TOPICS: Dubai evolves as ‘city of cities’

Meena S Janardhan

Fast becoming the commercial hub of the Mideast, Dubai has in the past few years launched several projects to encourage investors and tourists alike. One noteworthy initiative has been the setting up of ‘cities’ for institutions with interests to foster work environments with common ideologies, thereby opening up possibilities for collaboration.

So there is the Media City, the Internet City, the Health City, Humanitarian Aid City, the Festival City, the Sports City and even a Chess City. This idea is the brainchild of Gen. Sheikh Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE defence minister, whose vision has turned this desert oasis into a gleaming chrome and glass economic marvel.

The liberal social milieu, competitive business environment, tax-free conditions and innumerable recreational facilities are incentives that attract expatriate and regional investors. Add to that architectural plans that promise to turn the desert landscape into a wonderland.

Sheikh Mohammed said, “Local, pan-Arab and international companies will find great opportunities here for launching new projects and the development of pre-existing ones. The infrastructure has been carefully prepared to facilitate participation in the latest methods of digital communication.’’

But according to the latest report by the Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, though UAE is a leading moderniser in the region and foreign and local media enjoy a degree of freedom; strong social and political controls encourage self-censorship. The UAE authorities presented the hundreds of news organisations at Media City with a code of conduct in November 2003 and asked them to keep to it. RSF pointed out that the media were asked to take into account social and religious factors in the UAE, the Mideast and other Muslim countries.

On the other hand, internationally respected institutions in health care delivery, education, services, and research and development have been invited to set up operations here and to take advantage of the synergies brought about by physical proximity, interconnectivity, and professional collaboration.

Dubai has recently announced plans to set up a Logistics City as well. ‘’This major initiative will allow Dubai International Airport to focus on the development of passenger traffic without suffering from congestion or bottlenecks caused by freight and logistics operations,’’ said Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of the Dubai Civil Aviation and Emirates Group chairman.

There is also the Bur Dubai district with the world’s tallest tower, Burj Dubai, surrounding which will be the world’s largest shopping mall too — a three million square metre colossus; Dubai Marina, Gulf’s biggest waterfront project measuring around 800,000 square metres, the Arabian Ranches — a multi-billion dirham paradise spread over 2,700 acres; and the Hydropolis hotel, the first underwater luxury hotel with suites offering underwater views and a sandy beach sheltered from the sun by artificially manufactured clouds!

As it metamorphoses from desert conditions to cooler climes, even promising a Snow City, Dubai is all set to grab world attention and investment, combining commercial and architectural bonanzas which will be tough to resist. — IPS