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Dubai: The Story of the World's Fastest City [Kindle Edition]

Jim Krane
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Today, Dubai is a city of shimmering skyscrapers attracting thousands of tourists every year. Yet just sixty years ago Dubai's population scraped a living by picking dates, diving for pearls, or sailing in wooden dhows to trade with Iran and India.

Dubai is everything the rest of the Arab world is not. Until recently it was the fastest-growing city in the world, with an economy whose growth outpaced China's while luring more tourists than all of India. The city has become a metaphor for the lush life, where the wealthy mingle in gilded splendour and luxury cars fill the streets, yet it is also beset by a backwash of bad design, environmental degradation and controversial labour practices. Dubai tells its unique story.

Product Description


'Dubai examines this small emirate with admirable even-handedness and good humour... Krane also writes movingly of the conditions of the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi workers who have built Dubai.' James Drummond, Financial Times 'Packed with detail and colour, Dubai explores the city's remarkable history, bringing it to life and confronting its controversies.' Dr Christopher Davidson, author of 'Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success'

From the Author

Why a book on Dubai?

Jim arrived in Dubai in January 2005, where he found a city erupting onto the earth. Thousands of new residents streamed in each day. The entire city was a construction site, with more than 10 percent of the world's building cranes at work. Neighborhoods spread across the desert like kudzu. In the course of its six-year boom, Dubai swelled from a modest city to a bloated megalopolis the size of Houston - doubling in population and quadrupling in area. Most incredibly, this wild growth was taking place within a short distance of the carnage in Iraq, and was receiving little notice in the West.

Dubai, it turned out, was the antithesis of Baghdad. As fast as Iraq was being destroyed, Dubai was accomplishing the opposite. There are few, if any, places on earth where the span of modernization is so compressed, where extreme capitalist excess is just a generation removed from Third World poverty. Here, men born in palm shacks became billionaires. Shrewd professors, holders of PhDs from American universities, had been raised by illiterate parents.

The fact that such a success story has risen in the Arab world is of great importance, both inside the region and out. With little notice, Dubai's undemocratic capitalism has become the development model for the rest of the Middle East. Like it or not, the Dubai effect has already touched your life.

But all is not well with this brash city-state. Dubai accomplished its feats on the backs of a vast labor force of mistreated men who have never received their due. The city's success has destroyed far more lives than was necessary. And its wild growth upset the demographic balance, leaving the city 95 percent foreign and nearly 80 percent male. Dubai's pampered natives are such a tiny minority that retaining their sovereignty has become a major worry. Meanwhile, prostitution has become a necessity, spawning the tragic industry of human trafficking.

And, in the months since the onset of global recession, Dubai has emerged as the poster child of the previous era's gluttonous excess. Dubai's once soaring real estate values have collapsed further than anywhere on earth, and unemployed expatriates have fled for the exits. Krane's book examines the viability of Dubai's economic model, going forward.

In short, Dubai is a fascinating topic.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 7785 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Dec. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00317INTE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #82,631 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem of a Book 20 Oct. 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After a short visit to Dubai last Christmas I couldn't believe how strange and peculiar it was and I needed to find out what was underneath all the glitz. First I read Dubai Dreams by Raymond Barrett but it did not provide the historical depth or detail. Jim Krane's book is excellent and beautifully written, forgive me for saying this, I know there are many great American writers out there but I really thought the book had been written by an Englishman as it was so smoothly crafted. This book answered many of my questions and has provided me with more understanding of the Middle East and a thirst to learn more and travel to that region again but to areas with greater authenticity like Oman.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and thought-provoking 19 Oct. 2009
In the 60s, long before Dubai became what it is now - a gold encrusted Monopoly board of skyscrapers and traffic jams - the man who later became the UAE's first president would pop into a newly opened department store. He'd peer into a child's View-Master and marvel at 3D images of the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Then he'd turn to the store's owner and say, "One day, you will see. The tall buildings will be here."

The above anecdote is taken from Jim Krane's excellent new book on Dubai and, to an extent, it sums up everything that's wonderful and disappointing about how an insignificant fishing village has taken just a few decades to turn itself into one of the most prominent spots on the planet. On the one hand, it shows that the city's rise is the stuff of youthful dreams, the product of an irrepressible exuberance and lust for change. On the other, it suggests that maybe the process which has resulted in - amongst other ostentations - the world's tallest building might've benefited from at least a little more maturity and a little less impetuousness.

