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Good-bye to Dubai
November 30, 2010 11:28 AM   Subscribe

The once shining beacon of capitalism in the Persian Gulf has lost a lot of its luster since the global financial crisis in 2008. But is it too soon to declare Dubai dead?

Here are some links regarding Dubai previously posted on the Blue.
posted by reenum (43 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read that as 'shining bacon of capitalism' for a second and nodded in approval.
posted by mullingitover at 11:36 AM on November 30, 2010 [11 favorites]


Am I the only qaodmasdkwaspemas#ajkqlsmdqpakldnzsdfls?
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:40 AM on November 30, 2010


Maybe if they had shining bacon, they wouldn't blow all their capital on giant sinking skyscrapers.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:43 AM on November 30, 2010


I would love to tour the ghost skyscrapers in Dubai.
posted by benzenedream at 11:46 AM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


>Maybe if they had shining bacon, they wouldn't blow all their capital on giant sinking skyscrapers.
>I would love to tour the ghost skyscrapers in Dubai.

I second the bacon. And, maybe, cheese.
posted by mooselini at 11:58 AM on November 30, 2010


Am I the only qaodmasdkwaspemas#ajkqlsmdqpakldnzsdfls?

I got that too, but when I refreshed the page it looked fine.
posted by Dumsnill at 12:00 PM on November 30, 2010


I wonder if it's still crawling with spies.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:06 PM on November 30, 2010


The emirate still has considerable resources, thanks to its strategic position in the Persian Gulf

Also the best deepwater port and logistics infrastructure in the Middle East. Dubai was built on trade, and that will continue to be its strength long term. Of course, no-one wants to make a documentary or write an article about the tens of thousands of medium sized trading companies when they could talk about grandiose and tacky projects instead.

A lot of gullible investors (including the government, in a sense) lost a huge amount of money on speculative projects, but for all the never-to-be-finished projects in the middle of nowhere there are a ton of completed ones too. If you drive through the city of Dubai or through the areas along the coast, you won't see any buildings that will never be finished, for that you have to go further inland (on the roads to Hatta and to Sharjah for anyone who's in town and wants to see them).

I'm sure that the prominence that Dubai attained during the height of the preposterous real estate boom (and I know I'm not the only who lets a shout of joy for every grifting saddo selling "propah-tee" who leaves the country") is not coming back, but don't forget about the formidable non-real-estate aspects of the economy. In fact, many of them have been benefiting from the property crash. It is the nature of land speculation after all that it is parasitic. High residential and commercial rents make everything more expensive.
posted by atrazine at 12:07 PM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Who knows, maybe vanity fair and construction of ostentatious buildings to commemorate ambition, power and greed with no regard to humanity should be punished after all...
posted by mooselini at 12:08 PM on November 30, 2010


I wonder if it's still crawling with spies.

Of course. Spies, spivs, whores, and merchants always congregate in the same places.
posted by atrazine at 12:09 PM on November 30, 2010


How can there be capitalism without capital? All Dubai ever had was borrowed money; it never produced anything, nor did it ever have the means to do so.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:15 PM on November 30, 2010


Dubai is so impossibly amazing to visit I can't help but hope it will return to its go go ways. I heartily recommend going there just to see the scale of the place.
posted by humanfont at 12:16 PM on November 30, 2010


1adam12: oil.
posted by notion at 12:22 PM on November 30, 2010


I hear people just abandon their cars in the Dubai airport before leaving forever, with the keys in the ignition. I often fantasize about flying there and taking one of these cars on a cross-continent roadtrip through the desert, ending in Edinburgh. I have this mental image of me blasting a BMW 7 series through the desert at 150 miles an hour, over mountains, through the most dangerous countries on earth. All in the name of Derring-do. Perhaps someday....
posted by hellojed at 12:23 PM on November 30, 2010 [7 favorites]


And on another note, it's depressing that they designed and built a 2,500 foot structure in less time than it has taken for the new structure at ground zero to make it through committee. If there's one thing I'd like to take nationalist pride in, it's feats of engineering.
posted by notion at 12:26 PM on November 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


And on another note, it's depressing that they designed and built a 2,500 foot structure in less time than it has taken for the new structure at ground zero to make it through committee. If there's one thing I'd like to take nationalist pride in, it's feats of engineering.

It's also depressing that these feats are not possible without grossly exploited immigrant workers, notion.

