Dubai 1

City of Gold – Aired November 2006

A land of stunning contrasts, Dubai is a five-star luxury destination known as the gateway between east and west through its infusion of tradition and heritage with modernity and style. Rapidly developing as an international city of major significance, Dubai has seemed to come out of nowhere to become an incredibly popular hotspot, and its transformation in under half a century is nothing short of remarkable.

As the emirate makes it way to global dominance by not only earning wealth but also flaunting it, more and more Asians are flocking into this cosmopolitan heart of the modern Middle East.

We interview some of Dubai’s leading businessmen and residents. If Dubai is run like a company, what is its business model? Is this city really as hip and dynamic as people make it out to be?

What role do Asians play in the growth of business and tourism?

Is the city growing too fast for its own good?

Join Asia Business Channel as we explore the fascinating city of… Dubai.

Dubai started its evolution from a small, quiet fishing village. In 1833, the reign of the Maktoum family began, and by the 20th century, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum had implemented business-oriented policies that attracted traders from all over the world. The Maktoums built bridges with rival sheikdoms, foreshadowing the creation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971.

The UAE was thrust into the global consciousness because of the strength and leadership of one man: the nation’s first president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan

Today, exciting and dynamic Dubai is the second-largest of the seven emirates, after the capital, Abu Dhabi. It is a modern-day success story. The optimism in this country is contagious and everyone comes to Dubai for a piece of the action.

Shiekh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum is one of the many powerful businessmen who make Dubai an economic powerhouse. Acting as the chief executive of the huge holding company that is Dubai’s government is the Crown Prince, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. His unmistakable charisma and boundless energy assures everyone of a constant new scheme every month that raises the emirate’s business profile. He has surrounded himself with Dubai’s sharpest minds and the world’s most prominent entrepreneurs.

International businessmen have nothing but praise for the country’s business model.

Asia as a continent is the largest trading partner of the UAE. What is the secret to this long-standing partnership?

It is very obvious from the onset that Dubai doesn’t dwell too much on it’s past. It is too busy looking into the future. Some analysts believe that Dubai has expanded too fast and too far, and that its economy is headed for trouble. Others believe the city has a sturdy economic foundation.

For many Asians, doing business in the Arab world can be intimidating at first. Can foreigners and Emiratis, as Dubai’s locals are called, work together?

There is still one economic hurdle that Dubai is seeking to overcome. The country is highly dependent upon expatriate labor, and the government has made some attempts to place nationals in the public workforce and imposing Emirati employee quotas on private companies. How can a new country with an older ruling oligarchy keep up with a fast-paced, modern world.

Emirati Saeed Al Naboudah is 32.

Dubai continues to experience an on-going expansion of the non-oil economy, particularly in the financial services sector. Known as Wall Street in Arabia, it is now one of the world’s crossroads for finance. The Dubai International Financial Center, or the DIFC, is a symbol of the city’s progression toward a mature market.

Many investors wonder, however, if the bubble is about to burst. On March 2006, the Dubai Financial Market crashed on a single day. Long-term prospects still look very good, and Dubai is now counting on its real estate and development sector to save the day.

Dubai’s construction industry is working overtime. Because in Dubai, every new big idea has a self-imposed urgency. Developers will pump over 400 billion dollars into real estate developments over the next 10 years. At first sight, buying property in Dubai looks like a fantastic investment. Despite the incredible figures, the question remains: will buyers keep coming? Insiders are questioning the quality of the buildings. We ask two of the city’s key developers, Best Homes and Edara, why that is the case.

Because the city’s property market was created from scratch, the property boom is kicking into overdrive. With a very small window of time to complete projects, many believe the market is growing beyond what it can cope with.

Dubai’s hunger for grand architectural landmarks is symptomatic of a nation intent on displaying its ambition, its riches, and its identity, to the rest of the world. Out with the old, in with the new. The blend of traditional Islamic architecture with modern designs straight out of science fiction make the city’s skyline a stunning sight.

But there is a very thin line between good and bad taste, between cool and tacky. So where does Dubai fall under? We ask one of Dubai’s most renowned architects.

Here is Asia Business Channel’s list of Top Five most notable architecture in Dubai.

At number five is DUBAI CREEK GOLF AND YACHT CLUB. The white sails of a traditional Arab dhow are the inspiration for this golf clubhouse set amid artificial hills.

The triumvirate of the ETISALAT BUILDING, THE NATIONAL BANK OF DUBAI and DUBAI CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY and make it to number four on our list. These three buildings are the jewels of Deira’s skyline.

Number three is the One and Only Royal Mirage. There are many opulent Arabian-style hotels in the city, but this one, with its elegant mud walls, terraces, and courtyards, is pure class.

At number two are the EMIRATES TOWERS. These ultramodern towers on Sheikh Zayed Road have become one of the quintessential symbols of Dubai. They are currently the tallest buildings in the Middle East and Europe, but for how long?

And what tops our list? What else but the BURJ AL ARAB, the world’s tallest and only seven-star hotel. The interior has to be seen to be believed

Dubai is a city of contrasts where Asians have the opportunity to enjoy a multitude of new experiences.

Tourism alone has seen such an outstanding growth, thanks to one of the world’s most high profile airlines, Emirates. What is the secret to their success?

There is one thing Asians do best: shopping. Dubai is a shopper’s paradise, featuring some of the world’s most spectacular malls.

Almost every Asian traveler to Dubai has purchased gold and jewelry, boosted by its exceptional quality and low prices. Traders such as Tawhid Abdullah are helping achieve Sheikh Mohammed’s vision to bring 15 million visitors by 2010.

Just what is the quintessential tourist experience in Dubai? We’ve asked expatriates and tourists alike, and here is Asia Business Channel’s List.

At number five is DUBAI DUTY FREE. The airport’s tax-free paradise offers an impressive array of just about everything.

DUBAI’S BEACHES are at number four. Year-round sunshine guarantees a full tan for anyone who spends a day on Dubai’s Arabian Gulf coastline.

Smell the spices, brave the crowds, and test your nerves against the traders in Dubai’s local markets. SOUK SHOPPING makes it to number three on our list.

At number two is the DESERT SAFARI. The Arabian desert is a big playground. Driving over the dunes is an exhilarating and even frightening experience.

And what is the quintessential Dubai tourist experience? Our number one pick is a tour of OLD DUBAI. This is the heart and soul of the city. If you do only one thing here, make it a visit to Old Dubai.

While Dubai may lack the physical sense of history that other Middle Eastern destinations have, it makes up for it with an eagerness to impress, and a willingness to please. For its people, there is no other way to go but forward. And there is no sign of this momentum letting up. For now and the foreseeable future, there is no other city in the world that continues to defy expectations.