Starting with thoroughly engrossing accounts of the region's past - full of stories of pearl divers and trigger-happy British imperialists - Krane outlines the rise to power of Dubai's ruling family, moves on to the current political climate and concludes with a series of chapters which adopt an admirably non-judgemental tone to examine what are commonly considered to be the city's main vices, from prostitution to the treatment of expatriate labourers. Along the way, he includes evidence from fascinating historical sources as well as first-hand interviews to create a sophisticated portrait of a place which has all too-often either been unquestionably lauded by fans or summarily rubbished by detractors.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best written book on Dubai yet 14 Oct. 2009
We've seen several books on Dubai in recent years and this is, by some way, the best. It wins on two fronts: first, its an interesting and accurate history of the emirate and second, its beautifully written.

Previous books, such as Chris Davidson's Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success, have certainly added to the reader's undestanding of Khaleeji culture and the development of the emirate of Dubai. However, many lack the pace of Crane's book which rattles along at a fine pace, yet still covering what is known of Dubai with depth and breadth.

Davidson's book also has annoying mistakes which to readers who really know Dubai are at best annoying and, at worst, make one doubt other details in the book.

As a long term resident of Dubai, I particularly enjoyed the early chapters which, for me, put the modern Dubai into perspective. My reading of it is that the last few years of stellar growth are entirely consistent with the plans of its earliest rulers and that the current economic woes are just one more challenge for the brave and hardy people of Dubai to overcome.

Dubai is a fascinating city of contrasts. It makes up one small part of an amazing, young, growing country. This book comes as close as possible to explaining the feeling, the facts and the sheer wonder of the place.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insight to a complex city! 14 Mar. 2010
Just put down Dubai - Worlds Fastest City. I visited Dubai in 2006 and 2007 and was captivated by its development but also by the social issues which were evident while I was there. It is a city with no centre, the decline of the local population and its voracious appetite for energy. I also wanted to discover the Arabian past beyond the themed reception areas of hotels. Jim discussed all of these points and I now feel I have a broader base in my understanding of this flawed but brilliant Mid-Eastern city. If Dubai makes you this!!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff, the best yet on Dubai 24 Oct. 2009
Reading American journalist Jim Krane's book `Dubai: Story of the World's Fastest City' is a must for anybody who wants to gain a perspective on what is happening in this emirate today, for to understand the past is to better comprehend the present.

He tells the story of Dubai with a clarity and simplicity that is a joy to follow. I particularly liked the evocation of Dubai in the 1950s before the electric light and abolition of slavery (which only came in 1963).

At night the city was so dark that ships and aircraft could not see it. Without air-conditioning residents slept on the roof for cool in the summer. Dubai was as backward as any coastal town in Africa today.

It reminded me of when I went back to the UK as an expatriate for the first time in 1996 and met an old family friend (Bob Williams, the architect who designed our family home) and he recalled being stationed in Dubai during the Second World War.

`What on earth are you doing in Dubai,' asked an incredulous eighty year old. `There is nothing there.'

His recollection was accurate. Dubai in the Second World War was down to 7,000 residents, the majority living in huts made out of palm leaves. People were eating lizards, locusts and leaves, and some actually starved.

Square that with `The Story of the World's Fastest Growing City' that Mr. Kane so admirably describes. It is progress of a kind seldom seen in human history and at a speed beyond belief.

How on earth did Dubai transform itself into a modern, multicultural metropolis of 1.5 million souls? Mr. Krane highlights visionary leadership, political stability and huge investment in infrastructure projects thought to be completely insane at the time.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
Having visited Dubai twice recently I can see the scene setting author describes very clearly. There is no place like Dubai.
Published 4 months ago by HIBBY SCOTT. wn
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent summary of the development of Dubai.
Published 4 months ago by P B BOWKER
2.0 out of 5 stars insightful, but not balanced or objective.
I was hoping that this book would take a fair and balanced approach to the examination of Dubai, however I was disappointed by what seemed like in depth look at its successes and... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mr. A. Shah
5.0 out of 5 stars Great insights in Dubai
I have always been fascinated by Dubai and I wanted to know more, so I took the chance with this book. It was great and it is very well researched. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Wakey
3.0 out of 5 stars Up the Creek
Dubai conjures up many images. For some it is the epitome of tacky bling, for others it is the land of Christians, pork, alcohol and prostitution; it is the new holiday... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mac McAleer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved reading this
Published 9 months ago by Angela McAdam
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book
As I will be visiting Dubai for the first time in October I wanted to read this book in order to know more about the place I am going to visit. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Wilburkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down
Having visited Dubai twice recently, I was keen to learn more about just how this incredible place came to be. Jim Krane's book provides all the answers. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Ronald
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
If you have or have not been to Dubai this book gives you an amazing insight into how it has become the city it is today.
Published 16 months ago by Bob Lisle
1.0 out of 5 stars Not the book but the non-delivery of it by Amazon!! and I can't find...
I ordered this book in advance of travelleing and paid extra for next day delivery. Amazon did not manage to deliver it and claim they left it with the 'resident' during the day on... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Gubben
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