Monday, December 18, 2006

Trader Mohammed’s: In the last few years, Dubai has built a reputation as an international playground. That’s all very fine and well, but in addition, it’s setting up the infrastructure to be a major financial center, a sort of Geneva with warm weather, or Hong Kong without an autocratic, communist national government. This is not without precedent, says The Economist, but you have to look back in history:

Dubai’s third advantage is a history of pulling off grand schemes. Blessed with fewer oil or gas deposits than its neighbours, the emirate has long sought other ways to make a living and has thrived as a trading entrepot living off its wits. “When I look at Dubai, I think of Amsterdam in the 16th century,” says Saskia Sassen, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, who studies global cities. “Dubai is not a six-month miracle.”

Dubai’s big successes include the Jebel Ali container port; a world-class airport; a leading airline in Emirates; duty-free stores that would exhaust the most indefatigable shopper; the world’s first seven-star hotel; luxury beach resorts; regional centres for media and health care; as well as more unusual projects, including man-made islands in fantastic shapes. The world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, is also under construction. All this helps to attract celebrities, from Saudi princes to Russian plutocrats and professional footballers, who often buy homes. Although some find it all a bit tacky, Dubai has shown imagination, a knack for getting things done, and an ability to harness capital and use top international talent.

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