22 July 2005

It's a Mall World after all?

The emirate of Dubai sounds like a surreal, slightly hellish place:

...the coastal desert has become a huge circuit board into which the elite of transnational engineering firms and retail developers are invited to plug in high-tech clusters, entertainment zones, artificial islands, "cities within cities" -- whatever is the latest fad in urban capitalism. The same phantasmagoric but generic Lego blocks, of course, can be found in dozens of aspiring cities these days, but Sheik Mo has a distinctive and inviolable criterion: Everything must be "world class," by which he means number one in The Guinness Book of Records. Thus Dubai is building the world's largest theme park, the biggest mall, the highest building, and the first sunken hotel among other firsts.

Well, hellish if the idea of wretched excess scares you.

The above quote, taken from this article by Mike Davis, is only part of the story. Davis goes on to describe the "invisible majority" of Dubai: Filipinos and Sri Lankans who clean rooms in the mega-hotels, Indians and Pakistanis who build the artificial islands and the world's tallest buildings. Apparently most make just enough money to survive, but never enough to prosper.

Reading about Dubai gives me the same sort of uneasy feeling I get when I read about massive development in the American southwest, where you just know it'll never be sustainable.


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