There have been some great articles that have focused on Dubai and appeared in the press, giving a view on the emirate. Some are objective, but some less so. Either way we have highlighted some that are particularly interesting:
Dark side of Dubai’s economic boom exacts harsh human toll
Migrant labourers are finding it all but impossible to send money home, and their discontent could hamper growth in the UAE
The Times, November 3, 2007
In four years of living in one of Dubai’s most squalid labour camps, Jengir Khan has watched his fellow workers walk off the job over withheld wages, poor safety standards and forced overtime.
But a new grievance is galvanising the thousands of foreign workers who supply virtually all of the manual labour behind the United Arab Emirates’ massive building boom.
In the past week the falling dollar and a steadily rising cost of living have prompted a series of violent strikes by workers, whose demand is simple: they want more pay.
The Truth About Dubai
Daily Article, 3/9/2006
The uproar over Dubai Ports World's planned purchase of franchises at several American port facilities continues. Being owned by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is enough to make the company a subject of demagoguery in Washington, DC. The nation's capital is a place where people seem unable to comprehend the profit motive. And Dubai Ports could not possibly build a profitable global ports operation if it had a reputation for lax security.
The instigators of the current furor, captive to anti-Arab stereotypes, seem entirely ignorant of reality in the city of Dubai, the second largest emirate within the UAE. As I discovered on a recent trip to Dubai, the city is the furthest thing one could imagine from being a hotbed of Islamic extremism. Dubai is rapidly evolving into the leading financial and commercial center in the Middle East.
A Vision in the Desert
The New York Times, February 1, 2007
FIFTY years ago this modest slice of the Persian Gulf coast was a sleepy settlement of palm-front huts and Bedouin encampments, its few thousand inhabitants mostly subsisting on fishing and the pearl-diving trade. Oil changed all that of course, and since the 1960s Abu Dhabi has morphed into a modern capital of hotels and high rises, fulfilling the economic vision of the United Arab Emirates’ ambitious former leader, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan.
Now the city is on the verge of another audacious leap. Over the next decade or so it aims to become one of the great cultural centers of the Middle East: the heir, in its way, to cosmopolitan cities of old like Beirut, Cairo and Baghdad.
Magic Kingdom or Glass House?
The inside story of massive wealth, hope for a Middle East in flux, and a dream that could be shattered by one terrorist bombing . . . Dubai, a city that never sleeps
The Walrus, September 2007
What I have achieved for Dubai is only 10 percent of my vision for it.
— Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
“The Earth Has A New Centre,” announces a massive billboard for a new mall on Sheikh Zayed Road, an eight-lane expressway in Dubai — a city that was, not so long ago, a patch of sand. As a yellow Ferrari driven by a local in a white dishdasha and baseball cap roars up behind my rental car, and Hummers with black-tinted windows pass busloads of labourers who stare out, saucer-eyed, at this strange new planet, I find myself thinking that the billboard refers not only to the Dubai Mall, soon to be the largest in the world, but to Dubai itself.
The world’s largest mall. The world’s tallest hotel. The world’s tallest building. The first underwater hotel. The largest waterfront development. The fastest-growing tourist market. The Earth has a new centre and it is a tiny desert kingdom gone mad.
The Towering Dream of Dubai
Port of Entry Promise and Illusion in a New Arab City
Washington Post Foreign Service, April 30, 2006
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates There aren't a lot of qualifiers in Ahmad Sharaf's vocabulary. Like his city, he prefers superlatives. As he accelerated his 1995 white Porsche 911 down a grand boulevard landscaped with palm trees and periwinkles, Sharaf, the senior executive of a government corporation, looked out at a city-state that is building the world's tallest skyscraper, the largest shopping mall, the most luxurious hotel, the largest man-made marina and the biggest artificial island.
Out the left of his car was the Persian Gulf, its turquoise waters bordering a region booming by virtue of the highest oil prices in history. To the right was forbidding desert stretching into Saudi Arabia and the tumult of the rest of the Arab world.
