Dubai, the largest city in the UAE, will be hosting World Expo 2020.
I was rooting for Dubai since the campaign started.
Why Dubai, you ask.
Short answer: ‘Why not?’
Longer answer: keep reading…
New York is the city that gives me a similar vibe as Dubai. How? It is fearless, cosmopolitan, daring, welcoming, a beacon for its surroundings, a dream factory, a refuge, a ‘Can Do’ type of place, where anything can happen. And much does happen in both cities. Dubai now is what New York must have been like after the Great Depression. Waking up after the economic blow, it rose up, dusted itself up, and grew stronger than ever. A lot of parallels are drawn in my mind between that magnificent noisy jewel of the West and this dusty stubborn Phoenix-like one of the East. They are courageous, ‘saddle up anyway’ kind of survivors.
Now let me tell you why Dubai is a perfect city to host a world expo. Here one might argue that in the 21st Century the internet melted the geographical and communication divides that necessitated holding a world expo in the first place way back when, still, for us in the region, and for the world at large, this 2020 world expo bears a lot of moral, ideological and psychological significance.
Let’s get the geography, logistics and infrastructure argument out of the way. It has been explained ad nauseam by the organizers and by so many others supporting the bid because it just makes sense on so many levels. The vast region of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia where Dubai is centered has never hosted an expo. Like ever. Infrastructure here is perfect for such an event. Five airports, hotels galore, state of the art facilities, connectivity, world class everything. That was argued and is well understood I hope by the countries voting.
What I would like to stress is the other, more nuanced, quite subtle undercurrent of the non-physical reasons that make this city the most natural place at this juncture to welcome a world afraid and weary of a region it does not understand. A misunderstood region and religion I may add.
Islamophobia post 9/11 is rampant in the World. Read the news. In Dubai, however, the world finds a real-life demonstration of what makes Islam, the true moderate Islam, a peaceful religion. It exemplifies what tolerance and acceptance of the other are in practice. This is an Arab Muslim country of the 21st Century. Come visit the UAE during Christmas time. You will see what we mean by coexistence in peace and harmony when Christmas carols are paused in the decorated shopping malls out of respect for the call for Muslim prayer, then festive tunes are resumed while shoppers of every background and ethnicity are free to worship any deity they revere. This place is home to almost every religion, faith, creed and ethnicity, it is designed as a safe haven for residents and visitors who come to this land to make a living and end up making a life. A good peaceful life. The World needs to see that.
Nothing is impossible. This place has leaders and citizens who have embraced modernity, technology, advancements in every field and looked towards the future with a clear hope-filled vision and a positive attitude while at the same time being anchored in traditions cherished as a source of pride and attachment to their desert roots. Sky scrapers, malls, technological feats, superbly executed infrastructure, palm islands, super airports, are just examples of what a sleepy fishing village only a few decades ago could accomplish because of an outlook that is both courageous and forward looking. This is an Arab city that most Arab cities are emulating, or striving to emulate. The World needs to see that.
The opportunity that this country and this city have provided to millions that have come here in search of a better life. They have found it. Stories of Indian, Pakistani, Iranian, Philippino, Lebanese, Jordanian, Palestinian and many others, professionals, entrepreneurs, business leaders that came here with nothing but a bagful of dreams and determination and ended up on top of their game, having Dubai to thank for giving them a chance to succeed and build business empires. The World needs to see that.
Migrant workers who come here in the millions, whose own countries are not developed enough or not safe enough for them to make a good-enough living, come and work and live in a city that is housing so many nationalities that it has become the microcosm of our world. Little India, little Pakistan, little Philippines have sprouted in and around the city, that by going to these streets it is as if you traveled to these countries and experienced their sounds, smells and tastes. They are all here in Dubai. Coexisting, working, making a future. The World needs to see that.
In Lebanese circles in Dubai, they joke that if Lebanon had Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid – the Ruler of Dubai – for a year, its problems would be solved. Some argue that a month would do. The Ruler of Dubai, like the other Maktoums before him and the ruling families in the UAE, is a visionary. They look into the future and plan from there. They were doubted by people around them when they worked on development plans for their country, the creek, the port of Jebel Ali, setting up Emirates Airlines, building the airports, the skyscrapers, the metro, the Palm and other man-made Islands. They ignore the doubters and naysayers from every side and seem to push on irrespective of obstacles, material or verbal. They succeed, and get over slumps, learn, and succeed again. They did not make Dubai into a Las Vegas, a shiny playground in the desert, they instead made it into a New York of the East, providing employment, livelihoods, and yes, fulfilling dreams of many who come to it.
The World definitely needs to see that.
World, better come visit the country and make plans not to miss Dubai Expo 2020. You need to experience being in this land. You have a lot to see, learn and most importantly, understand.
Signed, a Dubai lover.