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What does the Burj Dubai really symbolize?

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A monument to a decade of excess that ended in a big crash? A symbol of hope for the future of the Arab World? Dubai’s crowning glory and a pointer to a fantastic future for the Middle East’s only global hub city?

The world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai opens on January 4th with an amazing firework display. The local papers are full of talk about the vantage point for the best view.

But the completion of a building a clear 1,000 feet higher than anything else on earth says something about the people who make it happen: ambition, certainly; energy and money, absolutely essential.

Tall building syndrome

In my book ‘Opportunity Dubai’ the final chapter alludes to the known phenomenon of tall building syndrome. They are always finished after a spectacular economic boom.

The reason is pretty obvious. The mobilization of money, vision and some might say sheer folly, is only possible under an economic boom.

Dubai certainly had its boom in the first decade of this millennium. Oil prices surged way beyond what anybody thought possible in their wildest dreams in 2000, and the leadership of Dubai cleverly steered a substantial portion of that cash flow into its real estate sector by opening it to foreign investors.

So I like to think the Burj Dubai symbolizes the business success story of Dubai. Never mind the inevitable red-letter day when the debt payments became due last year, although that was not for Emaar Properties the developer of the Burj Dubai.

Booms always go over the top. But the Burj Dubai would never have been built without the tremendous economic growth story of the past few decades.

Fifty years ago Dubai was little more than a fishing village on the edge of a desert without a single air-conditioner and only a few motor vehicles. Fast forward and you have the city with the tallest building in the world today.

Arab achievement

It is also a symbol of what can be achieved in the Arab World. Not since the Islamic scholars of medieval times has the Arab World been on top of anything, let alone home to the tallest building in the world.

But the important message is that this has been achieved in the city that has made its money out of globalization and international trade, and a commitment to a multicultural society where the technical skills and education of foreigners are harnessed to create a unique city: who really built the Burj Dubai after all?

For the Burj Dubai also symbolizes the reality of the New Dubai of the 2000s where more than 95 per cent of the residents are expatriates, and the trade and business of the region gets done. Dubai remains a formidable business enterprise. That is why Dubai is the home of the world’s tallest building.

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Written by Peter Cooper

January 2, 2010 at 9:09 am

One Response

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  1. Waste

    Bill Simpson in Slidell

    January 4, 2010 at 4:57 am


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