"The only limitations are your own limitations," he said matter of factly. "No one tells you that it cannot be done, that it should not be done. The only pushback has always been let's do it bigger, let's do it better, and let's do it smarter."
He reflected on what was being built -- the Dubai model, as its advocates call it, the region's most ambitious experiment in bringing success to an Arab city by shearing away the qualities that have long defined it as Arab
The Sheikh of Dubai
Entrepreneur of the Year
New York Times, December 10, 2006
A passionate admirer and composer of Arabic poetry, the Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum showed his gift for devising similes during the 2003 announcement of his plans to build Dubailand. The $10 billion project is an astonishingly vast network of theme parks and entertainment complexes that will employ some 300,000 people when completed in 2018.
“Money is like water,” he told the crowd of assembled journalists and investors. “If you lock it up, it becomes stagnant and foul-smelling, but if you let it flow, it stays fresh.”
It was an apt turn of phrase for a man who has rained down such staggering sums to cultivate tourism in his parched Middle Eastern hinterland along the Persian Gulf — and who has artfully persuaded foreigners to do likewise. Where 10 years ago there was only a sparsely developed desert coastline, there is now a multibillion-dollar buffet of never-seen-before tourist attractions rising from the sea and sand, including a rotating indoor ski mountain, an underwater luxury hotel, what will be the world’s largest shopping mall and what will be the world’s tallest building. They will shoot up alongside established icons like the “seven-star” Burj Al-Arab hotel and the Palms, a trio of palm-tree-shaped artificial islands, the first of which will open in January 2007.
A Dearth of Politics in Booming Dubai
Rapid Change, Emphasis on Business Overshadow Concerns on Rights
Washington Post Foreign Service, May 22, 2007
By Anthony Shadid
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Mohammed al-Roken is perhaps the most prominent human rights activist in Dubai. That distinction has cost him. He was arrested twice. The government forced him out of his job as a professor, canceled his public lectures and banned him from writing in newspapers. Nine months ago, his passport was seized, barring him from traveling abroad.
That's not the tough part, the lawyer said. Far more difficult is the loneliness that comes with political work in a brashly exuberant city-state that prides itself on having no politics. "An activist might be praised, might be congratulated for his work, might be clandestinely supported, but there will be no uproar if something happens to him," Roken said.
Roken, a tall, bearded Emirati whose few softly spoken words belie a steely determination, is trying to create a political movement in the world's biggest boomtown where virtually everything -- from the import of cheap, often mistreated labor to the prevalence of English -- is dictated by the logic of capital. Yet on the margins of Dubai's culture of superlatives, with double-digit growth the norm and unbridled optimism a mantra, politics are timidly, fitfully but gradually coalescing in a place where notions of borders, citizenship and rights have become murkier.
To Dubai with astonishment
FT Blogs, November 14, 2007
I am in Dubai this week to attend two conferences. This week is McKinsey’s annual strategy conference and next week is the FT/DIFC conference on world financial centres.
I have not been to Dubai before so I have the usual reactions of visitors to the place. It is an extraordinary accomplishment, but also a bizarre one. The rash of skyscrapers and beach hotels, including the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab, where I had dinner tonight, is an astonishing sight.
Before I came, people advised me that Dubai was a little like Las Vegas - an other-wordly place of resort hotels built in odd styles linked by one long freeway filled with cars. There is indeed something to that: Dubai has the same ersatz internationalism as Las Vegas, with pyramid-shaped hotels and themed restaurants offering everything from Italian to Tex Med food.
The cars drive on the right too but there are other things that could only be British. They sell British sweets in the shops and the electric outlets are in the UK design.
The posters on the way into the city from the airport not only advertise an outlet of Saks Fifth Avenue but cheap flights to Beirut. Something about that combination is mind-bending.
