Over the last fifty years, the city of Dubai has leapfrogged major stages of development to become Las Vegas on steroids, a vision of the future: "Dubai: The World's Fastest City" is the first book to tell its story.
In the 1950s, with a few thousand souls scraping 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 Sudan. Today freewheeling Dubai is everything the Arab world isn't. It's capitalism on cocaine. Las Vegas without the gambling but twice the prostitutes. It's 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's one of the world's safest places, but a stone's throw from its most dangerous. Shimmering skyscrapers hide gritty 24-hour construction at ground level. The city's name has become a metaphor for the lush life, where celebrities like Tiger Woods and George Clooney mingle in gilded splendor and where so many luxury cars cram the roads that one is sometimes treated to the spectacle of Porsche-only crashes. Yet the city is beset by a backwash of bad design, savage treatment of the environment and labor practices that veers close to slavery. This Arab sheikdom, one of seven semi-autonomous states in the United Arab Emirates, is becoming a rising force in the Middle East, a news story that affects all of us. It's time people in the West came to know this often misunderstood place.
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (2010)