(I'm not being knee-jerk. Even the most gung-ho expats in Dubai at least squirm when workers' conditions comes up in conversation.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 12:41 PM on November 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dubai has been a melting pot, a tax-free haven, an architectural playground, a radically ambitious dream, a folly and, ultimately, a chimera.

Let's not also forget that because Dubai is a city that accomodates all kinds of organized crime and other unsavoury elements, it has never been subjected to a terrorist attack, despite its whoring, 'un-Islamic' ways and the numerous skyscrapers that would make handy targets. It is also an economy that has massively benefited from the pariah or near-pariah status of many countries in the neighbourhood including Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Enormous amounts of wealth from each of those countries, among others, travels and/or is banked there. Hopefully, its demise will mean that some of that money returns to those countries where it is more sorely needed.
posted by Azaadistani at 12:44 PM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hopefully, its demise will mean that some of that money returns to those countries where it is more sorely needed.

...or it may mean that most of that money simply evaporates.
posted by aramaic at 12:53 PM on November 30, 2010


Some other parts of Dubai aren't doing so well. Whilest the economy was built on the back of oil and gas production this has dropped considerably. About 75% of non oil business is now with India - thats just the legal bit.
posted by adamvasco at 1:13 PM on November 30, 2010


...or it may mean that most of that money simply evaporates.

Yeah I hear it gets pretty hot there.
posted by MattMangels at 1:27 PM on November 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


...I flew into town and took a taxi down the Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai’s main thoroughfare, which runs parallel to the Persian Gulf. [...] As we approached downtown Dubai, we ran a long gauntlet of illuminated skyscrapers, all built during the past few years. Covered with garish architectural flourishes, many were unfinished, with exposed steel girders and cranes frozen above them; almost all displayed TO LET signs in their windows.

If you drive through the city of Dubai or through the areas along the coast, you won't see any buildings that will never be finished

Who's right here?
posted by mmrtnt at 1:37 PM on November 30, 2010


One of the most interesting people I know is Joi Ito, a tech venture capitalist. He's got a unique perspective being from Japan but with strong ties to the United States and American culture. Joi moved to Dubai in December 2008, just when things started going downhill. He's a bit of a globetrotter so he doesn't spend much time at home, but he wanted to understand the Muslim world better (and, I suspect, find interesting investment opportunities).

Anyway, Joi writes on his blog about Dubai occasionally and has a fascinating perspective. Dubai bashing and 'what-aboutery' is a good place to start.
posted by Nelson at 1:42 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want credit for this:

Dubai is the new Detroit.
posted by LordSludge at 1:49 PM on November 30, 2010


almost all displayed TO LET signs in their windows

We don't have them here in Canada (we're a FOR RENT sort of place), but I've seen signs like that on BBC property ladder programmes. Now, I fully understand why I wouldn't see it in the venue, but I am nevertheless always astonished that the signs don't immediately become victim to the most simple and obvious and hilarious vandalism involving nothing more than the addition of a single vertical line.

/derail
posted by Sys Rq at 1:59 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are we all forgetting that the United Arab Emerates is sitting just above the Rub Al Khali, the world's largest Oil Reserve, They will have lots of oil when the other Nations run out. Then they will return to their lost greatness again.
posted by tustinrick at 1:59 PM on November 30, 2010


in the that venue
posted by Sys Rq at 1:59 PM on November 30, 2010


> Then they will return to their lost greatness again.

"Greatness" is subjective, but they've just experienced a downturn. It's not like they had a wholesale infrastructure failure or residential abandonment that could remotely justify calling them the next Detroit. They had a bunch of ludicrous development projects stall out. The city is still humming.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:04 PM on November 30, 2010


many were unfinished
vs
you won't see any buildings that will never be finished

Those aren't opposing statements.
posted by inigo2 at 3:32 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Goodbye Dubai sounds like a Broadway musical.
posted by bwg at 4:38 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jody,

The original twin towers construction, from demolition to ribbon cutting ceremony, was from 1966 until 1973, but they completed the towers by 1971. The planning process, as far as I can tell, went as early as 1961. Still, the labor intensive portion lasted only about five years, I'm assuming without the exploitation of labor.