The Top 20 Reasons Not to Move to Dubai
Escape Artist, August 2007
Living in Dubai is not wonderful and glamorous, as many would have you believe. Forget about what you’ve read, seen, and heard; those shiny buildings and manmade islands are all just smoke and mirrors. There are so many things wrong with this place that I have decided to compile a list, a must read if you are considering a potential move to Dubai.
1. There is no standard address system making mail-to-the door delivery impossible. In fact, it makes anything nearly impossible. The taxi driver, here for only two days, and having learned English from old Beatles albums has no clue where your house is. He won’t tell you that of course, he’ll just keep calling and saying, “Okay, okay. Yeah, yeah.” When you purchase something that requires delivery they do not have an address line, but a box where you are expected to draw a map. Not able to draw a map? Explain like this: I live on the street after the airport road, but before the roundabout. Go past the mosque and make a U-turn.
2. The government blocks all web sites that it deems “offensive” to the “religious, moral, and cultural values” of the UAE. That’s hard to swallow for a freedom loving American, but I get it. I do not understand, however, why all VOIP access and related web sites are blocked. I guess the government also takes offense to people inexpensively contacting their families back home. You’re welcome to call using the analog service provided by the government-owned telephone monopoly, but it will cost you a whole lot more. So much so, in fact, your frequency of calls will be greatly diminished if you can afford them at all. The government says VOIP is blocked for security reasons, yet even the residents of communist China and North Korea have access to these inexpensive calls.
How long can Dubai's boom last?
Guardian Blogs, August 1, 2007
It's big, brash and it's all about cash. Is there any stopping Dubai? The emirate may have a couple of newly-arrived boutique hotels on the scene, but these are still very much out on a limb. Essentially Dubai is still all about trying to out do everything else on the planet. Vegas, once unrivalled as the world's most absurd place, needs to up its game if it wants to compete.
Appearing in the desert soon: Dubai Mall, the world's largest shopping mall; the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building; and Dubailand, the world's largest theme park. That's not forgetting the Palm project, containing man-made islands visible from the moon, and Dubai China Town, set to be the largest outside China, complete with its own Great Wall.
£3 a day ‘serfs ’die for Dubai’s dream
The Sunday Times, March 25, 2007
LUXURY developments on artificial islands in the Arabian Sea, where highly paid British footballers own holiday homes worth £700,000, are being built by migrant workers earning as little as £3 a day.
The Palm Jumeirah, off the coast of Dubai, has been designed in the shape of a palm tree with 1,500 opulent villas and 30 beachfront hotels, including one under construction by Donald Trump, the American entrepreneur.
David Beckham is among the stars who have bought substantial properties there. They will soon be enjoying attractions ranging from scuba diving to a “golden mile” of restaurants and shops, secure in the knowledge that they are protected from paparazzi by the strict privacy laws of Dubai, the most populous of the seven states that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
But less than four miles from the resort stands the bleak desert camp of Jebel Ali, a sprawl of breeze-block huts and battered trailers where about 10,000 construction workers — including many from the Palm Jumeirah — are crammed into stifling dormitories at the end of the day.
They sleep up to 15 to a room, each with a flimsy bunk bed, a thin mattress and dirty, bug-rid-den sheets. They cook their paltry meals on mini-stoves and squat on the ground to eat. One resident spoke of a strike four months ago over a shortage of lavatories.
The conditions reflect the meagre wages for a working week of six and often seven days. Many of the men believed the assurances of recruiters in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh that they would make enough money to support their poverty-stricken families back home, but have since become trapped in a spiral of debt and despair.
Dubai built it and the world did come
FT Blogs, November 21 2007
My epiphany about the Gulf state of Dubai came one night last week in the Souk Madinat Jumeirah. I was standing in the local franchise of Trader Vic’s, the Californian Hawaiian-themed bar, with a Mai Tai cocktail in hand, watching people dance to a salsa band.
