By Renard Teipelke
SPIEGEL journalist Alexander Smoltczyk has done something that was long overdue: unveiling the Gulf Emirates’ strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of an urbanist. The German article is about post-petrol economies, their skyrocketing progress during the past 50 years, their existence in one of the world’s most barren land, and about their (constantly changing, nevertheless long-term) strategy for a fruitful development.
Dubai “is simply a provocation to common sense. It is impossible that a desert land without even one liter of freshwater resources advertises its golf courses. It is impossible that roughly 90 percent of its citizens are actually vulnerable expats who can easily be expelled from this country. It is impossible that people live as if the climate change is only the chimera of an apocalyptic sect.”
But Smoltczyk goes beyond those common contradictions and discusses the misperception of the Gulf Emirates’ decision makers who seek identity formation through architectural brand development. While the region is ideal for marketing, it lacks a real soul. On the other hand, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar & Co are world leaders in boosting culture in fields such as education, music, and art. Mostly foreigners are eventually visiting the new museums and concert halls, but thereby the region’s importance also grows as a hub between the West and the East – economically and culturally.
The Gulf Emirates accomplish a relatively smooth coexistence of immigrants from all over the world. However, at the same time, the lack of democratic norms and institutions is alarming and one of the major obstacle for the region’s further progress.
It is the urban development in the Gulf Emirates that will decide over its future, and Smoltczyk precisely shows how planned as well as unplanned land has already formed the region’s everyday life.
>>> Read the whole article on SPIEGEL ONLINE (in German)