They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. At Club Envy - the newest addition to nightlife in Dubai - those eyes belong to two chubby, rather atavistic heavies, or "door managers" as they're called officially, for whom words are few and messages are conveyed through grunts and lazy hand gestures. Their job is simple: to give every potential clubber in the long line a rating between one and 10. Only for the lucky few who rate a nine or above will the broad-shouldered, thick-necked keepers of the gate step aside, offering just enough room to brush past them and enter the club.
Those who regularly indulge in the expensive, sweaty, dehydration-inducing world of nightclubbing are no doubt familiar with the unspoken rules of the game: behave well, spend like a royal and follow the dress code. For women, that means coming as close as possible to looking like a Victoria's Secret model while respecting the local culture. For men, hair on the chest and excessive products in your hair are acceptable; running shoes and coming alone are not.
It's no secret that these clubs are frequented for the most part by the Beautiful People — or at least those who see themselves as such. But Envy is the first club in the UAE to wear this entry criteria on its bejewelled sleeve. It is a "face club", where, by implication, nobody but the hottest is allowed. This is the only basis of the club's allure; we all want to know if we'll get in. The marketers behind Club Envy, which is located in the Ibis Hotel on Dubai's Sheikh Zayed Road, hope to create the kind of elite club found in New York, Los Angeles or London. As one part-owner of the club explained, you don't have to be beautiful per se, but you do have to be stylish enough to match the ambience of the club.
Right. Envy's discrimination scheme might take a while to work as intended. Opening night felt more like an overcapacity commuter bus - albeit one featuring a light show and loud Beyoncé remixes on repeat - than an exclusive, Beautiful People-only event. And with so many media geeks in attendance, the door managers probably had their club goggles on like everyone else. One young man handing out business cards to every woman not busy snogging with a stranger or drinking blue liquid from an oddly shaped glass wasn't surprised he was allowed in. "I'm a fixture on this scene," he said, running his fingers through his slicked-back and meticulously placed hair. "I know people. People know me."
Another standout in the crowd was a man who can best be described as the R&B singer Usher's doppelganger. Baggy jeans? Check. Pearly white running shoes? Check. Suspenders, hanging below the waist? Check. Fedora, tilted? Check. White sports coat? Check. Dance moves that would make Justin Timberlake jealous? Check. Attention from the ladies? Well maybe that's the trouble with moving so quickly and smoothly; if you aren't standing still long enough, no one has the opportunity to talk to you.
Beyond the pre-judgement door anxiety, there isn't much at Club Envy to distinguish it from any other club - in Dubai or any city. Its layout is bland, with a smaller room off the main dance area and a lounge with couches for those whose thirst has betrayed them. The interior is entirely black and lit up by coloured flashing lights which could cause serious trouble for anyone with epilepsy or a bad heart. And the day after saw most partiers horizontal, with the blinds drawn and the movie channel on.