Dubai is not the economic locomotive, but it is the brain of the United Emirates. The economic locomotive is Abu Dhabi … that’s where all the oil is being pumped. Abu Dhabi is the fifth largest oil producer in the world, and it pumps all the money. Dubai knows how to invest it.

Youssef Ibrahim on Open Source

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)


Tchotchkes for sale at the Dubai airport [babasteve / Flickr]

If Congress’ reaction to the ports mess is any indication, we’ve been blind-sided by Dubai. But while Congress tears their hair out over national security and xenophobia, the real story takes place on their shores, not ours.

Dubai is the fastest growing city on the planet. It’s not vast oil reserves that allows Dubai to bust out all over. Compared to brother-emirate Abu Dhabi, the oil reserves are actually running pretty low. The source is tourism and investment money that used to come to us.

Not finding the U.S. or our economy particularly inviting since the war on terror, many Arab investors have turned to Dubai, and the proof is in the skyline. The riviera is a cluster of cranes and scaffolding, punctuated by skyscrapers that cut impossible streaks into the sky. An indoor ski slope. An underwater hotel. The tallest building in the world, shaped like a giant lighting rod. No more room on the beachfront? No problem. They simply manufacture more.

The Guardian’s Adam Nicolson says Dubai is “Not the modern centre of the Arab world but, more than that, the Arab centre of the modern world.”

Is Dubai the next London, the next New York? Is this the face of the empire that will succeed us?

Youssef Ibrahim

Managing Director, Strategic Energy Investment Group

Former Middle East Bureau correspondent, the New York Times

Yasmine El-Rashidi

Reporter, Wall Street Journal

George Katodrytis

Architect and Professor, School of Architecture and Design at the American University of Sharjah

Keith Williamson

Web designer and blogger, Adventures in Dubai

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  • Rathnam

    I travel to Dubai fairly frequently on business and can tell you that I am more comfortable with their efficiency and reliability than I would be with most US companies. The opposition to the port management role in the US is based on ignorance and prejudice.

  • digitalcommuter

    “Is Dubai the next London, the next New York? Is this the face of the empire that will succeed us?”

    Wishful thinking, Chris.

    The Near East is studded with the wreck of “modern civilizations” which appear and vanish like the shifting sands of the desert.

    Without the West do you think Dubai could have built even one skyscraper? (A sandscraper would more like it.)

    These views about Dubai being the “Arab center of the modern world,” is just the latest in the search for “the new hip thing.” Dubai has replaced Japan, Inc. which was touted as the “future” way back in the 80’s. Then came the dotcom boom as the latest, then Latin American economies was supposed to be growing faster than that of Japan, then came INdia and China, and now it’s Dubai.

    Seems like each continent is getting its fifteen hours of fame.

  • digitalcommuter

    “The opposition to the port management role in the US is based on ignorance and prejudice.”

    Prejudiced maybe, but not all prejudgments are incorrect. Ignorance, NOT. The ignorance is in the executive rooms at the White House.

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  • Nikos

    A friendly head’s up to all those in radio land outside the West Coast domain.

    The link above is to the 27 minute weekly public radio show “Left, Right, and Center”, which tonight featured a great (and pleasingly non-hysterical) analysis of the Dubai port co. firestorm, from three different panelists (some of whom you already know by name). It’s about halfway through the show.

    Highly recommended.

  • Nikos

    PS to Quixtar Blog: I know that you’re only a machine somewhere out there in cyberspace.

    I know therefore that the unanimity of sentiment of the bloggers I dare to speak for will mean nothing to you.

    Nevertheless: please go to hell.


  • digitalcommuter

    I just read that Dubai is buying a huge number of planes from Boeing in a deal worth over 50 billion dollars.

    This may explain why the Bush team has decided to allow its companies to manage so many of our ports.

    The question that needs to be asked is whether economics should trump security and whether we should let any foreign company manage our ports, airports and other vulnerable facilities.

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  • nother

    GOLD! Lots and lots of gold! That’s what I remember most from my time in Dubai with the Navy. I’ll never forget the Gold Souk. It’s mind-blowing. Picture a shopping mall; now picture every store in that mall selling gold. Upstairs, downstairs, around the corner, all selling Gold, Gold, Gold. They weigh the gold and you negotiate a price with the guy.

    You pose the question, “Is this the face of the empire that will succeed us.� Interesting question considering the culture of money in Dubai. It’s startling when you think about it. You have one of the most devout regions in the world that has simply switched its devotion to the almighty dirham (dollar).


    Dubai is not the face of the next empire because its face is one of homogeny. What makes New York so formidable is its diversity, simple as that. The energy that is created from the friction of different cultures and traditions is the energy that will drive us into the future.

    Couple of quick memories. The bars in Dubai are full of men, not too many Arab women hitting the clubs with their girlfriends. So you would have this surreal scene in the bar with a bunch of Arab men watching young Philippino girls on stage singing cheesy American songs. The service class in Dubai is made up of mostly Philippinos.

    I also remember that Abu Dhabi was so rich; the taxi cabs were Mercedes Benzes.

