|(Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Anyway, back to the point. Ashish was complaining about the traffic on floating bridge on Twitter this morning and used a memorable phrase as we chatted about the situation: 'Dubai is bouncing back'. It's not really news as such, the signs are there for all to see. But in black and white, the text sort of hit me.
On the one hand, bouncing back is no bad thing. There's little doubt the UAE has been the best place in the world to be over the past few years - sure, it's been quieter around here, but there has still been opportunity and trade goes on. Modern Dubai was founded on trade and once we'd got rid of the estate agents, it was trade that saw the city through. You forget these things, but compiling blog posts for Fake Plastic Souks The Glory Years took me right back there to 2008 and the overheated Dubai that preceded the GFC.
You couldn't get a school for your kids. You couldn't move in the city, the roads were a constant jam of snarling, honking traffic. The sewage plants were so over-capacity they were digging holes in the desert to store the stuff and tanker drivers were pumping it into storm drains so the sea off Jumeirah was fouled with human sewage and people were getting sick. The power network was straining. You couldn't get into a hospital and the machine that goes ping had a waiting list. Rents were sky-high, Gulf News weighed 1.4Kg - most of which was adverts charging us to dare to dream and live to love - and the city was filled with pop-eyed yahoos getting drunk and boasting how much money they had. Anything that didn't move had a billboard tacked on it. Hotels made up insane lists of demands before taking a booking - including minimum stays and cash up front for event facilities - if you could get one beyond six months in advance. Taxis wouldn't stop for you or wouldn't take the fare if it didn't suit them. If you could find one. There was a constant miasma over the city, a yellow, sulphurous dust cloud you could see as you approached from inland, a great smudge across the horizon. This had become a really unpleasant place to live.
Now there's no doubt that Dubai's in better shape today, having continued to invest in infrastructure during the lean years. The Al Khail Road's been quietly finished, the new road network around Trade Centre Roundabout's well on the way, Defence Roundabout is an interchange, the metro's up and running and so on. Presumably (hopefully) similar investments in other key infrastructure have been taking place, allowing the city to expand once again but do so in a more prepared and planned way - a more sustainable, manageable growth. Because we've learned the lessons from the boom and bust - particularly from the bust - haven't we? If so, then all well and good. We can Bounce Back all we like.
But if we're talking a return to the excess and insanity of 2008, I fear. I fear for this little city I have come to call home - although it's not home and doesn't mind reminding me of the fact now and then. And the reappearance of daft real estate ads, the talk of 22% price rises and jams on Floating Bridge make me very skittish indeed.
Of course, Gulf News will never be 1.4Kg again. The Internet's seeing to that. So there's no point in using its weight to chart the economy's rise as was possible to chart its fall...