History in the Making: Doha, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 5/19/2008 01:58:00 AM
Forgive me for not being able to resist cheap shots at Francis Fukuyama who predicted the End of History with the collapse of the Iron Curtain, which was supposed to result in the global triumph of capitalist liberal democracy. It appears that only George W. Bush appears to maintain that hackneyed and harebrained notion. A recent events that made the headlines is of Dubya lecturing various Middle Eastern leaders at Egypt's Sharm-el-Sheikh resort about the values of freedom, democracy, and the rest of that Fukuyamaesque stuff. Somehow, I don't think his message got through. In contrast to the distinctly subprime American economy where families are breaking piggy banks to help stay afloat, political repression and energy revenues are fuelling a rather better situation on the shores of Araby. Contrary to Fukuyama, Middle Eastern countries are attempting to make politico-architectural history via their recent construction efforts.

I have written reams of text about the attempts of countries in the Middle East to create world capitals and financial centres by funnelling their oil and gas revenues into construction projects of mind-boggling scale and scope [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. The world's tallest building, ritziest "shopping resort," most ambitious eco-city, largest cultural centre, most expensive hotel...it's one superlative after the other, a non-stop cavalcade of architectural whimsy. Earlier, I asked the question of what these countries did with their energy revenues, which are expected to amount to $435B this year. Well, look no further. The weekend edition of the Financial Times features an audio slideshow of these mega-projects in the budding world capitals of Doha (Qatar), Dubai and Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates). Although an accident of geography ensured that these places would be rolling in petrodollars for a long time, that time is not forever. The question becomes, can these places reinvent themselves as centres of finance, culture, education, and even sports before the oil wells run dry? Certainly, they are sparing no expense.

It's definitely required IPE viewing and I hope you have the time to see these unprecedented gambles Middle Eastern entities have put into the future. If they build it, will they (we) come?