In Inside Dubai: Playground Of The Rich, look out for mega mansions, flash cars and endless blue skies. All are the order of the day in BBC2’s new three-part envy-inducing documentary series about the super-rich in the Middle-Eastern resort of Dubai.
Around 50 years ago, this now favourite holiday destination which is situated in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E), was just a sleepy fishing port on the banks of the Arabian Gulf. Since the 1960s, however, the population has multiplied 80 times and Dubai now counts 52,000 millionaires and billionaires among its 3.3 million inhabitants.
This brand new series, narrated by former Hollyoaks and Coronation Street star Will Mellor, follows Dubai’s glamorous locals, expats and tourists, and the people that serve them. So here's everything you need to know about Inside Dubai: Playground Of The Rich on BBC2 this January...
'Inside Dubai: Playground of the Rich' air date
Inside Dubai: Playground of the Rich will begin on BBC2 on Monday Jan. 3 2022 at 9pm (for Wales 10pm). The three-part series then runs weekly, with each episode later streaming on BBCiPlayer. We don't yet know a worldwide release date but we'll update if we hear.
Is there a trailer for 'Inside Dubai: Playground of the Rich'?
Yes the BBC has released a trailer for Inside Dubai: Playground of the Rich. Take a look below...
'Inside Dubai: Playground Of The Rich' — our guide to episode 1
The first episode of Inside Dubai: Playground Of The Rich on Monday Jan. 3 follows all sorts of mega-wealthy people who've made it big at the resort, including Dubai’s richest teenager, who owns a fleet of supercars, and Swiss fashionista Sonya, whose wardrobe alone is worth £4 million.
"I could talk about my shoes and handbags for hours!" says Sonya who lives in the Dubai Hills where houses cost up to £20 million and whose wardrobe alone is worth a cool £4 million. "I hate anything fake. If you can’t afford the real thing, it’s better you don’t buy it at all."
Meanwhile, British expat Gaynor, who lives in an ultra-private gated community in the shimmering metropolis with her husband, two children and their crew of Filipino staff. There’s something both awe-inspiring and slightly sickening about Dubai’s excessive lifestyle, however, especially when we learn how immigrant domestic staff are only paid £300 a month. Around 95% of all children in Dubai are looked after by a nanny, including Gaynor’s four-year-old daughter, Jeannie.
"I wouldn’t have another child if I couldn’t have a nanny!" reveals Gaynor. ‘Our staff live with us. They want to work to help their families back home in the Philippines, so it’s a good arrangement."
Episode one also meets Abu Sabah, an Indian ex-pat who is one of Dubai’s 52,000 millionaires. He recently achieved his ultimate goal became most talked about man in coastal city, having bought himself the world’s most expensive number plate for a cool £6.8 million!
"It’s a single digit Dubai plate,’ Abu reveals. "The car is worth $800,000 dollars (£600,000) but the number plate is $9 million (£6.8 million). I feel proud of myself!"
'Inside Dubai: Playground Of The Rich' — our guide to episode 2
Episode 2 of Inside Dubai: Playground Of The Rich on Monday Jan. 10 2022 (9pm BBC2) meets some of the aspirational Brits who have decided to live and work in Dubai and it will show how the people attracted to Dubai have changed over the course of its brief 50-year history right through to the Influencers and Vloggers who flock there today.
The city was under the protectorate of the British government until the 1970s and only gained its independence in 1971. Back then it was a humble fishing village home to a tiny community of ex-pat Brits who had moved there from other British colonies. But as the skyscrapers emerged from the desert sand in the 70s and 80s, the jobs followed, attracting thousands from the UK. And in 2002 laws were changed to allow ex-pats to buy property - provoking an influx of brits enticed by luxurious houses and a lifestyle to match.
British socialite and ex-reality telly star, Caroline Stanbury, 45, is one of Dubai’s most successful businesswomen and influencers. This episode meets her poolside, with her now husband – 27-year-old Sergio Carrillo, a former Real Madrid footballer. Influencers like Caroline can earn up to £5000 from a single photo in a glamorous location posted on social media. She loves the fact that while in UK the super-rich hide their wealth, in Dubai they like to flaunt it.
Then there's 47-year-old Geordie, Mark who's come for a break in the sun having quit his job stacking shelves in a supermarket back home in Newcastle. He’s road-testing the Dubai lifestyle and finds it suits him well. An unexpected job offer, managing a chain of 12 music shops, on a salary of £80,000 tax-free, presents him with a difficult decision. His three children live in Newcastle with their mum. Will he swap a life in the UK with few prospects but with his kids down the road, for a glamorous life in the Dubai Marina?
Property tycoon Paul Christodoulou gave up running nightclubs in Essex when he came out to Dubai in 2005 and he snapped up a villa on The Palm, now worth a tidy £2.3 mil. Having ridden out the 2008 Crash and its aftermath, his real estate agency, Aqua, now employs 130 multinational agents on a commission-only basis. They can earn up to £20,000 for each million-pounds-worth of property they sell, and we meet Paul’s newest protégée — Mexican-born, Nadia — who’s worked for Paul for four months but is yet to earn a single penny in commission. This episode follows her as she tries to get a foot on the ladder. How can she begin to compete with Dan, who’s relationships with wealthy investors are legendary, or with Asif, the self-styled King of Khalifa, who only sells apartments in the iconic Burj Khalifa skyscraper?
