Sunday, 8 January 2012

Is Dubai safe for Singaporean visitors?

Surely, it is. Not just for Singaporeans but for most nationalities. Perhaps one of the only dangers arises if one is a Palestinian on the Israeli Mossad's hit list in which case even five star hotels become unsafe.
Singaporeans, however, might be mistaken in believing that the Dubai authorities act with reckless abandon if a recent article in the New Paper were anything to go by.
Yes, the New Paper might be considered Singapore's answer to Britain's Sun newspapersans the page three girl – but it is part of the domestic mainstream media. The article titled 'Singaporean family's Xmas eve nightmare in Dubai jail' was given front page honours.
I was puzzled by the lack of specifics in the article. There was little information and the circumstances leading to the 'nightmare' were only vaguely described. Consequently, before reacting I tried to obtain more details, including from the journalist author. None were available.
A view of Dubai International Airport's Terminal Three building

I do not wish to downplay any injustice or pain that the affected families went through during their ordeal. Nevertheless, having lived in Dubai for more than five years I felt the need to react to the 'broad brush strokes' painted by the article.
The journalist suggested I write to the New Paper's forum expressing my point of view. For the Grand Moofti's readers, I reproduce the text of my letter below.
January 6, 2012
To the Editor, the New Paper.
I read your January 2 article titled 'Singaporean family spends Xmas eve in Dubai jail' with both surprise and concern.
As a Singaporean who lived in Dubai for almost six years (2004-2009 inclusive), it is hard to believe the UAE police will act in an arbitrary manner and without due cause. Certainly, many Singaporeans may not agree with the nature of some of UAE's laws, e.g. ban on public displays of affection, but as foreigners we must respect the host country's laws.
I am concerned that your article gives Singaporeans the mistaken impression that the UAE security establishment routinely acts in an unsystematic manner without any respect for individual rights. In my experience, this is certainly not the case. Many travellers will testify that transit travel through Dubai airport is a pleasant experience and the airport's facilities compare favourably with those Singapore has developed at Changi airport.
That the UAE gets millions of tourists every year is testament to the country's friendly and open society. The content of your article does not provide enough information for readers to form an objective picture of either Dubai or the UAE.
Best regards,
Imran Ahmed
Imran is a business and management consultant. Through his work at Deodar Advisors, Imran improves the profitability of small and medium sized businesses operating in Singapore and the region. He can be reached at


  1. Thanks for the extra information, Imran! It is always great to hear from someone who actually lived and worked in Dubai. I agreed with you that newspaper tend to pain a vague picture of what actually was going on in Dubai. I don't read too much into this kind of news when there is no specific. Keep up the good work!

  2. Hi Lee,

    As always, thank you for your support and comments.

    Best wishes for the coming Chinese New year celebrations!

    Best regards,