    Most of all though, I remember sweating my you know what off, it was so hot.

  • Potter

    Nother- They can’t change the climate but they can gradually gain more diversity. If they are really going to be the port for the world, they must open up on all fronts. They need foreign expertise to build and tourism trade will open them up or else as Digitalcommuter suggests they will not last long.

    I heard on the radio that Dubai is looked upon with envy by the Arab world.

    The political game that is being played at this moment here is stomach turning. There are blatant distortions from both sides pandering to the fears of their constituencies as we come to the next elections. Dubai ( or the UAE ) would not be in charge of security or be buying our ports but only certain terminal operations and it’s port security that has been underfunded and needs to be tended to.

    The unions ( here in Boston even where there is no deal pending with Dubai) are jumping up and down. Why?

    I hope you have someone or better yet a few voices who are knowledgeable especially about how vulnerable we really would be by this deal and how vulnerable we would still be nevertheless and without it.

    Would denying this deal in fact cause more harm than good?

  • Potter

    Jim Vande Heim of the Washington Post was excellent on this NPR report. One caller had first hand experience in Dubai:

    This is good too:

    This New York Times Romero and Timmons report ” A Ship Already Sailed” also good.

  • Potter

    Another report heard on the radio (NPR) points out that there are 100 terminals in the United States.

    Of those 100 terminals, 8 are operated by US owned companies. The biggest US company runs 7 of these, the next biggest US company runs 1 terminal.

    Also our systems are way out of date. This is due in part to our longshoremen, the unions demand that they do certain things (as in transfering records of ships manifests) that can be done more efficiently in other ways.

    In Boston, the teamsters were out demonstrating loudly ( I heard them screaming on the radio) concerned about security, giving over our ports and security to a foreign govenment they say- but aren’t they really concerned about losing jobs if we modernize our ports to meet the 21st century?

  • jc

    Potter: I can remember being surprised to see that the taxis were all Mercedes… but this was in Germany in ’54 and ’55 where I was stationed in the Army. This was 10 years after the end of WW II but there were still some major (mostly industrial) cities which were little more than piles of rubble, such as Mainz across the Rhine R. where I was stationed. The German standard of living was not low, but they tended to be quite frugal by our standards. Yet every hack driver owned a diesel Mercedes. They were just working stiffs trying to eke out a living. When first over there, though, I thought they must all be college majors in English. Although the spread of English as the language of commerce was going strong, it was nowhere near the global phenomenon that it is now. Yet every taxi driver spoke better English than some of the Regular Army enlistees in those days (as opposed to the draftees who had obviously been a relatively priveleged class when civilians.) They owned Mercedes because they were the most suitable for a taxi in reliability, economy of operation, longevity of operation, availabity of service and parts when needed. To us Americans, who seem to be more concerned with appearance than value, it did indeed “look” strange.


  • jc

    Potter – SORRY, I obviously meant to be addressing NOTHER. Yours was the last entry I read and your moniker was still in my barely functioning head.

    Nother – Go read the last thing addressed to Potter. It was meant for you.


  • fiddlesticks

    This article should make one pause:

    Dubai Ports — Strategic Implications

    By David J. Jonsson

    Saturday, February 25, 2006


    Creating a Global Ports Empire

    Islamic Economics: Not an Exotic Addition to the English Country Garden

    Dubai Ports Operating Shariah Compliant Ports

    Implications of Financing with Sukuk Bonds

    Impact of High Oil Prices

    The Well Known Causes of Concern

    Dubai Key Transfer Point for Illegal Shipments of Nuclear Components

    “The goal of Islamists, following in the footsteps of Muhammad is to create the Islamic kingdom of God on earth. The strategy to obtain this goal in our lifetime includes the control of the world’s energy infrastructure, the transportation systems, currency, media, elections, immigration and education. The control of the port facilities is hence a critical element. Foreign ownership, in and of itself, although important, is not as significant as the strategy and goals of the owner. In the case of DP World ownership, my hypothesis is that their plan for utilization of these strategic infrastructure resources is to accomplish the ultimate goal of world domination of the sea borne transportation infrastructure. In similar moves, a newly-formed Dubai consortium unveiled plans to bid for the development and operation of airports in China, India and the Middle East, a market they estimate to be worth $400 bln. The consortium comprises DAE Airports and six other top companies in the United Arab Emirates.”

  • Potter

    JC- I remember the Checker cabs that we used ( NYC) for the same reasons. They would go forever and they were very comfortable. A friend of ours “collected” them bought them when they went out and used one for his own transportation.

  • Nikos

    Re Mercedes:

    I learned from five summers spent in 1970’s Greece that the only trucks worth a European damn were Mercedes.

    The taxis, oddly, were often as not aging Russian Volgas that still ran like…

    …like Mercedes!

    The implication then is that Dubai’s Mercedes taxis are probably worth the investment for their crack reliability more than for perceived luxury.

    PS to Potter: I used to drive one of those NYC Checkers.

    Don’t miss it, either! Fun, and bulky enough to bully its way through traffic, but suspended like a farm cart. Bumpy.

