To most outsiders, Dubai appears a town of ludicrously tall towers, bumbling Mossad agents sporting unconvincing tennis gear and leaky aquariums in oversized malls.
But away from the recent headlines, the city has also been trying to position itself as a land of culture and sophisticated debate.
The Festival of Literature (sponsored by Emirates Airlines) kicks off this week at the aptly named Festival City, another of the United Arab Emirates city-state's shopping mall and hotel complexes.
While the venue may not sound the most inspiring for a cultural chin-stroking session, the attendees – one in particular – should ensure some rather lively banter.
Outspoken author and England’s "punching bag" Martin Amis probably hadn’t considered his future travel plans when he made a few comments during a 2006 interview in the English newspaper The Times.
Discussing issues of terrorism and security back then, he suggested “strip-searching people who look like they're from the Middle East or from Pakistan” and “discriminatory stuff” against the Muslim community, “until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children."
His words, as one might expect, went down like a Hummer at a Greenpeace picnic. UK writer Yasmine Alibhai-Brown described Amis as “with the beasts” with it came to dealing with Islam, along with “the Muslim-baiters and haters,:
Novelist Ronan Bennett described Amis’ views as “symptomatic of a much wider and deeper hostility to Islam and intolerance of otherness."
The director of the Dubai literary festival has been fielding a lot of queries regarding Amis’ involvement. In an interview with Abu Dhabi-based, English language newspaper The National, Isobel Abulhoul said she expected “fireworks” during his talk.
But, she added, “Isn’t that what it’s all about?”