Friday, February 13, 2009

Impressions of Dubai

I am back in Abu Dhabi after a short trip to Dubai. Before going there, I had heard a lot about all the construction going on in Dubai. Yet it was still a surprise to see it with my own eyes. With all the skyscrapers, Dubai reminded me a little of New York City except that everything is brand new and sparkling clean. There are so many buildings, and perhaps even more that are still under construction. It is hard to believe there is enough demand for all that space. In fact, I heard some projects have actually been stopped midway through. Given the global recession, it seems funding is drying up and some of the projects may not be completed at all. I've also been hearing that many foreign workers are losing their jobs. Some are returning home, others are trying to find jobs in Abu Dhabi where the economy is still good.

Nonetheless, Dubai is an architect's dream. Imagine having a client ask you to design the most outrageous building you could think of without regard to the expense. The Bourj al-Arab Hotel looks like a sailboat (dhow). Another building looks like a jet airplane. Some buildings are straight; others are curved. Some look like they could be fitted together like Lego pieces. The building that houses the indoor ski slope looks like it could tip over. They are really at the cutting edge of what can be done with construction.

While in Dubai, we made presentations to members of Hawkamah, the institute for corporate governance. This was also sponsored by Mudara at the Dubai International Financial Center. There was intense interest in our presentations and we were peppered with questions. There is keen interest in promoting good corporate governance practices in this part of world.

I finally got a chance to relax and catch up on some sleep. Unfortunately, I am returning home just as my body has adjusted to local time. I'm sure there will be more sleepless nights to come.