  • Without the West do you think Dubai could have built even one skyscraper?

    you know that dubai is built on the labor of south asians, right? everyone here knows that, right? sure, dubai might be “arab” financial hub, but it has been built and maintained predominantly by south asian muslims (who form the majority of the city-state’s population).

  • i can’t seem to find updated numbers from past 1982, but here as it it was back then:

    * Emiri 19%,

    * other Arab and Iranian 23%,

    * South Asian 50%,

    * other expatriates (includes Westerners and East Asians) 8%

    note that the gulf states try to inflate the numbers of the citizens vis-a-vi expats, so the lack of much data past 1982 implies to me that they want to understate the numbers of non-citizens in the city-state.

  • Potter

    oooooooh! I want one of those tchotchkes ( above)!

    Nikos- maybe you drove me somewhere! So we meet again! You would love the obscenely long ( 1/2 a block long it seems) streeeetch limos of today. They do wonders for traffic flow.

    Fiddlesticks: I have run my eyes over that article. This is the print version btw.

    I admit that I do not understand finance enough ( I may ask my son in the biz to unravel parts of this) but my initial take is this: Jonsson starts off with scaring us about the goals of of the Muslim Brotherhood quoting one of it’s members. Fair enough. We do not have a strong connection made between Dubai/ UAE and the MB unless I am mistaken.

    Dubai even if it did get with the MB program to take over the world will run into and have to compete with everyone else in the market place, other empire builders. This includes the market place of ideologies. If they try to sell us radical Islam they have their work cut out.

    We are not selling our sovereignty. These are leases. Security has to be better regardless of who operates the port’s terminals.

    Globalization requires the interfacing of or conforming of different (financial) systems and a refinement of the rules of trade in any case.

    Is it not better to interact than not to interact?

  • Nikos

    Thanks Razib – posts like that are why we come here for knowledge.

    I learn more here than on NPR. (And I don’t even bother with cable news anymore – especially after CNN fired Aaron Brown – for what? – being intelligent???. What junk.)

    Potter: I drove in NYC from ’78 to early ’81 – only to learn via my massive weight loss and growing despondency that despite how much fun the City was, I’m just not a city boy. But it sure would be funny if you were one of my zillion passengers.

  • Raymond

    “Is Dubai the next London, the next New York? Is this the face of the empire that will succeed us?�

    Well, digitalcommuter, maybe not Dubai, but certainly there is an empire that will succeed us. And probably sooner rather than later. Perhaps even now, and we are too complacent to notice.

    Potter, thank you for posting the substance of the recent NPR report: most terminals are already operated by foreign firms. If there is a question of security, it is whether or not any foreign firm should operate the terminals at our ports.

    But you raise the possibility of inefficiency in port terminal operation due to union labor. I have heard similar reasons offered for the inefficiencies of New York City services. Digitalcommuter, this is the complacency I mentioned. Potter, were you suggesting that union labor is at least partially responsible for a lack of port terminal modernization and corresponding lack of security?

  • Nikos

    Potter, I’m reassessing the Dubai firestorm – not the facts, on which I more or less agree with you – but the political haymaking.

    I’m reading David Brock’s The Republican Noise Machine (expect a very detailed show suggestion as soon as the ROS staff open the March edition of that thread – but you can get a head start by picking it up now), which is such a good explainer for the right-wing propaganda machine that I think I’m sensing what the Democrats are actually up to.

    For a couple of decades now, the voting populace, when polled on policy positions without attribution to party, consistently favor the progressive planks represented by Democrats. Yet Republicans continue to win elections because of the fact distortion and outright lie promotion of their state-of-the-art smear-machine, as exemplarily perfected in the past few years by the Fox News ‘repeat the lie until it’s widely believed’ echo chamber.

    Which makes the Dubai flap the Dems first chance to look tougher than Bush on a national security issue…so please don’t judge them quite so harshly – they’re changing the aim of the distorto-smear-a-rama for a change! (They’re not good at it yet, either.)

    That’s why the Republicans have jumped on it too: they can’t let the Dems beat them at their own deceitful game!

    Can’t you hear their hysteria? – “There’s an election in 8 months! They’re stealing our vehicle! We gotta commandeer it back!�

    This Dubai thing is the Dems first chance to sneak off with the keys to that shiny chrome misinformation-mobile powered by its supercharged distortion-engine that the Republicans have used so effectively to awe the voting public.

    And they’re giving it the joy-ride they’ve dreamt of for years.

    As my mother said often in my youth when promoting her Democratic political preferences: “Turnabout IS fair play!â€?


    (I know, I know, we expect and want the Dems to operate above smear-tactic based politics – but that hasn’t worked too well lately, now has it? It’ll be awfully interesting to see what this does to the autumnal political discourse, though…)

  • Potter

    Nickolas Kristof got it right in my opinion. He’s behind a firewall at the NYTimes BUT you can read his column “The Arabs are Coming” here

  • Potter

    Nikos- Dems win NO points as far as I am concerned by distorting and getting into the fearmongering biz. Actually they get deductions. You are much too forgiving. I am very disappointed in Schumer though I expected this from Hillary Clinton lately. She has a good mind- knows her issues but she is a real panderer. She should know better and maybe does and that would make her too cynical for my blood.

