Introduction

The paper deals with the current development taking place in Dubai and the city’s role as a key influencer on urban development of cities in the Middle East.

Dubai promptly appeared on the scene as a city with investments in the development of breathtaking, unique architectural and entrepreneurial ventures in 1994, when the building of the famous 7 star hotel Burj Al-Arab began. This was only the beginning of an era of unimaginable projects.

Several Arab cities now follow the principle of ‘Dubaization’ and seem to aim at becoming just as superlative as Dubai itself.

Original article

Essay by Sabrina Kamann
Master in Tourism Destination Management student 2008/2009

The paper deals with the current development taking place in Dubai and the city’s role as a key influencer on urban development of cities in the Middle East.

Dubai promptly appeared on the scene as a city with investments in the development of breathtaking, unique architectural and entrepreneurial ventures in 1994, when the building of the famous 7 star hotel Burj Al-Arab began.

Ever since, the city has invested in immense shopping malls, gigantic theme parks, business centers and luxurious hotels, such as the Emirates towers. All these icons represent just the beginning of an era characteristic of innovative and unimaginable projects, among them pioneering real estate projects, such as the Palm Islands and the World Map Islands symbolizing modern development in Dubai.

The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing promotes Dubai as a mystical place, characteristic of exquisite contrasts and modern development, by claiming that there is ‘Nowhere like Dubai’…

As applicable as this promotional slogan might be, it might prove true to a greater extent than it might have been intended to do originally:

The paper points out that there is a trend of Arab cities, following the role model of the city of Dubai by undertaking projects and investing in ventures just as unthinkable as currently taking place in Dubai. Alraouf mentions that some claim that ‘Dubai has lost its soul’, and that it seems to have followed the principle of Las Vegas, by focusing on building ‘a city of superlatives’.

The author claims that cities in the Middle East lose their true identity by completely changing their original form and character and calls this process ‘Dubaization’. He puts emphasis on Dubai’s influence on urban development by referring to Bahrain’s Financial Harbour, Qatar’s latest real estate project ‘Pearl of Qatar’, Oman’s Blue City or Riyadh’s Desert Islands. Are those places learning from Dubai? And if they are learning, what will be the result of this modern trend? What will be the implications for the tourism product offer and destination identity in the Middle East (Govers & Go, 2004)? Will modern technology, new dimensions of luxury and the drive to outclass superlatives finally outweigh traditions and authenticity? Or is this development just a result of globalization?

Alraouf refers to globalization by alluding to its contribution to the unification and standardization of previously diverse place. He refers to the need for ‘critical regionalism’. However, Alraouf also adverts to the opportunity globalization might entail for mankind, namely, to better understand and learn about each other. That knowledge should be used to focus on glocalization, rather than concepts as Dubaization, to prevent the loss of authenticity and avoid standardization in the big cities of the Middle East. So that, finally, when Dubai claims ‘Nowhere like Dubai’, there really is nowhere like Dubai.

Sources:
Govers, & Go. (2004). Managing Globalization. In D. Buhalis, & C. Costa, Tourism Management Dynamics.