Daring Dubai: Why it's the Next Hot City in the World
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
In September, 2005, I had the opportunity to travel through Europe, and before returning to Seattle, I made one last stop to meet my great uncle in Geneva. During my short visit he explained to me that he had developed a successful real estate business in Dubai City, commonly called Dubai, where he lives six months out of the year. He seemed convinced that Dubai was the future and he encouraged me to look at moving there after I graduated. I was skeptical, possibly because I have been influenced by the general distrust of the Middle East that is present in the United States, or possibly because I have heard very little about Dubai in the past. But the more I read about Dubai, the more I think he might be right. Dubai City is located near the tip of the Persian Gulf and has historically been known as a port city that has benefited from its strategic location at the crossroads of trade and commerce between East and West. As is the case with many of the countries in the Middle East, Dubai has, until recently, relied on a trade based, oil dependent economy. Within the last twenty five years, however, the Dubai government has made a concerted effort to transition from an oil based economy to a service and tourism based economy. And it's working. Several large financial service firms and IT firms, including Microsoft, have opened offices in the region, and the increase in jobs has encouraged immigration from surrounding countries, particularly India. In turn, immigration and the government's policy changes have spurred on a series of new real estate developments, both commercial and residential. The increase has been so dramatic that by the end of the current decade Dubai will be one of the most architecturally advanced cities in the world. By 2008, Dubai will be home to the world's tallest building, the Burj Dubai, which is expected to reach eight hundred meters in height when finished. Additionally, construction has begun on a theme park named Dubai Land, which is roughly based on the concept of Disneyland. Estimates predict that when finished, Dubai Land will cover over three billion square feet of ground, part of which will be filled by The Mall of Arabia. The Mall of Arabia is being touted as the soon-to-be largest mall in the world, although it is already facing some competition for that title from developing malls in Beijing and Berjaya. Clearly Dubai is on the up and up, both literally and figuratively. But what is even more impressive about Dubai is The Palm, a set of three man made islands off the coast of the city. The Palm will house over two thousand villas, five hundred apartments and two hundred luxury shops. In case that wasn't enough, a project called Dubai Waterfront was announced earlier this year. When finished it will add five hundred miles of man made island to the coast and will be approximately the size of Manhattan. These developments beg several questions: "Is it possible to successfully build such islands?" and "Will living space on the islands, which is sure to be expensive, sell?" The answer to both questions seems to be yes. The developments are proceeding as planned, and according to my uncle, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find plots of land on the islands for sale. Who is buying them? Celebrities and CEO types, I'm told, and apparently the demand for land on The Palm is great enough to warrant the multi-million dollar price tag that comes with even the smallest plot. It appears as though, at least when it comes to The Palm, that Dubai's grandiose plans are paying off. But Dubai's architectural wonders attract more than the rich and famous. Due to the city's emerging status and central location, tourism is bound to increase. And, of course, many smaller, less expensive real estate developments are available on the mainland. Dubai's emergence as a tourist destination and potential retirement location is well timed. In the next ten years, scores of Baby Boomers will be retiring and it has been predicted that many will expatriate in search of warmer climates and a lower cost of living. Even if many Americans waffle at the idea of moving to the Middle East, comparable generations in Europe and elsewhere will certainly be looking for retirement options, and for both groups, Dubai seems like an excellent choice. For starters, the climate is ideal. Prices, with the exception of the most luxurious living areas, are reasonable, and English is widely spoken. As for safety, Dubai has been rated the safest travel destination in the world four years in a row by Interpol (the International Criminal Police Organization). It seems as though everything is going Dubai's way, and whatever happens, it's clear that Dubai is a city worth watching.