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Kipp explores the reasons why Dubai stands out in the crowded Gulf, and why some expatriates won’t consider relocating anywhere else in the region.
January 28, 2009 3:05 by Dana El Baltaji
No, Madinat Jumeirah’s souk is not a real souk. Real souks aren’t clean and they certainly weren’t built in the 21st Century. And no, the spice souk is not all that authentic either. Sure, you can find all sorts of spices, but the men who sell them, mostly Iranian and Indian, speak broken Arabic and haven’t been there for long.
Dubai’s lack of authenticity, however, is part of the deal you make with the city before you visit or move here: if you accept the emirate’s unreal-reality, the business and social possibilities here are only limited by the funds you can muster and the time on your hands. Why else, then, would you choose to live in a place that considers buildings constructed before 1960 ‘historic‘?
It’s precisely the city’s absurdity and it’s famed – some times embarrassing – hyperbolic ambition that brought most expatriates here in the first place. That bullish ambition is what created the jobs that expatriates in Dubai (who haven’t been fired) are clinging to today.
But there’s more to it than just ambition. Ask most Dubaians if they’d consider moving to Bahrain or Qatar, and they’d wince at the thought of it. Dubai, unlike other city-states and nations in the Gulf, has created a social and entertainment niche for itself not only within the Gulf, but also within the Middle East.
The emirate has, without doubt, become the region’s amusement center, or, more significantly, it has become whatever tourists want it to be. The tourism sector’s year on year growth ranges between 8-10 percent, which, given that Dubai started off with little more than more tiny communities, a whole lot of sand and a laughable education system, is impressive.
Which is what makes Dubai an even more interesting place: it could’ve been built anywhere. The Burj Al Arab, The Palm Jumeirah and the enormous shopping malls could’ve been built in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Doha or Jeddah if it weren’t for the cultural and visionary limitations in practice in some of these locations.