I did not meet a single person, foreign or expat, in Beirut who has been to Dubai and had much nice to say about it. Most described it as a culture- and history-free shopping mall on the Gulf, an Arab Las Vegas which can’t hold up to Beirut’s authenticity. Maybe they’re right. I don’t know. I haven’t been there. But check out what the skyline will look like after the Burj Dubai skyscraper, the soon-to-be tallest building in the entire world, is finished. (Hat tip: One Arab World.)
Big mall on the Gulf or not, that skyline looks like the 22nd Century. Heck, that could be a model city in a Star Trek movie. And Dubai has little oil. The place is built to last.
Michael Yon was there recently and was very impressed, although he did see it through Iraq-colored eyes. He had this to say, which is worth pointing out:
It was embarrassing when the United States erupted a month ago over the port security issue, and in so doing hurled insults at our friends in the UAE. I know nothing about port security and so cannot comment on that issue. I can, however, attest that the UAE is a strong, intelligent and reliable ally, very pro-West and pro-American, and before we reflexively stone our friends, it would be wise to remember that good friends are hard to find. It’s too bad no one in a position to know had the foresight to let the average American in on that. This is a part of the world most people know very little about, and the little they do know makes them anxious about knowing much more.
Our friends in the UAE want the Coalition efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan to succeed, and they are vocal about it. While much of the west, including many of our oldest allies, postures on about how the war on terror is a horrible mistake, the sentiment in the UAE is that it would be a horrible mistake not to face the facts about our common enemy, an enemy that might be just as happy to destroy the UAE as America. The people of the Emirates that I asked about the port security issue merely politely shrugged it off, but our loosely flung words did land here, with a big, dull thud…
There are not hundreds of giant cranes working in Dubai, but thousands. Where is all the money, water, and power coming from? What will happen a decade from now? Is this a bubble? I do not know. But I do know that the leaders here are thinking about and planning for a peaceful and prosperous future, a future not dependent on oil or war or terrorism.