An alternative Emirate

Claudia Schwartz

Published 20 August 2008


Skyscrapers, man-made islands and conspicuous consumption have transformed Dubai into a Middle Eastern success story. But a more organic society needs to be nurtured behind the glitz


Driving along Sheikh Zayed Road, the abundance of cranes is striking, as are the thousands of Indian workers peppering the landscape. A city which is very largely a construction site, it is unsurprising to learn that more than a quarter of the world’s industrial cranes are currently in Dubai.

Relative to its neighbours, both within the United Arab Emirates and the wider Gulf, Dubai has very little oil. Since its modest reserves are expected to run out by 2010, Dubai has taken on a number of diversification strategies to expand and secure its income. At an astonishing rate, its deserts have been swept away by skyscrapers and man-made islands.

With its glitzy hotels, shopping festivals and relative freedom – Dubai has become an attractive tourist hub. Dubai Media City, Dubai Internet City and the like have also created thousands of new jobs. Dubai’s ruler and CEO, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is a self-confessed entrepreneur who aims to draw 15 million visitors by 2010 and boldly states that he wants Dubai “to be number one. Not in the region, but in the world”. 

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