The Middle East… and Dubai الشرق الاوسط … و دبي

Since my late teens, I have had an enduring fascination with the Middle East, particularly its art, architecture and urban landscape. Every year, I make a pilgrimage, of sorts, to Dubai. The intent is to see how it’s changed, while also taking the opportunity to hop over to another country in the region: Lebanon, Iran, Oman, Egypt, Doha, etc [more about these in future posts].

I consider Dubai home, of sorts. My dad and my brother used to have business there, and good friends of mine have been living there, on and off, since the early 2000s. I remember first visiting Dubai when Sheik Zayed Road was all they had and the Emirates Towers marked the end of the city. These days, Dubai has expanded to four or five times its size more than 10 years ago.

Dubai is in many ways like Singapore on steroids. Everything that Singapore has tried doing, Dubai has actually done it, ten times bigger and more garish. Tallest building in the world – the Burj al-Khalifa. Biggest mall in the world – the newly opened Dubai Mall. Indoor ski resort in the desert. Largest (musical) fountains in the world.  The Palm. ‘Nuff said.

When you’re on a yacht in the Persian Gulf, zipping alongside Dubai’s 80 km coastline, you realise just how surreal the entire city is. It’s like the proverbial mirage in the desert, floating into view in the distance. You’re amazed it even exists and expect it to disappear into thin air any minute. And yet it doesn’t.

It weathered the recent economic crisis relatively well. During my last trip there in May this year, things seemed to be picking up again.  Real estate prices had dropped significantly and expats were returning in droves. Residents hailed the crisis as a “necessary correction” to an artificially inflated bubble.

Fine. I’ll admit, shamelessly, that I have a soft spot for Dubai.  =)

I love being able to stroll in endless malls in air-conditioned comfort, tuck into excellent food at very reasonable prices, take taxis everywhere. I like the fact that it’s a regional travel hub and so it’s insanely easy to hop over cheaply and conveniently to other cities in the Middle East, Europe and India. I like the fact that in the thick of Ramadan, you can still go to amazing house parties with the coolest people. [Sorry if this sounds insensitive, it’s not meant to be!]

Oh dear……I’m so Singaporean.

But then, these are the things that many (European) expats also swear by. A few years ago, these expats would come for 2 to 3 year stints. These days, people are staying in Dubai longer: 5 – 7 years, so I understand. So it must be doing something right, no?

Yalla, habibi! Let’s forget about it and just enjoy!

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
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4 Responses to The Middle East… and Dubai الشرق الاوسط … و دبي

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