|Burj Meant to celebrate Dubai, Instead Honors Abu Dhabi|
For all its glitzy displays of wealth and new favor among the jet set, for all it's unusually open cultural atmosphere for a Middle Eastern country, upsetting some of its neighbors, Dubai still retains many of the old ways. It is still a true monarchy, and still holds on to some very un-modern attitudes shared by fellow Arab countries. For one thing, though it may not always enforce it, it has laws that call upon it to deny entry visas to Israelis, or those with Israeli stamps on their passports.
And, of course, as we first asked on these pages back in 2005, the question is how a city of Dubai's scale will fill a skyline that is usually found in a city several times it size. If Dubai was hoping for continued growth at record pace, the global economic downturn that began in late 2007 brought that to a halt. Commercial real estate prices in Dubai fell 50%-75%, leases and constructions projects were cancelled, and laid-off foreign workers returned home. The financial crisis really hit home with Dubai in 2009, when it had to ask it's fellow emirate Abu Dhabi (capital of the U.A.E.) for emergency aid to service its debt. In apparent gratitude (or servitude), what was going to be the Burj Dubai was renamed the Burj Khalifa, after the emir of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, also the current president of the U.A.E.
Since 2010, Dubai has begun to see a recovery and a re-engagement of stalled projects, still at modest levels as of 2012.
Dubai's intended icon of its new ascendancy among the world's top cities became a symbol of its sudden financial and political precariousness. Nonetheless, the setback is likely temporary (the Empire State Building opened amidst the Great Depression, and was called the Empty State Building in its early years), and the rise of the stratospheric half-mile tall Burj Khalifa and the rest of the crystaline Dubai skyline, along with others across Asia, are certainly an amazing wonder to behold. But unlike a desert illusion, these are more than a fantastic mirage, they are message - a message Americans would do well to heed.
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