Dubai's Glitz Goes Global; Ski Resorts and Gold-Encrusted Condos Are Rising from the Desert in Places like Morocco and Libya

Newsweek, October 30, 2006 | Go to article overview

Dubai's Glitz Goes Global; Ski Resorts and Gold-Encrusted Condos Are Rising from the Desert in Places like Morocco and Libya


Byline: Emily Flynn Vencat (With Jessica Au in London)

It promises to be the epitome of Dubai glitz: a golf course cum ski resort rising from the desert sand, complete with towering glass and chrome conference buildings, exclusive shopping streets, luxury hotels, fake beachfronts, giant water parks and millionaires' gold-encrusted villas. But Emaar, Dubai's largest property group, isn't building this Arabian oasis anywhere near the United Arab Emirates. This is Oukaimeden--in Morocco. It's also a mirror image of what Dubai's three massive property pioneers--Emaar, Dubai Holding and Dubai World--are building in Syria, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Turkey and half a dozen other developing countries around the world. Welcome to the places real-estate experts call "The New Dubais."

In the beginning, Dubai built man-made islands in the shape of a world map so large it can be seen from space. Now Dubai is re-creating the actual world in its own image. Its big three companies--all chiefly owned by the ruling Maktoum family--announced plans to build luxury real-estate projects worth $40 billion in Pakistan, including two giant man-made-island resorts off Karachi. With vast theme parks, giant malls and luxury residences, the Dubai style is designed to attract rich locals, expat tycoons and returning emigres who have made a bundle abroad. This summer, Dubai made a $19 billion, three-year investment commitment to developing Moroccan resort towns, like Oukaimeden, an improbable oasis of golf and skiing. The city-state is playing the lead role in constructing Saudi Arabia's $27 billion King Abdullah City on its Red Sea coast--the largest private development in the kingdom's history.

The list goes on and on, from Syria to Djibouti and Libya, where the second son of Muammar Kaddafi is working with Dubai partners to create his own version of the tiny emirate. The vision everywhere is the same: glamorous, palm-covered, Dubai-style gated communities with every luxury amenity, from designer shopping to first-class business facilities, aiming to attract foreign tourists, multinational corporate offices and bundles of direct investment. Many of these self-sufficient new cities will have their own internal laws to entice foreigners--like legalized drinking and gambling in an otherwise Islamic country, tax-free zones and top-rate schools and hospitals. …

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