    I left New York City in the late 60’s progressing gradually more towards the country life . I do have family there still. I doubt we have met. I grew up in that city and it was a great place to live during my time but still I wanted out. The city got worse after I left for a number of years ( but not because I left). Talk about great cities- New York is one of the greatest for sure.

  • I personally question what the working class of Dubai are up to, or more importantly, how are they living. Obviously its a place where a wealthy person can live well and build all these shiney buildings…. but if it is indeed the next new york or london.. then will they repeat or further increase the enormous income gap and quality of life gap between rich and poor?

  • Nikos

    Potter: don’t get me wrong – I’m not advocating the Dems’ commandeering of the misinformation machine.

    But it’s inevitable – especially as they feel increasingly emboldened by their own nascent echo chamber in Air America Radio – that they’ll punch back hard at every opening.

    They’re like a boxer that been pinned back against the ropes while taking a pounding that has included no shortage of blows ‘below the belt’, and the referee – that’s us, the voters – hasn’t bothered to make the dirty fighter change his tactics.

    Indeed, it’s too late for that – as The Republican Noise Machine makes sadly plain.

    The voters said in essence: ‘fight as dirty as you want’ and then punished the Dems for trying to continue within the older, high-minded rules of political boxing.

    Keep in mind that the widely influential but unambiguously disgusting Grover Norquist said:

    “Our goal is to inflict pain. It is not good enough to win; it has to be a painful and devastating defeat. We’re sending a message here. It is like when the king would take his opponent’s head and spike it on a pole for everyone to see.�

    That, imho, is the political equivalent of barbarism.

    So when you deplore the growing barbarity of the lengthening political war between the humanitarian Left and the Social Darwinists + Puritans of the Right, at least keep in mind whose resort to barbarity initiated the decline.

    And please don’t think I’m serving as a Dem-apologist – I’m only offering an explanation born from the shocking slate of information I’m reading in Brock – and warning that the nastiness of the fight is only beginning.

    So hold your breath – no, make that: hold your nose.

    It’s gonna stink for decades.

    The only remedy is to legislatively mandate the old media ‘fairness doctrine’ gutted by the Reagan administration. And as for that prospect, don’t hold your breath!

    Fox, and its radio allies, would never allow it.

  • Rico

    My $0.02:

    There is a taint of xenophobia and prejudice over this Ports turmoil. Even if the criticims from Congress and others are rational on the surface, the appearance of religious and cultural descrimination will only hurt our already degraded reputation. I imagine for most folks abroad this is just another example of US hypocrisy to add to Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.

    Some related material I found at:

    “If it was an African country or a European country or an Asian country, it would not have been subjected to this kind of scrutiny,” said Abdel Khaleq Abdullah, a political science professor at United Arab Emirates University. “But since this is just purely an Arab country, I think it just stopped some of the lawmakers who are making a big deal out of a purely legitimate business transaction.”

    At his Cabinet meeting Thursday, Bush also questioned whether a double standard was being applied to DP World and said it was “interesting” that there was no outcry about a British company managing the ports. (Watch Bush attempt to shoot down the deal’s naysayers — 2:27)

    “It’s really important that we not send mixed messages to allies,” he said.

    Foreign-owned companies operate many ports in the United States. For example, companies from China, Denmark, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan run docks in Los Angeles, California.


    UAE control of Ports does deserve some extra scrutiny. I firmly support that view. I feel that much of this trouble would have been averted if the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment had proactively mandated the 45 day review for this deal. I know. I know. 20-20 hindsight… So what should Congressmen and women due at this point? Take it down a knotch.

    Seems the Congrssional branch, both Dems and Repubs, are using this for the upcoming midterm elections, putting politcal careers ahead of the good of the country. Surprise, surprise.

    Nod to Dubai Ports World for volunteering to unergo a bit of scrutiny to get their deal through. I’d like to see some of those dollars flying out of the US (our trade debt) come back into the US as investments of this type.

    The Boeing deal pointed out by digitalcommuter is troubling. Has anyone found a direct link to the Ports?



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  • Raymond

    “This Dubai thing is the Dems first chance to sneak off with the keys to that shiny chrome misinformation-mobile powered by its supercharged distortion-engine that the Republicans have used so effectively to awe the voting public.”

    Nikos, could you be underestimating the voting public? I know of no one who is in awe of Fox News, or Air America Radio, for that matter. Really, you have got to be kidding.

    The Republicans won the last election. But not by much. And the victory cannot be lasting. I wonder if you see the Republicans in too dark a color: too evil, too miss-informed, too miss-informing, and more important than is actual.

    At the same time, I wonder if you see the Democrats in too bright a color: too high minded, too noble, too informed, and, again, more important than is actual.

    Neither party is compelling. Both have become entrenched. Neither are innovatve. But Dubai is … perhaps that is the point.

  • Nikos

    On the fly…

    Raymond: “you have got to be kidding” —

    I wish I were pal, I really wish I were.

