DUBAI RETURNED

Posted: March 5, 2017 in Uncategorized
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Recently I saw a television show that was produced in Dubai. The show followed a man on a twenty-four hour journey through the majestic city as he tries to experience everything Dubai has to offer. The man made a noble effort but fell short of experiencing everything the United Arab Emirates can provide.

I watched the show in awe, in amazement and in sadness. I was in awe as I witnessed a key United Arab Emirate capital city portray a Disney World-like life style while providing leadership for one of the top commercial districts of the world. I stood in amazement as I witnessed a sleepy yet industrious country transformed into a world of steel and glass, brick and mortar and concrete and asphalt that is worthy of some of the greatest architectural structures in the world. I also felt sadness as I remembered this shimmering gem in the Mid-East desert as it was when there were only a handful of hotels, a couple of pubs and true American expatriates that enjoyed a lifestyle reminiscent of Earnest Hemingway, a lifestyle the average American never knew existed.

In 1980 Dubai was a modern small city at the mouth of the Persian Gulf at the Straits of Hormuz. It was one of the United Arab Emirates that also claims other states such as Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. I made my first trip to Dubai in 1982 to look at several offshore platforms that was being built for ARAMCO by Louisiana based company J. Ray McDermott. I was amazed at how clean and modern the city was and realized something was wrong until I realized that women were driving themselves; something taboo in other Mid-East countries. I also heard that early in the mornings before dawn the prisoners were let out of jail to scour the streets and pick everything from paper to cigarette butts. No fear of the prisoners escaping. Where would the go, the ocean was on one side and the desert on the other three. There were even stories that the emir, the ruler of Dubai, would tour the city to insure it was spotless before the populace took to the streets. This industrious spirit was infused into the UAE culture.

A year later I went to play softball at the McDermott field which was across the street from the international airport. There was no grass, had a nice concession stand and the umpire was from Homer, Louisiana. We had to be brought into the Emirate on construction visas since tourist were not allowed into the country. The light poles were made from the booms of cranes and it was understood that if an emergency erupted the light poles would be taken down and turned back into crane booms.

By the mid-80s Dubai was experimenting with tourism and expanding its’ infrastructure. Highway expansions were going on but with a purpose to expedite the construction. Road sections that took years to complete to Arabia were being completed in six months in Dubai. The softball tournament had moved to one of the newer hotels, the International. It was a party environment as anyone could travel to Dubai to play or to watch. At the beginning of the game the team was provided with either a case of water or a case of beer in the dugouts. Two games would be played at the same time from early morning through late evening. Americans living in Dubai would be there and I enjoyed visiting with Dave Churchman and his wife who were from Colfax, Louisiana.

By 1990 the world was changing and Dubai was doing so at an accelerated rate. The Soviet Union had collapsed and Russian tourists poured into Dubai loaded with caviar. They sold their fish eggs and returned to Russia with cheap electronics from Japan.   Dubai use to be a part of the Gulf Air consortium along with other small countries from the Persian Gulf basin. The quality of the airlines did not meet what the UAE was looking for and thus Emirates Air came to be and is one of the top air lines in the world.

By 2000 Dubai was all in and its’ centuries old commerce culture was apparent. Dubai was now becoming both a regional commercial hub and a world commercial center. The world’s tallest building is now in Dubai. It hosts international tennis and golf tournaments plus drawing world entertainment and boasts night golf courses and an indoor ski slope and world class auto-racing. When my son worked in Iraq, Dubai was the jump-off point to fly him to Baghdad. Halliburton, a world leader in oil field products and services and owner of Brown and Root/Pullman Kellogg a world class design and construction company, has headquarters in Dubai. Other multinational companies have also located offices there.

I have thought it would be nice to go back and visit but now think the memories are better. As for the multi -story International Hotel where we won fourteen Mid-East softball championships; I heard a couple of years ago, that it was being raised and the land would be used for some new ultra-modern complex. McDermott was forced to relocate many years ago.

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