Saturday, July 08, 2006

Dubai – April 25-29 - A Fusion of the Spiritual and the Secular

The second part of this blog will be what our son Matt wrote about Dubai in a report.

Dubai – A Fusion of the Spiritual and the Secular

I wake up in the morning before 5 am and I can hear the sound of chants and songs in Arabic of the morning prayers coming from a nearby mosque. It is being amplified through some kind of huge PA system. We are in the city of Dubai of the UAE (United Arab Emirates). We have flown from the Philippines very recently and I am still not adjusted to the 4 hour time change. It is 9 am in the Philippines now. We had taken an overnight flight, leaving at midnight, flying for more than 8 hours, but arriving at 4 am in Dubai because of the time change.

The first day we got here we stayed in our hotel room all day trying to recover from both the jet lag and the lack of sleep from the overnight flight. The next day was Friday and everything was closed in the city because Friday morning is prayer time. Devotional time is very important here and most of the businesses observe this weekly holiday.

Walking along the streets we see locals in the traditional garb of the Bedouins where arms and legs are all covered, and the men wear a head cover with a black cord. The women wear a covering over their head also; some of them wear the covering over their face so that all that shows is the slits of their eyes. We have heard that there are other Arabic countries where all the women wear this. This country is much more moderate or lenient in its customs because there are also many Westerners who walk the street in more revealing modern type clothing, such as close fitting pants and revealing tops, showing skin on legs and shoulders. We have heard this would not be tolerated in some of the other Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia.

I am very impressed with the way they have developed their country. We go to the museum and learn about how they developed their country. (Matt has written a paper on this very subject which follows this writing.) Years ago they lived in simple huts along the Creek that goes to the Ocean, and the main industry was diving for and selling pearls. Later gold was discovered in the 50’s. In the 60’s oil was discovered. In the last 35 years they have developed an advanced modern infrastructure and they have developed a climate very favorable for business by instituting a duty free port and no taxes on businesses. The telecommunications today is the latest technology, very efficient and effective.

We take a cab ride later to the Jemeira Beach area where the supposedly tallest hotel in the world is located, called the Burj Dubai. The drive there is a stunning example of creative exploration of architecture in the modern skyscraper. I’ve never seen such creative and bold skyscrapers in my life. It’s very exciting to see, but nothing to rival the sight of the Burj Dubai hotel at the Jemeira Beach. We’ll post a picture of it on our web site or you can check pictures of it on the web from a search of Google. What a gorgeous and stunning architectural masterpiece.

This is a major shift on our trip. First we went to Australia and New Zealand, countries very similar to our home in the United States. Then we went to Southeast Asia to Bali, Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines (with brief stopovers in Singapore and Hong Kong). Now we have come to the Middle East. This is the land of ancient cultures, of volatile relations and very different customs than we’re used to. We are reading the newspapers with the kids here and asking the question of, “why have they been at war here in the Middle East for so long?” And that leads to the question of, “how can there be peace?”

Matt writes:

How Dubai Prospered

By Matt Mosenthine

It is amazing to me how much Dubai prospered since the 30’s economically. Originally Dubai was just a small city of huts on either side of a river, no tourists, and just self-sufficient people. Now Dubai is a very powerful economy, amazing architecture, and a lot of tourists. During the 1940’s, to allow planes to land, and to allow the British to search for oil, two contracts were signed between the two countries. Infrastructure was beginning to be built to support the development of business, since there were no taxes whatsoever, international companies flocked to Dubai to do business in the city. Dubai also had a mass supply of clams in their bay, the clams containing natural pearls. Tourists bought the beautiful pearls in the markets. Pearls acted almost as a stepping-stone leading up to the greater riches found in Dubai in the later days.

Dubai’s first bank was also founded in1946. Gold was discovered in the 1950’s, which increased their prosperity even more. The first thing, to become a commercial city, was to dredge the creek, enabling bigger boats to pass through. Politically and economically Dubai grew in the 60’s. Infrastructure was almost finished by the end of the 1960’s, roads and airports, electricity and water pipes, and even telecommunication was developed. Dubai also built a bridge called Al Maktoum, connecting Dubai to another United Emirates, Deira. During this decade, Dubai also became their own land, withdrawing from the British.

Discovering oil was next, and Dubai looked at this as a bonus for all of their hard work in the past. Exporting oil also started in the 60’s. Dubai’s population grew to 59,000. The 7 states of the United Arab Emirates were formed in 1971, and Dubai became the country’s Commercial City. The high price of the oil was taken advantage of by Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum (the ruler at that time) to create the amazing modern Dubai. The city of Dubai just got bigger and bigger with the starting of major projects including Jebel Ali port, the Free Zone, the Dry Dock, the World Trade Centre, and the Aluminum Company. The city also completed projects like the Shindragha Tunnel, the Garound Bridge, and the Water Desalination Plant were also a big boost economically. The population was now at 207,000 by 1977.

During the 1980’s and 90’s Dubai continued to grow. The population was now 550,000 people and industries of service continued to expand to serve the needs of the still growing number of people. Thousands of housing districts were started and were filled with people. The emirates airlines base was built at the extended airport and sporting facilities were created, providing for international tourism to flourish. A new supply of gas and oil was found in the desert of Margham. Foreign trade, in the 90’s, was already sky rocketing reaching amounts of 16 billion dollars. The present ruler, Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed, had died in 1990, making his son Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid al Maktoum president. He put in his own ambitious plans to make Dubai a modern city, even though it was already ready for the 21’st century. I guess Dubai’s motto fits well, “if there is anything impossible to build, we will build it.”

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