    Tell you what: read the Brock book, and then we’ll talk.

    And no, I don’t much care for the Dems either, but the Repubs these days are closer to shouting ideo-tyrants like Mussolini than to the respectable Country Club Republicans of the 60’s and 70’s.

    ‘Benitos’, I’ve taken to calling them.

    Anyone like the supposedly respectable David Frum who can dare to write the punitively disgusting: “Is Contemporary Liberalism a Type of Mental Illness?â€? is worthy of a counter-smear. (And for me, the satiric ‘benito’ fits just fine.)

    Try the Brock book.

    Gotta run.

  • bridges58

    As someone who has been in Dubai on business trips over the past several months, it occured to me that the grand idea of Dubai is answering a need in the region. That’s not to say that the Dubai real estate market isn’t over incredibly over heated or grave excesses in architecture and infrastructure are not being committed.

    But the idea of the contemporary Dubai, conceived by Sheikh Mohammed and his advisors, of a Monte Carlo/Las Vegas/Singapore in the Near East resonates. They are creating an attractive stable Arab haven for second (or tenth!) homes of the Arab elite as well as a growing wealthy class of non-Western Europeans/Americans (such as Russians and Indians). They are creating a buzz successfully drawing tourism that is increasing exponentially. And they are creating a business and financial regulatory environment that, if fully realized, will have no equivalent in transparency anywhere between Europe and East Asia.

    There is no doubt that it is physically built on the backs of others. It may well be a long term fatal flaw in the dream if the majority of the population (foreign laborers) are not allowed to share in more of the benefits, but for now Dubai employers can bank on the fear in their workers’ minds that they are replaceable since there is no shortage in the world of people eager to come and earn more than they could at home. The same dynamic that works for the Chinese factory owner — seemingly unlimited supply of inexpensive labor. The advantage Dubai has is that disgruntled workers can be sent back to Bangladesh and replaced by others from there or somewhere else.

    As far as the US ports security issue, Dubai Ports World is an extremely well run company and both they and government of Dubai have much more at stake than any other owners I can think of and this should lead them to cooperate in any way on port security. As I follow the issue though, it seems like a red herring anyway in that I now understand that the ownership of the port management really is not responsible for security. In the case of the US, it’s Homeland Security and the Coast Guard.

  • Greta

    Thanks for the lively discussion, everybody. We’d love to assemble a good cast of characters to talk this stuff over with. Who would your dream guests be for a show like this?

  • Raymond

    Nikos … I will meet you a tenth of the way … I took a look at the table of contents of “The Republican Noise Machine” by David Brock at (great feature.) This book falls firmly in the class of books, like, “Do As I Say (Not As I Do) : Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy” by Peter Schweizer that I feel no strong need to read: they preach to the choir. I’ll leave “Probability and Measure” by Billingsley on my list instead. It is more substantial and, for me, hard enough going.

  • Raymond

    Greta, I read a recent article in a CFA Institute publication regarding Islamic finance. As some of the posts referred to the mode of financing of the P&O acquistion by Dubai Ports World (Islamic bonds), there may be some interest in understanding some of the issues in Islamic finance. The article quoted Yavar Moini, currently at Dubai Bank, as someone who could speak to the issue. He might make a good guest for part of a show.

  • Potter

    Don’t you think that Dubai will eventaully sink as we continue to melt the ice caps? So will the port of New York. Problem solved.

  • bridges58 is on the money with this. I’d go with what he’s saying.

    I have been in the UAE for a number of years (originally British), and while some things here are not as slick as you would hope, you need to realise that this is a country in the making, not even one generation post Bedouin travellers. It may have been London/New York/Paris but it is slowly moving to Mumbai/Shanghai/Dubai.

    For more expat related info on Dubai and the UAE, check out my site:

    Look forward to the show.

  • dxbbigus

    Well this certainly has gotten some interesting press in the past few weeks. I agree that political agenda is fueling the fire. I can say that the 85% of the US population that didn’t know that UAE or Dubai existed, now they do and they may even be able to find it on a map. 9 out of 10 times someone has asked me, “where is it that you live?”. I guess geography, world politics and world cultures are high on the educational agenda in the US.

    If anyone out there has been paying half attention, you would realize that the Boeing deal is not a big deal. Take a look at the whole picture and you will see that their are two players in the aircraft market, Boeing and Airbus. They get just about equal business from Emirates Airlines, which is the fastest growing airline in the world. Yes, they are even making a profit as an airline. Go figure.

    Again, if you are paying attention to what is going on out here, you would actually see that every single US business that has any international presence is already set up and thriving here in Dubai, and has been for some time. This is nothing new, and yes guys we even have Citibank, FedEx and UPS and they among all the other US businesses out here support the local economy and local charities. Ooh, and most of them are Muslim charities. Does this mean that their support is actually bribes or the basis for backroom deals. Hardly. If anyone is seriously interested in finding out what makes Dubai tick and what the US’s involvement with UAE is, there are many high profile Americans that live here and that regularly visit here. A good place to start would be to contac the American Business Council of Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

    If you haven’t been paying attention to anything besides what is going on in your own backyard, the UAE an up and coming economic hub of this region for some time. They have a long standing relationship with the US and they are the US’s best ally in this region.