I was with a bunch of visitors and locals, some of them consultants at McKinsey & Co, which has a large office in Dubai, as have many European and US banks and legal firms. One of the group was from Spain, another from Venezuela and a third from South Africa. Rounding it out were Americans whose parents were variously born in Jordan, Pakistan and Taiwan.
It felt as if I had died and gone to expatriate heaven.
There are many jaw-dropping things about the flashiest city-state of the United Arab Emirates: the rows of office and hotel towers decorated in marble and gold leaf; the miles of coastal salt-flats reclaimed into sandy beaches; the vast desert area where the Universal City Dubailand theme park will go; the new airport that will supposedly be bigger than Heathrow and LAX combined.
But the true astonishment is that the Dubai ruling family’s “build it and they will come” philosophy has, since the opening of the Jebel Ali free port in 1979, worked so well. What do you get when you combine expensive infrastructure, the petrodollar boom, no income tax and freedom to behave as you wish? A land where expats outnumber locals 10 to one.
Dubai has its flaws but I do not think any is sufficient to discredit what Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his father, Sheikh Rashid, before him have done.
They have not only been willing to take hefty risks to diversify Dubai’s economy away from oil but have also adopted a stance of openness that is often unmatched in, for example, the US. It soon becomes obvious on a visit to Dubai that the US security alarm last year about DP World, the port operator that on Wednesday priced its initial public offering at the top of the range, reflected a shameful ignorance about the UAE.
Disney Does the Desert?
$5B 'Dubailand' Rising in Middle East
Interactive Publishing, November 17, 2003
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Disneyland in the desert, you could call it. "Dubailand," though, is the chosen moniker for the massive project now rising in the Middle East.
By any name, though, it's a doozy of a development: a $5-billion plan to build an inordinately broad-ranging destination for tourism, entertainment and leisure. The project's ambitious design was recently unveiled by the government of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) nation that's become synonymous with promoting projects of staggering size.
Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai, pointedly emphasized that pro-growth track record in announcing Dubailand. "The biggest war that any country can engage in is that of development," he said. "Although it is a long and costly war, the number of soldiers increases instead of decreasing. So let's take part in the war of development together, and let our victims be poverty, ignorance and backwardness."
Dubai has zealously waged that war. Dubailand, however, marks a quantum leap forward in sheer size.
The completed project will span 2 billion sq. ft. (180 million sq. m.), or about 45,900 acres (18,360 hectares). That huge swath of land equals almost the entirety of all of the fully developed land thus far in Dubai, a small desert nation with a total land mass of about 960,000 acres (384,000 hectares).
The fastest-growing city on earth, Dubai is spending mind-boggling sums on construction and is about to swallow up P&O in its bid to be a global maritime power. Given the scale of its ambition, could it become the most important place on the planet? Adam Nicolson reports from 'Mushroom City'
The Guardian, February 13 2006
It looks like a hot Grozny. On the vast invented islands offshore and in the even vaster building sites that stretch in a wide band the whole length of Dubai's now famous riviera, acre on acre of grey-faced, concrete, hollow-eyed buildings, fenced in with scaffolding and overhung by tower cranes, stare at each other across the sands. Tower blocks look abandoned rather than half-made. It is said that a fifth of the world's cranes are now at work here. An army of some 250,000 men, largely from India and Pakistan, are labouring to create the new glimmer fantasy, earning on average £150 a month, and living in camps, four to a room, 12ft by 12ft, hidden away in the industrial quarters of al Quoz. One night in one of the luxury hotels would cost six months' wages of one of the men who built it. Below and around their work sites, the new streets are chaotic with rubble and piles of steel.
The traffic is already as bad as Los Angeles. The city authorities are now giving priority to new roads, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on bridges across the Dubai Creek, five lanes in each direction, but still a taxi ride that might take 10 minutes at midday lasts an hour at either end of it. If you ask a driver to take you to some places, he laughs. "Do you want to have a very long talk?" he says.
