Art and the Desert: Welcome to Dubai

Gordon Finlayson takes us on a journey to the rapidly growing arts scene in the United Arab Emirates in the first of his columns on art in the desert, brought to you direct from airconditioned Dubai.
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Welcome to the inaugural Arts Hub column from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Each month, through this column I’ll be exploring the arts life of this region, from a country that sits on the fringes of Asia, Europe and Africa, with its diverse communities, rapidly growing economy and endless ambition. Understanding the arts scene here is difficult without context about the region, so in this first column, I’m going to try to capture just a small snapshot of what makes Dubai and the UAE tick.

To situate Dubai on the globe, it is around seven hours flying distance east of London, three hours west of Mumbai, five hours north of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania fourteen hours northwest of Sydney and about pretty much the exact opposite side of the world to Los Angeles. The country is composed of seven different Emirates, each with its own ruling family packed into an area roughly the size of Austria. Back in the 19th Century the states of this region ceded responsibility for their defence to the British crown, an obligation which her Majesty’s government finally gave up on in the latter part of the 20th century, kindly handing back governance in 1971, just in time for the ruling families of the UAE to turn this region into the world’s largest piggy bank by pumping a certain sticky black liquid out of the sand dunes.

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Gordon Finlayson
About the Author
Gordon Finlayson is a entertainment lawyer and freelance writer based in Dubai. He has extensive experience in the music industry, media and technology, and also writes for