    This port deal is totally out of hand. The US is the one incharge of their own port security, not the companies that operate the port or in the port. This is an experienced company and if the US is that worried about their port and border security, that should have been the priority since 9/11 not Iraq. There has been nothing of value done by the Administration to secure US borders. This company and Islam isn’t what should be feared, its the US governments lack of regard for the real issue at hand. Where was the outrage from everyone from Congress to the blue-collar workers over the 92 ports that are and have been operated by foreign companies? Welcome to globalization, it’s a two lane road. The US isn’t “world dominant” anymore.

    And to whoever brought up Sukuk and Sharia financing, get used to it, or crawl back into your hole. The Muslim population of the planet earth is large, very large and growing. If you find the way they conduct thier banking to be threatening, maybe a little further education is in order. Anyone regardless of religion can participate in the Islamic banking and finance. Maybe you should take a look.

    For any and all that are in “fear” of muslims, a little history lesson may be in order. You could start with “The Oxford History of Islam” for a little light reading in your spare time.

  • Nikos

    dxxbigus: thanks! Very informative and just the kind of wider view we need around this self-obsessed little superpower.

    As for ‘fear of Muslims’ I think it’s more fear of the radical/militant extrapolation of Islam lately dubbed Islamism — which I’m willing to bet most Muslims dread too!

    Now, having opened that can of worms, please feel free to offer detailed corrections. (I’m serious, not sarcastic.)


  • Raymond

    The issues around Islamic finance are really quite interesting. Apparently, one underlying principle involves a return that is commensurate with the risk. So, for example, a fixed interest rate loan is prohibited because the lender is guaranteed a profit whether the borrower has gained or lost on the transaction. This has led, I have read, to two key principles: mudarabah (profit sharing) and musharakah (equity participation), and a variety of innovative financial products.

    I am left wondering, and so suggested a possible guest for the topic, how prominent Dubai has become as a center for Islamic finance. Particularly since a financial center can serve as the engine for significance globally, and the question was raised whether Dubai is the next New York or London. Can someone else suggest another guest along the same topic?

  • dxbbigus

    DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre) is forming as we speak. They will end up being the financial hub of the region. Islamic Financing and Sharia Laws regarding financing are very interesting. And yes the Dubai government is behind DIFC. What people in the US don’t realize is that UAE has only somewhere around 1 million nationals, the rest of the residents (at least another 3 million) are expats. So the government is involved in everything, because you are looking at such a small group of people. Even now, the public sector is still the major employer of UAE nationals.

    So, as far as finding someone to speak on the topic of Islamic Finance, there are many sources. Any of the Dubai banks, or a finance minister of one of the emirates or of the UAE, or a professor at one of the universities (Zayed U, UAE U, American U for example). One can also search newspapers for DIFC information; Gulf News is one of the local papers.

    And to Nikos, yes…people are bitter and upset about the portrayal of Muslims as radical and militant in the media, including myself and many Westerners out here. It’s misguided and unfair. It would be like associating all Christians with the image of a skinhead militant. Now saying that, I also have to include that I have my own issues with living here, but they definitely do not have anything to do with the citizens or the religion. There are alot of frustrating things to deal with that are different from my reference point as a free-speaking, free-thinking US citizen.

    On a seperate note, their was a questionable report on UAE’s $100 million contribution for Katrina relief. I will say that is a low point in this entire ‘port’ debate. Yes, UAE is cash rich beyond belief and they are put that capital to use through direct donation and through a very active Red Crescent Society that provides funds and humanitarian efforts to the needy all over the world no matter what religion. They have been major contributors in Afghanistan, during the Pakistan earthquake, during the SE Asian Tsunami, aid to Iraq, just to name a few, so as a resident here and an American citizen, I don’t see any difference in a donation to help citizens of the US that are in need. The US government didn’t come through and people everywhere are even questioning the logic of rebuilding. If you consider all the areas in the US and around the world that are prone to natural disasters, humans would have very little space to live.

    For the most part, I see the US “awakening” to UAE and the Arabian Gulf as inevitable and timely. The US is hardly the center of the world, no matter how the media portrays it. There is a big world out here, and yes the US is a major player, but there are new big players (in the last 40 years) that are and will be recognised. The US government has a good relationship with the UAE, and the media is portraying this a sinister and evil. Well, I am one US citizen who generally disagrees with the current administration, but completely agrees with the economic, military, social, humanitarian and anti-terrorist alliances that have been part of the development of both nations.

    Dubai Bigus

  • Nikos

    dxbbigus: some of those “skinhead militants” grow up to be leader-clowns like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson: xenophobic religious bigots masquerading as kindly “Christian pastors”. The American religious internet is riddled with such thinly disguised conmen. They scare us — perhaps just like Islamists scare ordinary Muslims?

    Speaking of internet, do you have any way to know how popular the Middle East Transparent site is around your neck of the woods?

