Dubai back in mega-project mood after fiscal dive

Associated Press Modified: November 28, 2012 at 1:01 am •  Published: November 28, 2012
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"We tell developers that the time is not right for them to build speculatively because we see very limited demand," he said in an interview this month with Big Project Middle East, which follows major development initiatives in the region.

Consider the marketing push ahead for the proposed satellite city: 100 hotels, a theme park in collaboration with Universal Studios, a green space somewhere in size between London's Hyde Park and New York's Central Park, and the mother of all malls.

But there's no lack of confidence from its namesake. "The current facilities available in Dubai need to be scaled up in line with the future ambitions of the city," said Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammad.

Another planned development — literally just over the horizon — delves even deeper into the Dubai's penchant for alternative realities such as an indoor ski slope or an archipelago shaped liked the world's continents.

The lavishly named Falconcity of Wonders was first unveiled during the height of Dubai's white-hot growth five years ago, but later fell victim to the financial crisis. It's now back on the agenda with ethnic-themed sections that include replicas of the Eiffel Tower, the Giza Pyramids and the leaning Tower of Pisa.

So far, the only significant outrage from abroad is over a proposed version of the Taj Mahal — the "Taj Arabia" — that's four times larger than the original in Agra south of New Delhi.

"It is patently wrong and absurd," a former Agra legislator, Satish Chandra Gupta, told Indian media.

The developers, however, predict it will be a major draw for wedding parties among Dubai's large Indian community and growing tourism from the subcontinent.

The Indian outreach doesn't end there. A Bollywood theme park is part of a $2.7 billion five-park complex announced Monday by the office of Dubai's ruler. It also seems to be Sheik Mohammad's grand response to the fiscal nosedive that shutdown plans for several theme parks, leaving more than one colorful gateway-to-nowhere in the desert.

"Hubris," said Christopher Davidson, an expert on Gulf affairs at Britain's Durham University, referring to the blitz of new mega-projects.

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