. We learn that she was married to Saudi billionaire Walid Juffali, who was almost 30 years her senior but died one month after the birth of their second daughter. Their wedding cost $10m and she wore a $2m necklace and a $200,000 Karl Lagerfeld-designed dress, Khoury proudly states.
The potential for a touching moment comes care of Adada, who says she is “ready for a fresh start” and goes on a date, five years after the death of her husband. The blind date takes place at Ossiano, the Michelin-starred restaurant at Atlantis, The Palm, and is with Kuwaiti-American entrepreneur Ebraheem Al Samadi.
Adada dismisses him almost immediately, despite his claimed $90m net worth. She says she hates red roses — he owns Forever Rose — and that it was never going to work.
Al Samadi sent her a helicopter to get her to the date. “How was it?” he asks. “Hmm, I’m used to it,” she shrugs.
He later speaks to his mother about the date, describing it as a “disaster”, so he’s not oblivious to the situation, which is refreshing, but then goes on to scathingly describe her as a “typical blondie” (she’s brunette), and a “beauty without brains”. His mother speculates that she might be a “gold-digger”.
The episode builds towards a party hosted by Fade and Ramirez, where he announces that they’re getting married and the Dubai Bling cast are all invited. He gets down on one knee, but already referred to her as his fiancee, so that timeline needs ironing out.
Naturally, there is some fighting at the party. Adada and Bodi have a pre-existing feud so were, of course, sat beside each other. We can probably expect much of the subsequent episodes to be about the bickering pair and little else.
The show probably deserves more than a one-episode chance to really judge it. We know that the super-rich make a mark on Netflix when it comes to reality TV — Selling Sunset taught us that, and it seems that gold bars and Ferraris sell. It remains to be seen how well the show will do in terms of viewership, but for the majority of people in the UAE, it couldn't be farther from their reality.