    It’s blocked in Saudi Arabia and, I expect, in several other countries, but hopefully not in Dubai — I wouldn’t think so, anyway.


  • Nikos

    And oh, for non-Arabic speakers (like me) who might want to read what metransparent has to say, try this:

    If any website alone can begin to destroy the stereotype that Muslims are a monolith of menace, this one’s it.

  • dd1

    You should be be able to find the best people to speak on Islamic Finance from “Dubai Islamic Bank”. ( have arranged Islamic Finance for many Govt Companies including Emirates Airlines.

  • Hi, y’all.

    An American academic economist, I’ve blogged a considerable about on this topic here

    The Emirates Economist

    Just keep scrolling back to early February.

  • dxbbigus

    Nikos, I personally have never seen, but I checked; it isn’t blocked here. That doesn’t mean anything, it could be blocked tomorrow because someone that is a “power that be” might not like a comment or a picture. They can be crazy like that around here.

  • tbrucia

    The strange thing about the ‘port deal’ is that all the fuss could have been avoided by DP World simply setting up a 100 percent owned dummy/shell corporation in some third nation and having this ‘front’ buy the P&O. (Or multiply the distance by setting up a string of 100 percent owned corporations…). Obviously DP World got caught flat-footed. A bit more finesse and some deliberatly sown confusion on the part of DP World could have prevented a lot of bad publicity.

  • Tbrucia: Or you could say this was a major publicity stunt! Done deliberately to create controversy and thus, Dubai is now on the front of every major newspaper, TV station and all satellite news channels. People who didn’t know where or what Dubai is, now know exactly in which part of the world this city lies and what it’s all about!

    Either way, I say well done on the part of the Dubai PR department!!!

  • Potter

    Tbrucia: That means that all of the port deals should be looked into for this kind of monkeying around. That DP World was up front about the deal is a point in their favor.

    This fuss also puts port security on the front burner, which is obviously good.

  • John Hagel provides some interesting background from the perspective Dubai’s improved infrastructure management.

    His most intriguing point comes about two-thirds of the way down the post…

    “The saddest part of the story is that DP World didn’t buy P&O to get access to these US terminal facilities. The real reason they acquired P&O was to gain access to P&O’s port operations in China, a much more rapidly growing market than the US.”

    This appears to take us back to George Soros’s essay on the Bubble of American Supremacy. Dubai makes a play on China’s ports while the American government squabbles over terrorists and camel jockeys. Will emerging markets just route around the US while we watch idly from the sidelines?

  • Something is not making sense. I’ve learned that comparisons are useful, sometimes flawed benchmarks. I’ve been thinking about the UAE-Dubai port issue in the context of how it contrasts with how Congress has addressed the NSA issue. I find the contrast compelling and worthy of extensive study. Bluntly, nothing adds up.

    In short, I walk away from the UAE-Port deal with a single conclusion: It is a deliberate ruse to distract attention from the NSA. Here’s a discussion of what issues are not adding up, and some thoughts on what some remedies might be. Thank you for considering these views: []

    The question: “Is Dubai the next London, the next New York? Is this the face of the empire that will succeed us?” — I can’t credibly answer that given the apparent non-sense over what is or not happening with the UK-UAE port deal. It seems far more likely that Dubai is simply being used to advance what the US wants to achieve–a moving target, devoid of prudence.

    All this attention on Dubai in my view is not where it is most needed: On the NSA unlawful activity. I remain skeptical that the Dubai miracle warrants this priority.

    I remain cautious and wary – matters which seem important are ignored; those matters which capture attention are done out of fascination of what is unexplained. CEOs take advantage of that trick. Enron collapsed. A wizard behind the curtain my be pulling levers, but we still have a Constitution.

  • Her’s the link: UAE and Congress: The distraction from the NSA.

  • roller

    If the US decides to agree with the Dubai port deal, this will put our (America’s) safety in jeapardy. There is an underlying intension to “defeat and conquer”

    America. Americans and all other races, other than Dubai locals are considered to be of a “lesser” being. This was my impression of Dubai. No amount of money is worth our safety and well-being.

  • Jcampdavis

    Well done show. Dubai deserves our attention and business…

  • mlnary

    I don’t think all the politicians who question the Dubai deal are doing it for purely political reasons. It’s not obvious that the deal was a good thing, and as soon as I asked myself what it was that I was really worried about, I realized that I had been ignorant of the fact that most of our ports are run by foreign-owned companies, even though I knew foreign ownership was possible for some things. Now I have read that multinational or government-owned corporations have the responsibility for some ports and NUCLEAR PLANTS as well, not to mention other private companies doing military operations, and all without oversight.

    Bush probably trusts DP because it is a familiar part of the American-dominant global empire. He seemed surprised that anyone cared, and I found his charge of prejudice to be outrageous, surely no one would repeat it who didn’t toe the line on a regular basis–but I guess I was wrong about that.

    Hello to other open sourcers who are always 3 hours behind out here in Pacific time.

