National Geographic : 2007 Jan
are beginning to ask their governments: If Dubai can do it, why can't we?" Dubai, it must be said, is like no other place on Earth. This is the world capital of living large; the air practically crackles with a volatile mix of excess and opportunity. It's the kind of place where tennis stars Andre Agassi and Roger Federer play an exhibition match on the rooftop helipad of the opulent Burj al Arab megahotel; where diamond-encrusted cell phones do a brisk business at $10,000 apiece; where millions of people a year fly in just to go shopping. Over the past decade, I've traveled to Dubai often and grown to appre ciate the quirky multiculturalism of a city where one can eat in an Ital ian restaurant run by an Egyptian, with an Indian head chef and Filipino waiters who break into operettas every half hour. Or watch, in the wee hours, a mob of English expatriates weaving home from a pub as the Mus lim call to morning prayer echoes through the streets. Many Americans first heard of Dubai, one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), when a state-owned company, Dubai Ports World, purchased a British firm that managed six U.S. ports. Some members of Congress reacted with alarm, charging, correctly, that The Palm Jumeirah, a man-made island whose fronds offer beachfront lots for 4,000 villas and apartments, juts audaciously into the Persian Gulf. Dubbed the Eighth Wonder of the World, the develop ment has doubled Dubai's 45-mile shoreline, but has also disrupted its coastal ecosystem.