It would seem that 2022 has been declared open season for Dubai-set reality TV of questionable educational value that has no apparent reason for existing, beyond offering a vicarious snapshot of the lifestyles of the rich and famous, which appears to be everyone in the emirate if these documentaries are to be taken at face value.
The furore over the BBC’s Inside Dubai: Playground of the Rich, a documentary that was denounced locally for offering a skewed vision of supercars, overpriced trainers and environmental destruction, had barely subsided when Bravo dropped the trailer for The Real Housewives of Dubai. Social media is already ablaze over the network's questionable use of the word “real” in the title.
Now, the BBC has stepped up once again to plug the gap with Dubai Hustle, an eight-part docuseries following the lives of a group of mostly 20-something British estate agents selling luxury properties to the emirate’s great and good from the offices of local broker Haus & Haus.
Click through the gallery above to see inside different Dubai properties.
The first four episodes dropped on BBC 3 and iPlayer on Monday night, and predictably, we see lots of shots of glittering towers, conspicuous consumption and supercars, while some of the estate agents are generally as unlikeable as you might expect from a show that’s honing in on garish lives.
The city shouldn’t take the negative portrayals as an affront, since a similar show could be made anywhere in the world, but the producers could still have tried harder to at least look beyond the money, money, and money that is all-pervasive in the show.
On occasion, we almost learn something about the subjects. For example, Bedfordshire native Jess is allowed a sentence on the challenges of being in a city where many people are newcomers and know no one, then later opens up about being anorexic when she was younger.
Meanwhile, Huddersfield-born Ellie has just been home to see her mum after dealing with her own mental health issues.
Jake and Adam are such close friends that they have moved to Dubai together, live together, eat together and shop together, because “nobody likes being sold to, but everyone wants to shop with a friend”. Adam even goes so far as to compare his mission selling flats in the UAE to the achievements of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar.
There are clearly some fascinating characters on our screens here, but every time we begin to get close to turning down a road signed “potentially interesting”, we’re swiftly taken back to another brunch or yacht party.
I did at least learn one thing from this show: even after 10 years of living in Dubai, I did not know you could get a villa with a “car turntable” in your living room, so you can keep your Lamborghini spinning round in plain view when your friends pop around for tea. Mind blown.
It’s not really surprising to find that another Dubai-set documentary is shallow, artificial and highly sensationalised, but it still doesn't stop me feeling disappointed in the BBC.