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‘In this world, social media is everything’: how Dubai became the planet’s influencer capital

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April 17, 2021 at 12:00PM

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Once a small port on the edge of a desert, Dubai is now a magnet for reality stars and a jet set crowd looking to beat the vaccine queue. But do the filtered images tell the whole story?

On the electric blue tarmac of a helipad on the edge of Palm Jumeirah, an artificial island on the Dubai coastline, Busra Duran stands on tiptoes. Wearing multicoloured trainers and a pink tulle minidress, the 28-year-old Turkish influencer is posing for photos in front of a red helicopter. Her husband, Gökhan Gündüz, snaps away as she models her pink sunglasses in the shadow of the Atlantis, a blush-coloured hotel with green pointed rooftops which resembles the fake castles of Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom.

‘Gündüz, 29, wears a striped T-shirt with the word “positive” emblazoned around the collar. Duran skips over to check the photos he’s taken, before they discuss her Instagram shots from the ride. Duran approached the helicopter company to request this free 12-minute tour, the shortest available, and they were happy to oblige. “It was amazing,” she says, flatly, sounding unconvinced. The trip is one of a whole roster of experiences Duran has set up for the benefit of her 608,000 Instagram followers. In a few days, the couple have arranged to play golf – another free gift – and Duran often poses for pictures at restaurants in exchange for a meal. Her glittering Dubai lifestyle is displayed on her Instagram: one day she’ll be perching on the side of a bubble bath in an upmarket hotel reading a copy of Gulf News; the next in a red swimsuit beside a pool, a glass of rosé in one hand and a copy of a Paulo Coelho novel in front of her.

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