Dubai has its fans and critics. Audacious and exuberant say some. Unsustainable and superficial say others. It all depends on the experience you are looking for. That’s actually why I am here; sharing what I know about ‘experience engineering’ to help some future-thinkers creatively ponder what’s next for the city.
But as I squint up, after hours, I am not thinking creatively. I am just asking myself how on earth you transform a patch of scrubby desert into one of the world’s most upwardly mobile, iconic downtown areas in a couple of decades? Without oil.
Thankfully I have breakfast the following morning with an infrastructure expert who knows the answer. It seems that the key is a single word: welcome. In the absence of natural resources, Dubai simply decided to be welcoming to the outside world. That means easing business regulations, building great infrastructure, making it easy to set up a business (8 hours), giving investors the confidence they can repatriate their money whenever they want and allowing a cosmopolitan lifestyle to flourish.
Ironic. A place that seems to be all about what you have… is actually an expression of what you think. Mindset precedes money. In a world obsessed by materialism, Dubai 2014 is actually a testament to imagination. Let’s see what they can imagine next.