- ISBN13: 9780312535742
- Condition: NEW
- Notes: Brand New from Publisher. No Remainder Mark.
The city of Dubai, one of the seven United Arab Emirates, is everything the Arab world isn’t: a freewheeling capitalist oasis where the market rules and history is swept aside. Until the credit crunch knocked it flat, Dubai was the fastest-growing city in the world, with a roaring economy that outpaced China’s while luring more tourists than all of India. It’s one of the world’s safest places, a stone’s throw from its most dangerous. In City of Gold, Jim K… More >>
5 thoughts on “City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism”
This is what Jim Krane says about one of Dubai Inc’s key planners, Chairman of Dubai Holdings and State Minister for Cabinet Affairs Mohammed Gergawi: “Women in Dubai – locals and expatriates – fawn over his George Clooney looks. Like Sheikh Mohammed, he has a reputation for giving wads of cash to strangers. I worked briefly as a consultant at the (Ruler’s) Executive Offce, downstairs from Gergawi. One day he strode into my office with his arm extended and boomed ‘I am Mohammed Gergawi”, and gave me a hearty handshake. We had an easygoing chat. When my son Jay was born in 2007, Gergawi sent a towering bouquet of flowers to the hospital room of my wife, Chloe, that took two men to erect. When I returned to work, his secretary handed me bags of baby clothes.”
The paragraph is on page 127 of the book, and may explain its many pulled punches. As a result of the global financial crisis and the bursting of Dubai’s debt bubble, Krane’s book was also outdated by the time it was published. The hastily written epilogue barely examines Dubai’s post-crisis future, apart from repeating the same old chestnut that its status as a hub will always make it relevant.
Much better to turn to Christopher Davidson’s excellent Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success Jon Alterman says that there is no better book on Dubai than Krane’s but he obviously hasn’t read Davidson, who appears to have gone the same route as Krane with his follow-up book on Abu Dhabi – an inevitable compromise? Even Krane records in his acknowledgement that Davidson paved the way for his book and kindly answered his incessant emails.
So if you want to read what feels like an extended AP wire story on Dubai’s rise, fall and projected rise, this may be for you. If you want something deeper and more balanced in its assessment, go elsewhere.
Rating: 2 / 5
Americans have a skewed view of the Middle East. It’s very far away and the cultures throughout the countries that make up this part of the world are very different from our own. Add to that the fact that, for many of the last 30 years, the United States has been in conflict of some sort with a Middle Eastern country, and it seems understandable that many of us really have no idea what to think about the Middle East. Unfortunately, it isn’t just familiarity that breeds contempt; ignorance often plays a role. Fortunately, there are people working to inform us truthfully about these locations that are too often soiled in the media by their location, religion, or proximity to other nations. Jim Krane is one of these people, and in his book //City of Gold//, he demystifies one of the Middle East’s most famous cities and anomalies: Dubai.
In //City of Gold//, Krane traces Dubai’s growth from a small village in harsh desert conditions to one of the richest, most metropolitan cities in the world. //City of Gold// provides information about the tribal history of Dubai as well as the last 50 years of the country’s history–a period which has brought immense change and made Dubai the vibrant, complex and exciting city that it is today.
Reviewed by Ashley McCall
Rating: 4 / 5
This book describes how a nearly barren piece of land became a prosperous city. Dubai sounds like what you’d expect if Bill Gates had taken over a small desert tribe and turned it into a real estate development company.
Part of its success is due to having the right amount of oil given its population size. Most non-industrialized countries that find enough oil to affect their economy are corrupted by dependence on it and by political fighting over who profits from it. Dubai found enough to finance a good deal of growth, but quickly saw that oil revenues would decline before long. Also, it had few enough people that the ruling family could afford to buy off any potential opposition.
But Dubai’s development started before it had much hope for oil money, and is partly due to the ambitions of a few people who ruled it. There must be a fair amount of luck involved – it seems to be an accident that Dubai is ruled by competent businessmen who are uninterested in politics (one ordered his reluctant brother to become the ruler). British rule over the region early on also helped ensure political stability.
The book’s description of Dubai’s legal system is confusing. How did a tribe with no tradition of private property make investors feel safe? I’ve read elsewhere that importing a British judge and British common law to the financial district is part of the explanation. The rest of Dubai seems to manage with virtually no legal system. I’m still puzzled about how Dubai provides enough predictability to attract large investments.
He describes Dubai’s lack of democracy as “an embarrassment”. But most of the book suggests that Dubai has been doing better than a democracy could. It makes much faster decisions than a democracy, and it forces bureaucrats to compete for performance scores that would be too easily gamed if voters were in charge.
Dubai’s ambitious expansion has made it resemble a financial bubble for much of the past 55 years, but most of its gambles have succeeded. This makes me wonder how to distinguish similar expansions from bubbles in the future (or in China, the present).
Rating: 4 / 5
I’m dazzled by this factual, historical work of non-fiction that reads like a novel with, at times, a somewhat riveting first-person narrative. Krane enticed me after the first few pages – and unexpectedly so – as I sat down ready for some dry non-fiction. “City of Gold” multi-dimensionally recreates Dubai on paper; from the positive and hopeful to the negative sides of its insatiable quest for meteoric success via capitalism. As Krane relates a rare, inside view into Dubai’s government, he doesn’t hesitate to take an unbiased, multi-angled stance as he relates his findings. Kudos for telling it like it is, and in a thorough, readable fashion. While it’d make an excellent text book, I’d actually recommend it to many more folks than I’d otherwise do for a book on a Middle Eastern city-state! It’s just… cool!
His awards and accolades thus far are spot-on and well-deserved; they validate my own experience. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has even a remote interest in Dubai – and for those who just want a great read about something new and different than this world has seen before. Can’t wait for his next book!
Rating: 5 / 5
Went to Dubai last week and found it most useful to get a better understanding of the situation on the ground! It’s well written and easy to read. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to get a deeper understanding of what is underneath the shiny surface of Dubai! Thanks for that Jim!
Rating: 5 / 5