I have written about Dubai many times, it is an intriguing place, a modern metropolis of glass and steel that has risen out of the desert as if by magic over the last 50 years, but just as much as it is modern there is also something strangely ancient about it.
Something about the whole idea of Dubai reminds me of the great cities of the ancient world like Rome, Athens and Memphis. The city seems to be a symbol of a golden age for the Middle East, perhaps even the world, a place that is as much about inspiring awe in those that visit as it is a place of abode for local citizens.
Just as rumours spread around Europe of the wealth and glory of Rome in ancient times, so too now, the world is alive with rumours and chatter of the wealth and glory of Dubai.
What will archaeologists say in a thousand years about Dubai, will we flock to the remains of the Burj Khalifa as we do the pyramids at Giza? Will the people of the future see this city as a symbol of the great wealth and power bestowed on the world for a short period by the discovery of oil? It doesn’t seem unreasonable to think so.
One thing is certain, Dubai is certainly a place of incredible engineering feats, love them or loathe them, Dubai is home to the biggest most mind boggling structures the world has ever seen, they have the modern day equivalents of the Coliseum and the Great Pyramids.
They have the world’s tallest building; they have engineered islands in the shape of the world out of the ocean; they have the world’s only 7 star hotel that has a tennis court on top of it; everywhere you turn there is such incredible opulence. The kind of opulence that would make the pharaoh’s of Egypt or the Caesar’s of Rome turn green with envy.
Dubai’s economy is not all about the oil, or at least they are striving hard to diversify. Dubai sees its future as the gateway between the old world of the West and the emerging powers of the East. They are right in the middle of the world. Flights to Dubai are often just comfortable stops en-route to the new powerhouse economies of the Far East.
This plan is working well for them. Emirates Airlines are the fasting growing airline on the planet and appear to be going through their own golden age, very reminiscent of the early days of Pan Am, opening new routes nearly every month to new cities in the world, joining everywhere up with Dubai at its heart.
Not to suggest that Dubai’s a utopia, or make any political or economic point, and there are perhaps better candidates for a modern Rome (New York and Beijing spring to mind), but if ancient Rome was as much about symbolism as it was residence Dubai seems like an obvious inheritor.
What do you think? Start the conversation in the comments below.