Internationally acclaimed and award-winning interior designer, Palavi Dean, has scooped the biggest job of her career, redesigning the government headquarters of Dubai’s and absolute Monarch, Sheikh Mohamed. She was born in India to aspiring Indian parents but has been raised and educated in Dubai. She’s one of 1.6m Indians living in Dubai, one of the largest ex-pat communities in the city. Challenging the prevailing taste for sumptuous gold and marble, Palavi prefers a modern aesthetic, and white wood over marble. After her first designs are rejected for being immodest – her council table failed to hide the legs of the delegates - can she win round Dubai’s ruler and convince him to run with her new materials?
The Dubai World Cup is the richest horse-race in the world with eye-popping cash prizes. It’s the personal brainchild of Sheikh Mohamed and his brother. But as the biggest event in the social calendar of Dubai approaches, the Sheikh’s brother dies unexpectedly. We follow the fallout as a number of Brits are left to transform a spectacular show-stopping end event into a memorial for Sheikh Hamdan more or less overnight.
The people who appear in this documentary are living lavishly in Dubai. But there’s a price to pay for the benefits of the expat lifestyle. There are rules they must follow. Dubai is a Muslim country with strict conventions around alcohol, dress, and behaviour in public and expats must comply with the local customs and rules on pain of fine, imprisonment or deportation.
'Inside Dubai: Playground Of The Rich' — our guide to episode 3
Episode 3 of Inside Dubai: Playground Of The Rich Monday Jan. 17 2022 (9pm BBC2) examines the pace of change in Dubai which is breath-taking. As Dubai celebrates its 50th birthday and looks to the future, we ask whether it can keep it up the frenetic pace. And we learn that the Sheikh plans to more than double the number of tourists who visit Dubai across the next 20 years, from just shy of 20m to 50m, but how is the city gearing up for this influx?
British ex-pat and former Miss Great Britain, Amy Kitchingman, came to Dubai for New Year’s Eve in 2010, and she never left. She remembers being given a red card in the shopping mall for wearing a skirt that was too short – she had to go home and change it – but she’s noticed a relaxation in the rules of late. She’s made Dubai her home even though her work life is insecure and she’s on a series of temporary work visas. She has to work to stay here and it’s a pressure as more and younger models flock to the city of dreams. This heaps pressure on her latest photo shoot.
This final episode also follows Liverpudlian Nightclub Entrepreneur Chris Wright as he opens a new bar in a developing complex of Beach Clubs. He spent 12 years running events in Ibiza, but he’s targeted Dubai as the next party-capital of the world. And he’s benefitting from a relaxation in the rules around alcohol. Forbidden to Emiratis, alcoholic drinks used to be on sale to tourists only in licensed hotel premises and restaurants. But now you can party all day long in his newest bar, as long as you don’t “get messy”, says Chris. We’re with him and his business partner, Jay, as they plan their biggest event yet, a secret party on an island just off the coast.
The city must also cater to the 50,000 millionaires and billionaires who call Dubai home. Massimo The Truffle Man is a colourful Italian character dealing in luxury goods. Like Chris, he’s watching Dubai position itself as luxury food capital of the world and he already counts several Sheikhs among his customers. As Massimo says, “I dream truffle, I talk truffle, I love truffle, I eat truffle. I'm almost a truffle myself!” Describing Truffles as ‘Italian Viagra’ and an aphrodisiac, he has a delivery that’s cost him over £27,000 but if he can turn it around and get his orders out in a single day, he’ll pocket £10,000. It’s all in a day’s work in Dubai.
And it’s not just the humans who are pampered and treated like royalty in Dubai. Bonnie is turning two. She’s a Yorkshire Terrier and doggy grooming business – Shampooch - has spared no expense to give Bonnie and pals the party of a lifetime complete with Pup Cakes, Doggie Lattes, and other gourmet delights. And fortunately, the dogs are allowed to get messy.
The flight to Dubai used to take eight hours with a stopover in Kuwait. But that changed in 1985 when Sheikh Mohamed bought two second-hand planes from Pakistani Airlines for $10m and launched the airline that was to become a household name, Emirates. The investment paid off and London-Dubai is now the busiest flight-route in the world owing to Dubai’s unique position between East and West.
Dubai is a city with limitless ambitions. Not content with their projects on the ground, they recently entered the space-race and United Arab Emirates became the first Arab nation to send a rocket into space with their Mars Mission.
Not everything goes to plan in Dubai however. Everyone knows the iconic Palm Jumeirah, the artificial palm tree which now houses three billion pounds’ worth of luxury villas. But few people know that 20 miles down the coast is a second palm, twice the size, abandoned and rarely mentioned – an eerie reminder of what happens if you fly too close to the sun. And The World Islands are another of Dubai’s most talked about projects – a man-made archipelago of islands resembling a map of the world – and another catastrophe on a global scale.
Josef, a Swiss financier has invested so much in six islands called The Heart of Europe believing they are simply too big to fail. And still he is pouring money into them, creating Flamenco bars in ‘Spain’, a snow-room in ‘Sweden’ and streets with artificial rain 365 days a year in…yes, ’London’. Construction is well underway for the 15 five-star hotels and 150 luxury villas and mansions that Josef plans to open in a few months.
In one of Dubai’s toughest challenges yet, staff at a major Art exhibition are hoping to convince the world that Dubai belongs on the global stage for art alongside the likes of London and Paris. And millionaire art lover and investor, Charles, is hoping to find a painting to hang alongside his original Picasso on the walls of his villa.
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I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.