This is a good question! Everyone knows that Dubai is the most useless city in the world, filled with entitled, arrogant, rude, mindlessly materialistic Emiratis and the shopping malls that sustain them. If Dubai receded into the sand that surrounds it or if its man-made palm shaped islands were drowned by rising sea levels, we would not feel bad for more than one minute.
This is all true and not subject to debate. There is absolutely no reason to go to Dubai. Unless, of course, you are arriving from one of the neighboring shitholes (Kabul, Baghdad, Kandahar). In that case, Dubai is absolutely indispensable. It is the only place for you.
Dubai must exist because Kabul does, just a short two-hour flight away. Kabul is filthy, violent, medieval and necklaced with razor wire. Thirty percent of the dust in the air is fecal matter. The blue sacks sitting in the mud (30% of which, it stands to reason, is also fecal matter) in intersections are not bags of potatoes; they are women in burqas begging. Donkey carts, armored SUVs and military convoys jam its unpaved streets.
Dubai is none of these things (it's pretty much what happens what medieval warlords do when they come into lot of money, but that's a different post). There are perfectly climate-controlled shopping malls where you can swim with the sharks, go skiing indoors or go ice skating and forget that it's 115 degrees and humid outside. Emirati men must change their crisp, white dishdashas four or five times a day because they never look dirty or sweaty. You hardly ever see any automatic weapons.
An entire industry has emerged in Dubai serving people who are transiting on the way in or way out of Kabul, Kandahar or Baghdad. It seems to exist to process large groups of loud, drunk South African PSDs coming out or sad-faced contractors going in. The young Filipino women who did our spa treatments -- knowing, without us having mentioned it, that we'd been in Kabul -- said that 80% of her clients had been in or were going to Kabul. It made us wonder to what degree the economy of Dubai depends on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, rather than money laundering, Russian prostitutes and overvalued real estate.
Digression! The Le Meridien Dubai Airport, which, conveniently located practically on the runway, is the closest place to the terminal for a drink, a decent meal, a pool and a lovely spa. This is the most valuable travel tip ever passed along on this blog (other than this one). If you have a short layover, you can take a three-minute taxi ride and enjoy a meal and drink at one of Le Meridien's 18 restaurants or go to the spa. Thank us later.
You can't go from a place like Kabul directly to a normal place, like Istanbul or America, because your head would explode. Instead, you need to stop in to Dubai, which is the absolute 100% opposite of Kabul. We recommend you go have an expensive drink made with blackberries on the 62nd floor of a brand new hotel -- doesn't matter which, there are dozens. From that vantage point, you can watch the biggest lighted fountain in the world, which can probably be seen from space, and consider the time and resources devoted to its design and choreography. Then you can join thousands of your closest Emirati, Filipino and Bangladeshi friends and walk around the mall.
After that, you're free to go on a normal place.