Cities compete with each other for position in the global economy. Dubai has emerged as a leader in tactical deployment of narrative as a tool of urban branding. Its boosters draw upon the mythos of the exotic desert-city oasis, or suggest that Dubai is a neoliberal free-market development legend or a techno-utopia in which human ingenuity conquers all obstacles. This article offers the tale of Scheherazade as a metaphor for discussion of the importance of storytelling in contemporary global urban marketing. The authors analyse Dubai's mythic urban image and reveal the paradoxes of its fantastical development, uncovering its unsustainable and inequitable dimensions.