Sex in (some other) City

There’s no stopping it, it’s like summer in the desert, completely disorientating and painful to even think about. Normally sane people  rush around making other plans that usually involve flights to faraway lands but know, deep down, it will still have a negative effect on their being.

Yes, Sex and the City 2 is upon us.

For anyone who has been living under a rock for the past month, the sequel to this ‘hit franchise’ sees Carrie and friends, or “three sluts and their mom” as Family Guy once dubbed the show, jet off to Abu Dhabi to get over a series of middle-aged upper middle class problems that are baffling to the male mind.

If you don’t believe me read the reviews, they’re bad, Ishtar bad. My favourite has to be Lindy West‘s for the The Stranger that concludes: “If this is what modern womanhood means, then just veil me and sew up all my holes.”

Over the course of a bum-numbing 146 minutes the SATC ‘girls’ take in some of the Emirates five-star hospitality, which inevitably involves camels, fine dining and a liason with a rich businessman. As Sarah Jessica-Parker says, “it’s Aladdin, with cocktails”.

Except it isn’t, there’s not one shot of Abu Dhabi. The film itself was shot in Morocco and, judging from the trailer’s  version of the Emirates Palace hotel, a poor approximation of everything they could find in postcards from the emirate.

The original Sex and the City did not get a cinema release in the UAE but was screened on cable television both in the Emirates and Saudi. The producers had approached Dubai to film parts of the sequel in Dubai Studio City in August 2009 but were denied permission by “the relevant government authority”.

Sex and the City 2 has not been banned in the UAE. Rather, the film’s distributors did not submit it to the country’s National Media Council, which hands out certificates for theatrical release.

Like Dubai, which was used as the backdrop for Syriana , Abu Dhabi has made moves into the film production business. It was used for the location shots in the 2007 thriller The Kingdom and the Imagenation production company, funded by the emirate, was behind the mainstream Bollywood flick  My Name is Khan.

In a country where cultural sensitivities are never far from the surface and ‘consensual sex’ is a crime, it is perhaps unsurprising that Carrie and friends were told to take their two-year-itch somewhere else. But it’s also arguable that the retread of colonial Arabia that has appeared on screen should be even more offensive to the authorities.

The Emiratis sound Indian, the language they speak isn’t Arabic and the film highlights the five-star decadence without the consequences of drinking in public in the Emirates.

If the intention of SATC director Michael Patrick King was to further the cause of women in the Middle East he would have done better bunging the four stars in a battered taxi to Hamdan Street while they argue the driver, who would inevitably ask them to recount how many children they have and ask where their husbands are.

The four stars could go on to discuss their alleged martial problems over a shwarma and a non-alcoholic cocktail at a street cafe, while avoiding the stares from sex-starved labourers.

Of course, this is Hollywood fluff and not meant to be taken seriously.

However, although the film looks appalling and will not live long in Western cinemas after the World Cup, it is a shame – and something of a missed opportunity for the Emirates.

In a country that is making strides to become an international player and a cultured tourist destination, the view of the Emirates that will stick in most people’s mind is a patch of Moroccan desert and a backlot in Brooklyn.

Tell me what you think – has Abu Dhabi missed out on the next ‘Lawrence’ or do Carrie and co. deserve to be jailed for being ‘fabulous in public’?

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