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Abu Dubai

Mishaal al Gergawi

A Forward Tale of Two Cities That Could Only Be One

The year is 2040. The United Arab Emirates is 69 years-old and under the reign of its fourth president, a son of its founding father Sheikh Zayed. The vice president and prime minister is the grandson of Sheikh Rashid. Al Qassimis rule Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah; Al Sharqis rule Fujairah, the UAEs eastern outpost; Al Naimis and Al Muallas rule Ajman and Umm al-Quwain respectively. The presidency, foreign, interior and presidential affairs ministries are still in Abu Dhabi; the vice-presidency, premiership of the cabinet, defense, nance and cabinet affairs ministries are still in Dubai. The apparent political structure has not changed but everything else has. In 2008, when Abu Dhabi and Dubai were both investing heavily in infrastructure, restructuring executive authorities and launching new initiatives on an almost weekly basis, it was already evident that the two cities were heading in a direction that neither of them had envisaged or openly admitted. Other nations had been able to maintain separate administrative and commercial capitals but with greater distances between them: Beijing-Shanghai (1,067 kilometers), Berlin- Frankfurt (432 kilometers) and New York-Washington DC (337 kilometers). With 120 kilometers separating them, Abu Dhabi and Dubai were destined to run up into each other. And that distance had already dwindled; their expanding outer regions, measuring from Jebel Ali to Shahama, were within 80 kilometers of each other. The result was turning out to be Abu Dubai, the then unspoken name of a metropolis phenomenon that recharged both of its halves.
Marina Village CBD Financial Center Lulu Island Al Mina Sowwah Island Saadiyat Island South Hudayriat Island Al Reem Island Al Raha Capital District Musafah Masdar New Port City Ghantoot Park Al Rahba Al Shahama

All of the developmental fervor ground to a halt with the fateful arrival of the world economic crisis of 2008-11. It was a painful exercise for Dubai, mainly due to the decen tralized manner in which its various groups and subsidiaries had borrowed on predom inantly short maturities. Dubai was initially bailed out by Abu Dhabi, but its problems did not disappear with the $20 billion program. More was needed. DP World oated 29% of its shares on the London Stock Exchange (in addition to the initial 20% it had IPOd on the former DIFX, then NasdaqDubai, now UAE Financial Exchange EMFM, the Middle Easts leading bourse after Tel Avivs). DEWA, Dubai Airport and Emirates Airlines conducted minority stake privatization sales by way of private placements. Dubais debt slowly subsided as its ofce space began to ll due to renewed business condence. The Investment Corporation of Dubai Dubai Inc.s successor regained nancial integrity as a small but agile entity. In a post-sector-diversication-rhetoric world, Dubai Holding and Dubai World had both run their course. They ceased to exist as legal entities by 2014. Their delayed demise was due mainly to their ability to transfer existing debts to other entities under the Dubai Government. These relics of a necessary boom era evoke a nostalgia so gray it is hard to determine whether their failures or successes are greater. As a psychological victory for the city, many developments lost their project names. Burj Dubai/Khalifa Downtown (the public had never agreed on a name) became down town. And what got built of Business Bay was also grouped into Dubais downtown. In the end, the success of both projects hindered before by competing developers was hinged on their union. Public opinion also united Jumeirah Beach Residence and the Dubai Marina into marina. Chinese-made bicycles quickly became the preferred and fashionable means of transport within the marina since auto trafc was unbearable. Jaliya, Shindagha. Bastakiya, Karama, Mankhool and Bur Dubai became collectively referred to as the old neighborhoods, eventually taking back the name old town. The wounds left by Meraas and its Jumeirah Gardens project mostly healed, and the border between Satwa and Jumeirah began to blur. Satwas gentrication had always been inevitable. Its affordability began to attract yuppie crowds bored with freehold districts. Jumeirah remained casually in vogue. Fusion was also completed along the SharjahDubai border; the commuter crawl seamlessly connected Deira and Nahdah. Around 2020, Abu Dhabis investment arm Mubadala began to face serious challenges to its investment approach; it had over-diversied beyond capacity. Exposure to Virgin Galactic had dragged it into a third round of additional nancing due to

The World Desert Natural Reserve Palm Jebel Ali The Waterfront Seih Sediera Jebel Ali Port Dubai Marina Palm Jumeirah

Dubai Maritime City

Yas Island

UAE Central Station Al Reef Al Falah

Dubai Industrial City Al Maktoum International Airport

Abu Dubai, 2040.

