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October 24, 2008

Dubai Journal

When you get off the plane in Dubai, they hand you a map of the city. It's a pretty simple urban plan, with the city concentrated around its origins of a broad creek, and arrayed against the blue coastline of the Arabian Gulf.

Then you look more closely at the map and you see a lot of places noted with "u/c" beside it. This means "under construction," and it represents easily half the city, as it spreads out into the desert. This includes Motor City, where the sports car racetrack is being built; Dubailand, home to the upcoming theme parks of Universal Studio and Marvel; Dubai Silicon Oasis; the Mohammed Bin Rashid Gardens; the international Media Production Zone; Duabi Studio City (look for a quickie video on this, upcoming); residental developments like Jumeirah Village 1, and 2.

Then there's the new international airport, where they're building six parallel runways for takeoff and landing. I believe it will be the largest in the world. Everything here has to be the biggest, the best, the fastest, in the world.

The city, which struggles with crushing traffic problems, will easily double in size. I'm told by one local economist that the rate of inflation here is 15 percent a year, but that the government bars the release of this figure, for fear of chasing away investors.

Re women: I've been delinquent in getting to this because, for all my experience in the Mideast, it is actually a non-issue in day to day life. In Dubai, particularly, you do not see many emiratis, as I've noted. Women dress in all manner of their respective cultures - Western-style, Indian, Philippino. Some are veiled, most are not.

But when you see an Emirati woman, you'll know it. They wear the black abaya and the veil with great pride. It is a social symbol, a sign that they are among the ruling class. You will often see a gaggle of young women sashaying through the mall, their abayas swishing beind them. Their body language suggests that they are a class apart from all the others who surround them in t-shirts and bright colors.



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