  • jonnycum69

    The Sheik of Dubia (United Arab Emirates) is looking at the end of their oil supply and as an alternative is slamming Billions of dollars of investment into turning the small nation of Dubai into one of the premier tourist destinations of the 21st century. I love the idea of Dubai managing our ports! Dubai is no outpost for terrorists, but rather an employment outpost for engineers and workers from all over the world! Cranes galore are actually working towards the future of Dubai and perhaps the rest of the Middle Eastern oil kingdoms could follow the Sheik so that when oil runs out, the Middle East will be a great place for a vacation! Dubai also has the best middle eastern Station, well known world wide for it’s independent news view of the trustworthy truth about what is REALLY going on in Iraq!!!

  • Potter

    Hello to WNYC!! Hola!

    Hello to minary on the west coast and welcome.

    I think constant makes a good point about this issue taking attention away from other important issues but this is also important in that ( as I said above) attention is being focussed on the security of our ports. I am grateful for that though it remains to be seen what will actually be done. I do not think that this issue is a “deliberate ruse” by the Bush administration. The security issue does seem to have been seized by those who have political ambition. They hit pay dirt while shamelessly using distortion and fearmongering. But if in the end we come up with a stronger congress ( real oversight) and stronger port security I am okay that this is happening for whatever reasons.

    I thought the show was very interesting. I expected a discussion of the ports issue but I should not have- it was about the Dubai phenomenon. I thought of a gold rush town of the Western USA of over a hundred years ago as a comparison.

    As was indicated, Dubai functions as a necessary pressure release valve for all the emotions swarming around the Middle East, a sort of Club Med. The globalization and modernization that we think will help bridge the gap between us and them spreads from such a point out. But there is boom and there is bust too. Dubai is the envy of the region I have heard but a threat to extremist ideology and therefore I would imagine a likely target. DPW for instance could be the focus of sabotage.

  • Nikos

    Interesting bit Tuesday on public radio’s ‘The World’:

    The George Clooney film “Syriana” won acclaim at the Oscars, but it might not do so well in Dubai. Authorities there are still deciding whether the movie, which was partially shot in Dubai, should be banned. The BBC’s Julia Wheeler has the story.

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  • Noaf03

    i’ve noticed that there isn’t one post from an Emarati Citizen, well i’m Emarati and from Dubai, so this is what i gotta say

    the part about diversity, Locals/Citizenz makup less than 20% of the population.. most of the workers are expats, businesses are very much diverse too…

    the DP deal haven’t got much coverage in the Media here, supposed our news doesn’t write anything bad “bais u may say” anyhow we do get the american news channel, and i’ve got a general picture of what they are saying, i just wonder do the media in America sit and agree on certain points, then play it on tiem over time until it public sees no other truth…DP isn’t a political organization, its a business, and i do not see the security threat it posses, even if Amirca is the least bit Educated about Dubai, or the UAE it will find out it’s a peaceful nation, i mean we do not start wars, and the government have never been other than giving and understanding. Disputes are always negotiated and resovled with no arms, Every country has it’s share of problems, But Dubai isn’t a Country its just a City, and the DP is a company…

    our Media is censored so the bit about Syriana might be very much true, but i doubt it as all movies are released but they might take more time to be out, internet is censored too, as a local it doesn’t much matter, its not like they telling you what to see and what to not, they are merely providing a safer enviroment or they belive they are..

    i think people need to learn more about Dubai, and i suppose this as a good time to educate them, and this is what shoudl be done, they backout of the deal after all and i they were very open about the deal in the first place, now its time to get and now the City that for plenty of people seemed to be the an Evil waiting to steal their peace,..

  • nother

    Hi Naofo3 – Would a show like Radio Open source be ever be generated in Dubai. You post seems to dismiss the pitfalls of internet censorship, do you seen the irony? You’re exuberantly posting to a show that might never exist in Dubai.

    And Naofo3, I guess my idea of diversity is more diverse than yours. I’m thinking of something much more expansive than your 20% number. I’m thinking of diversity that demands humility. Demanding you to challenge your “self.” A diversity of ideas, food, music, dress. A diversity of beauty and wit. A diversity beer and anger.

    As we sail in these turbulent seas, the guiding light for this American ship of diversity – is individualism. What is the guiding light for the ship of Dubai?

  • Noaf03


    well censorship or not the public get to hear it one way or another “not talking abt this show”.. Media is highly regulated & self censorship is largely practiced, to some that might be simply wrong, well it works here and so far no one is complaining from the citizens or locals, but it seems others have alot to say..

    well i suppose America and other countries haven’t simply gained their diversity in 10 or even 30 years, Dubai is just abt in it 30’s now .. so i suppose it needs more time to grow, and i still do think ther is plenty of diversity here…

    The UAE is based on the group system, u grow with your people, and we all are team palyers here, so i would say we thrive togather and fall togather.. and this ship navigators are the youth of the nation, which are being given all the best there is to be benificial to the society… with that comes new way of thinking and new ways.

    as you say this show migth never exist in Dubai, but some how its reaching me and i’m posting, i’m not dismissing any pitfalls they do not censor things out of the blue, there are obvious reasons for doing so, and i recognize them..

  • I’m still enjoying my TiVo and now I enjoy it even more because it supports podcas