In the 1950s, with a population of a few thousand souls who scraped a living in a waterless desert by picking dates, diving for pearls, or sailing in wooden dhows to trade with Iran and India, Dubai was as poor as any village in Somalia or the Sudan.Today freewheeling Dubai is everything the rest of the Arab world is not. It is capitalism on cocaine, Las Vegas without the gambling but twice the number of prostitutes. It is the fastest-growing city in the world, with an economy that outpaced China's last year while luring more tourists than all of India. It is one of the world's safest places, but it lies a stone's throw from its most dangerous. Shimmering skyscrapers hide gritty 24-hour construction at ground level. The city has become a metaphor for the lush life, where celebrities like Tiger Woods and George Clooney mingle in gilded splendour and where so many luxury cars fill the streets that crashes between two Porsches are not uncommon. Yet the city is also beset by a backwash of bad design, environmental degradation and labour practices that veer close to slavery.This small Arab sheikhdom, one of seven semi-autonomous states within the United Arab Emirates, has become an icon of the future and a rising force in the Middle East, a news story that affects us all, Dubai tells its unique story.
Jim Krane, an award-winning journalist, was the Associated Press' Persian Gulf Correspondent for two and a half years, covering all six Gulf Arab countries. He has also written about Dubai for the Economist and the Financial Times. Previously, he was the AP's Baghdad Correspondent and New York-based Business Writer. He now lives and studies in Cambridge, England, with his wife and son.