I know the UAE has a horrific human rights record, but that does not mean we couldn't get it done here in the same time period without endangering lives. We sent a human being to the moon within ten years of the idea.
posted by notion at 4:48 PM on November 30, 2010


The Empire State Building was completed less than 18 months after breaking ground, and that was 80 years ago. Five deaths were reported during construction. Reports say that only one death occurred during Burj Khalifa, although it's not out of bounds to say there could've been coverups with that massive workforce and shady subcontractors.

The main difference between the proposed WTC and the Burj Khalifa is that you have lots of interested parties vying for influence over design and pieces of the contract with the WTC. The Burj Khalifa was basically built by a benevolent dictator who wanted the biggest phallus in the desert so the motivations were much more unified.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:58 PM on November 30, 2010


> Those aren't opposing statements.

I think the distinction will be a matter of time.
posted by mmrtnt at 5:10 PM on November 30, 2010


And on another note, it's depressing that they designed and built a 2,500 foot structure in less time than it has taken for the new structure at ground zero to make it through committee. If there's one thing I'd like to take nationalist pride in, it's feats of engineering.

That's not a feat of engineering - it's a lack of bureaucracy.
posted by jimmythefish at 5:51 PM on November 30, 2010


Thanks for this, reenum, by the way.

I am inexplicably fascinated by tales of the downturn.
posted by mmrtnt at 6:18 PM on November 30, 2010


I don't understand why the libertarians don't all move to Dubai. The place has essentially no rules except commerce.
posted by humanfont at 6:31 PM on November 30, 2010


The place has essentially no rules except commerce.

Is this not the place where non-Muslims can purchase alcohol, but they must present a special smart-card that records their purchases and limits the total to a set percentage of their proven yearly income?

A spectacularly decadent New Years Eve was promised and heavily promoted, but after everyone reserved and many flew in, the whole thing was canceled at the last minute, ostensibly as a political protest of something the U.S. had done.

Doesn't sound like a freedom-fest.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:06 PM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Goodbye Dubai sounds like a Broadway musical.

Goodbye Dubai, Goodbye
I've been here far too long
The keys are in the ignition
You can take it when I'm gone
posted by awfurby at 7:54 PM on November 30, 2010


I know of at least one up-and-coming business that is being backed by such investors as Warren Buffett and Mark Cuban that is still planning their first international store in Dubai. So here's hoping that Dubai ain't over yet.
posted by Night_owl at 9:09 PM on November 30, 2010


I don't understand why the libertarians don't all move to Dubai. The place has essentially no rules except commerce.

I'm not sure libertarians would like to live in a place where the government owns half the banks, the two largest real estate developers, the largest shopping mall, and the list goes on.
posted by atrazine at 9:33 PM on November 30, 2010


I'm not sure libertarians would like to live in a place where the government owns half the banks, the two largest real estate developers, the largest shopping mall, and the list goes on.

Don't forget draconian drug policies that'll get you a 4 year jail stint if you're caught with any trace of THC in your system, even if you're just passing through the airport on a layover. Hell, testing positive for codeine in your urine is enough to get nailed for possession, even if it was legal where you consumed it.
posted by mikesch at 12:08 AM on December 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, 30 days in jail for kissing. It's stuff like that that really scares me about Dubai. This, other human rights violations and debtors prisons are enough to keep me from even considering ever moving there. The fear of running afoul of some arbitrary and obscure law would keep me in a state of panic.

I'm staying well away from any place that criminalizes behavior that the rest of the world would consider "normal".*

*Yes, I'm fully aware of the irony of that statement considering that I live in the US.
posted by mikesch at 12:15 AM on December 1, 2010


Don't forget draconian drug policies that'll get you a 4 year jail stint if you're caught with any trace of THC in your system, even if you're just passing through the airport on a layover. Hell, testing positive for codeine in your urine is enough to get nailed for possession, even if it was legal where you consumed it.

It's not just codeine; you can get four years for having had the poor judgment to have eaten a poppyseed bagel at the airport before flying to Dubai.
posted by acb at 3:21 AM on December 1, 2010


My new impressive engineering feat from the past is the uranium enrichment buildings they built for the Manhattan Project. Like K-25. Spend half a billion dollars in 1943 to build a gigantic building to process uranium through a engineering process we haven't quite figured out yet (gaseous diffusion) but probably will get a handle on it by the time the building is finished.

(Apparently that site has the Enrichment Federal Credit Union. Which is not particularly relevant but just a neat thing.)
posted by smackfu at 6:39 AM on December 1, 2010


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