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South Shamkhah

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Illustration Sandra Bsat

Environment Reserve/ National Park

unforeseen challenges, such as accelerating atmospheric mutations caused by wors ening climate change and the subsequent costly technologies. AMD, the computer chip maker, failed to retain signicant market share in the face of Intels relentless innovations. The esoteric Ultimate Fighting Championship franchise proved unsuccessful in the Middle East and suffered a North American slump in the wake of further anti-violence TV regulation. When Mubadala was bailed out by Abu Dhabis nance department, no sum was disclosed, but estimates ranged between $180 and $250 billion. A thorough review began of which sectors the government should be directly involved in. None of the classic consulting rms were involved in Mubadalas reorganization. Instead, Abu Dhabis old brass of scally conservative Adnoc and ADIA veterans directed Mubadala out of its problems. Some regional analysts began to draw parallels between Abu Dhabis and Dubais challenges, particularly in respect to the propensity to attempt so much in so little time. However, unlike Dubai, Abu Dhabi had no need for soul search ing; Dubai had already done that, with Abu Dhabis help and on its behalf. For the rst time in over ten years, Dubai could contribute strategically to Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabis efforts to cultivate branches of the Sorbonne and New York University were obvious successes. The opening of the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi had done much to raise the bar of quality healthcare in the Gulf. Soon after its opening, the clinic began advising the federal ministry of healthcare on the modernization of its facilities and prac tices. The Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, which had opened an Abu Dhabi branch in 2006, took the lead on tackling the epidemic in the UAE. By June 2015, it was clear that Masdars mandate had to be revised. The restruc tured, government-funded Masdar founds its strength as an R&D sustainability center at a fraction of its earlier budget. Replacing the usual constellation of imported consultants, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MIST) was on a dual track: conducting research and realizing an eco-city, Masdar City. By 2022, Masdar City had become home to state of the art facilities and the worlds largest annual grant program for sustainability, attracting scientists and researchers whose knowledge was put to work in building Masdar City. Venture capital rms lined up to invest. In 2025, Abu Dhabi witnessed the IPO of its rst green start-up. Masdar Citys transformation into an innovation center was deemed a success, positioning Abu Dhabi as a center of green technology alongside California, Finland, Denmark and Israel. By the end of 2015, the Louvre, the Sorbonne, New York University and the Guggenheim had opened on Saadiyat Island. Abu Dhabis museums designed by super star architects achieved the desired result: internationally recognized cultural icons. But it was Dubais homegrown art scene that gave the cultural monuments their souls, supplying the museums with many of its curators, critics, artists, designers, etc.1 The islands success proved the often denied synergy to sustain cultural projects: govern ment support, commercial investment and personal will. Ghantoot City, on the site of Sheikh Zayeds beach palace, launched its new suburb. The polo club was elegantly renovated by its new manager Jumeirah, the hotel management company. The rest of its estate was attached to the The Desert Natural Reserve. The National Museum on Saadiyat Island had been delayed due to continuing differences over its curatorial direction. An independent commission recommended to transform the Ghantoot palace into a hybrid museum and academy that would study and educate on the social and cultural fabric of the UAE Qasr Al Karama. The core of Abu Dhabis Central Business District (CBD) moved to Sowwah Island, attracting a mix of banks, large corporations and major government-afliated rms. How ever, it was Abu Dhabi Island itself that presented regenerated urbanism. UPC oversight preserved Old Abu Dhabi. Following what was largely seen as an outmigration to the new districts (Sowwah, Saadiyat, Yas Islands and Capital District), Abu Dhabi Island began to reexamine itself and was gradually reconceived as the urban and cultural center of the city. It drew a variety of inhabitants nostalgic, older citizens and young people looking for something less perfect and more impressionable. ADACHs cultural center anchored the downtown and was able to heal the ssure between culture and heritage. Dubai International Airport reached maximum capacity in 2020 and reopened plans for Al Maktoum International Airport. With the distance between Dubais new airport and


