Dubai Report: A city on edge

The burgeoning emirate faces problems with recruitment, high costs, racism and traffic. But Dubai's hook is the promise of perpetual renewal, says Jonathan West.

I first arrived in Dubai in 1996. At that time, no-one had heard of the emirate, and not even London's great Foyles bookshop had a guide to the desert city. The only information I could find was a tiny chapter in Lonely Planet's Middle East book - obviously written as an afterthought. It told me nothing.

As my plane circled, all I could see were empty plots of land, and the odd villa. Not one of the city's now-famous landmarks had been built, nothing that whispered to me I was about to land in one of the most exciting cities on the planet. Instead, the message that came through loud and clear was 'this is the end of the earth'.

Between then and now, Dubai has been transformed. Once a hardship post for wanderlust-bitten expatriates who were clearly lost, drunk or confused, it is now a modern-day Babylon for those who want to work hard and party harder.

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