Dubai is growing faster than any city on earth. "Mushroom City", Ravi Piyush, a plumply content dealer in the Gold Souk, said to me. "Nothing today, everything tomorrow." The World Bank reckons that the reconstruction of Iraq is going to cost $53bn. Here, along the strip of footballer-friendly sand that stretches 25 miles or so along the shores of the Persian Gulf, there is, at a rough estimate, about $100bn worth of projects either underway or planned for the near future. That is a numbing figure, ungraspable. It is the equivalent of every single dollar invested in the United States from abroad last year; almost twice the foreign investment in China.
Does the Road to the Future End at Dubai?
Tomdisptch, July 14, 2005
The narration begins: As your jet starts its descent, you are glued to your window. The scene below is astonishing: a 24-square-mile archipelago of coral-colored islands in the shape of an almost finished puzzle of the world. In the shallow green waters between continents, the sunken shapes of the Pyramids of Giza and the Roman Coliseum are clearly visible.
In the distance are three other large island groups configured as palms within crescents and planted with high-rise resorts, amusement parks, and a thousand mansions built on stilts over the water. The "Palms" are connected by causeways to a Miami-like beachfront chock-a-block full of mega-hotels, apartment high-rises and yacht marinas.
As the plane slowly banks toward the desert mainland, you gasp at the even more improbable vision ahead. Out of a chrome forest of skyscrapers (nearly a dozen taller than 1000 feet) soars a new Tower of Babel. It is an impossible one-half-mile high: the equivalent of the Empire State Building stacked on top of itself.
You are still rubbing your eyes with wonderment and disbelief when the plane lands and you are welcomed into an airport emporium where hundreds of shops seduce you with Gucci bags, Cartier watches, and one-kilogram bars of solid gold. You make a mental note to pick up some duty-free gold on your way out.
The hotel driver is waiting for you in a Rolls Royce Silver Seraph. Friends have recommended the Armani Hotel in the 160-story tower or the seven-star hotel with an atrium so huge that the Statue of Liberty would fit inside, but instead you have opted to fulfill a childhood fantasy. You always have wanted to be Captain Nemo in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Beyond the Spectacle
Dubai’s insane rate of development is easy to misinterpret—even caricature—but the cliché obscures the city’s more serious ambitions.
Metropolis Mag, November 21, 2007
Fifty years from now, New York will be considered the economic and cultural capital of the previous century, filled with quaint artifacts of another time and places to visit for the sake of nostalgia, but not the center of world culture—somewhat like how we think of Paris today compared to 100 years ago. Federal immigration restrictions, the religious police, and the protection of large corporations from foreign competition will have cut off our biggest sources of wealth—invention and innovation—and historic preservation will have saved the unique character of neighborhoods and conserved innumerable buildings but killed the spirit that made the city the greatest of its time.
The megacity of Dubai, one of the seven federal states of the United Arab Emirates, will be the new economic and cultural capital of the world, spanning its neighboring emirates of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and beyond in one urbanized mass, rich in the biggest source of renewable energy—sunlight—a pioneer in sustainability and new technology, and conveniently located within easy travel distance of a population of more than two billion in the Middle East, Europe, India, and Africa. In the six years since the Twin Towers fell, a thousand skyscrapers have been rising on the Arabian Gulf.
“Things happen at such a speed, in such a fragmented way, and with so little governmental oversight that to find one person with a complete grasp of what’s going on is a very, very difficult task,” says Reinier de Graaf, a partner at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture and director of AMO, the firm’s think tank, which published a survey of the Gulf region last spring in Al Manakh, a special edition of Volume. In Delirious New York, Rem Koolhaas once likened signature buildings to a tray of pastries, and Dubai certainly has its share of them. But for the real substance behind the city you have to look beyond the spectacle of its thousand skyscrapers, malls, resorts, islands, and theme parks to the scale of its land-use patterns as manifested in the hundred or so individually master-planned residential, commercial, financial, and industrial districts.