Monday, December 22, 2008

Xanadu Atlantis

A year ago the UAE was fondly regarded by Western governments and bankers as a potential saviour of capitalism.

Last month, as the major economies shed jobs and marked down growth forecasts, a South African billionaire hosted the “party of the decade” to open a vast, pink hotel on the palm-shaped island constructed from poured sand and concrete a short helicopter ride from Dubai's new international airport.

But elsewhere on the island, villa owners were being told that their properties had lost 40 per cent of their value in two months. Construction of another colossal artificial island was quietly being shelved, and speculation grew that Dubai as a whole, for nearly a decade the world's most exuberant symbol of the fruits of globalisation, might have to sell off assets to service its debts.

Recently, the Government of the United Arab Emirates was forced to confront that speculation. The chairman of a committee set up to lead the UAE's response to the global downturn said that Dubai's debts were dwarfed by its assets and that “the Government will step in to assist if needed”. Only that implicit guarantee held fears of a default at bay. The stock market was unimpressed. Having lost nearly two thirds of its value this year it promptly lost another 5 per cent

Whatever said and done is that I like Dubai, but what I like are the people that who make Dubai – how much ever they crap, they make it even better, particularly the English (no harm please, all in good fun)

Listed below is a poem penned by an English friend (who unfortunately didn’t do justice to Samuel Taylor Coolidge’s Xanadu by Kubla Khan )

In Jumeirah did Big Sheikh Mo
A massive great hotel decree
Where streams of sacred sewage ran
Through beaches uninhabitable by man
Down to a polluted sea

So twice five dozen top celebs
Did mingle with the local plebs
And there were fireworks bright with flashing stars
Apparently they could be seen from Mars
The only ones that didn't party or rave
Were some newly captured Pacific dolphin slaves

A sheikh with a kandoora
In a vision once he saw
It was an Abyssinian maid
Overworked and poorly paid

And with fireworks loud and grand
He did build that Dubailand
That massive mall! Those slopes of ice!
And we all thought them very nice

But all should cry, Beware! Beware!
This sandy land is not so fair
And now financial storm clouds grow
It might be time to pack and go
For we on honey-dew hath fed
It's time for some real life instead

Lets face it - superlatives alone cannot shield the Middle East's financial hub from crisis

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