An interview with Georgeta Vidican provides insight on MIST, p. 239. This would sound like KAUSTs 2009 approach, where academic pursuits are directly linked to national interests, p. 412.

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Abu Dhabis at 60 kilometers, the situation attracted international mockery, evoking refer ences to older days of duplication. But there was no animosity. A breakthrough agree ment erased duplication and promoted collaboration. Maktoum International Air port, with its underground cargo link to Jebel Ali Port, was designated Abu Dubais airport. Abu Dhabi International Airport was transformed into the UAEs central train station a logistical masterpiece that coordinated passenger and cargo lines, including a ten-minute bullet train to Maktoum Airport, cargo lines to Jebel Ali Port, RAK and Fujairah, and lines to Liwa, Doha, Dammam, Riyadh and Jeddah, Istanbul and onward through Europe. Abu Dhabi, a constant champion of the GCC railway project, had provided the tipping point for other countries to ignite the linkage. With an airport on one side and a central train station on the other, the cities were linked to the rest of the world like never before. Abu Dhabis Capital District is now fully functional as the UAEs recognized center of government. Government ofcials and diplomats can reach both cities CBDs within 30 minutes. There are rumors about how the location of the district is in fact the location originally intended for Al Karama.2 Though the rumors are not true, many believe Abu Dhabis Capital District is a silent homage to that notion. Abu Dubai: a city never founded yet had to be. The cities remain ofcially Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and each maintains a municipal government. Yet among the public as well as some academicians, historians, urban planners and a few other groups they are referred to as Abu Dubai. What does it mean? Some cynics say it is the result of a circum stantial urban merger while romantics call it the maturing of two cities that together became more than what each could ever be alone. Debates aside, the fact remains that Abu Dubai is a sum and interaction of districts and islands from Musafah to Nahdah. Integration and synthesis continue.
1  It is Sharjah, Dubais other neighbor, however, that supports Dubais arts. Sharjah is an even cheaper housing option than Dubai and can sustain creative production. A kunsthalle of sorts, with a converted community theater, sits on the Dubai-Sharjah border. Sharjahs newfound leniency for creativity gives room for an underground art scene on the shores of Lake Khaled. 2  The UAEs area codes are 02 for Abu Dhabi, 03 for Al Ain, 04 for Dubai, 05 for mobile phones, 06 for Sharjah, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain, 07 for Ras Al Khaimah. 08 is the Western Region (Liwa, etc.) and 09 is Fujairah. Where is 01? When the UAE was found in 1971, its constitution was temporary and its interim capital was Abu Dhabi. Few people recall the plan for a city to be built between Abu Dhabi and Dubai named Al Karama that would be the capital of the UAE. 01 was for Al Karama. Of course this never happened since the UAEs constitution was ratied and Abu Dhabi was recognized as the permanent capital of the nation in 1994. The ratied constitution did not include the Al Karama clause.

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Emirati Occurences

A tally of news articles in the Gulf News that use the term Emirati. Since 2007, the term has enjoyed a secure presence in the newspapers vocabulary. Gulf News is Dubais major English-language newspaper.

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Read about the chances of a GCC Railway, p. 274. Abu Dubai Update: The borders between Abu Dhabi and Dubai are getting thinner physically, and this synergy is being reected in the business sector and development projects, speakers participating in a panel discussion in Abu Dhabi observed (Gulf News, February 17, 2010).

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