Are the hard times real in Dubai, or a mirage?
March 13, 2009
The surreal blur on the above photo I took: sand & fog.
Earlier I wrote “Dubai is Las Vegas without the sin, at least the kind of sin that gets man into trouble with his creditors and wife.” The other city I am reminded of is Shanghai, because of the dizzying amount of construction and newness of everything. Most of this vast emirate is younger than I am!
Dubai is an eight-lane highway flanked by huge towers, both ridiculous and sublime, many of them unfinished. Cranes are everywhere. The cars crawl like ants in the desert. Foot traffic is almost non-existent, hence there are few sidewalks and even less pedestrians. Given temperatures can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit in summer, I can see why walking is discouraged! Still, there are plans to erect pedestrian bridges, presumably shaded.
Speaking of the environment, it is not as “hot” a topic as it is in the US. I only saw a couple ads about it in the festival. For one thing, there does not appear to be much indigenous fauna. I’m told the palms dotting the roadways were brought in from Saudi Arabia. They are meant purely for show. Besides the occasional soccer field, I’ve yet to see a recreational park. We are asphalt, steel and glass with desert to one side, ocean on the other.
No one appears preoccupied with the war in Iraq or the continuing violence in nearby countries. (Iran is only a scud missile away.) In addition, Dubai is not afraid of demonstrating its wealth and the pursuit of it. The only impediment to capitalism is the encroaching recession, or as many prefer to call it, the “crisis.” Perhaps using that word implies a quick remedy?
As I’ve indicated earlier, in terms of the advertising industry, all anyone wants to talk about is digital. Recently, digital marketing was a non-topic in the UAE and then just like that, it became the only topic. Like Dubai, the digital world erupted out of nowhere and now everyone is grappling on how to deal with it. I spent a great deal of time discussing with agency and clients how we unified our agency in Chicago, putting digital at the core. This is unfinished business for us but it has only just begun for them.
To be fair, the above observations are based on my very limited experience here. Perhaps war, recession and environmental causes are indeed major topics of conversation in the region’s households and restaurants. I don’t know. But among my field’s practitioners (comprised largely of ex-pats), it appears to be all business.