Monday, April 06, 2009

Dubai - first impressions

Dubai - the city where I'm going to spend the next 5 months. New York and Dubai are totally different in so many ways. While New York started its journey somewhere in the 1600s, Dubai as we know today is onyl a few decades growth. Both cities have one of the largest number of skyscrapers. But while New York has packed so many of them on the Manhattan island, Dubai has allowed them them to spread across.

Dubai seems to have had a unique growth model. Unlike many other world cities, which grew as the population moved in, Dubai was specifically planned and built, so that the population would one day move in.

Everything here is so big and built on a very grand scale. They've tried to create the world's largest, tallest, biggest ... in everything. While Old Dubai area called Deira has its share of narrow streets and old buildings, they've just built an entirely new downtown area called 'Burj Dubai' consisting of huge 16 lane roads and super tall buildings.

The Sheik Zayed road is the spine of Burj dubai. This is a 16 lane road stretching for miles inside Dubai. In fact it also connects to Abu dabhi and other emirates. On both sides of the road are one of the most dazzling array of super tall buildings. Virtually, every major company has set up shop here. There is a huge indoor skiing place that has ski sloped of the expert levels. The Burj Dubai building is currently the world's tallest building. It has not been completed, but has already reached 818 m. A building stretching almost a kilometer into the sky!!!

Then there are palm Jumeira islands. These are entirely artificial islands built by dredging the sea shore. The islands are shaped like a palm leaf. The leaf like structures are called fronds and each contain luxury villas that have sold for millions of Dirhams. Even the smallest apartments cost over a million. At the head of the structures is the ultra-luxury hotels - Atlantis, that supposedly has rooms under the sea. So, if you look out the windows of one of those, you'll see under the ocean.

Apart from the downtown district, Dubai has allocated chunks of desert for different industries as free zones. The usual laws of doing business in UAE does not hold good in these zones. There is an academic city(where my college is), international city (place of my stay), silicon oasis for electronic research, aviation city, sports city etc.

Construction has been going on in every single part. At any point, you can dozens of cranes over buildings. But it is so glaringly evident that things have gone terribly wrong in the city. The rulers have taken too huge a step and as a result, have been so badly hit by recession. Foreign investment has totally dried up. One can see huge buildings in the downtown district sporting the "for rent" signs. The roads are seeing less traffic as so many expatriates have returned. Most of the projects including the Dubai metro have been delayed or stopped.

Dubai is a millionaire's paradise. It grew so fast and hence when the fall came, is hurt so badly. Hopefully, things get better and the city starts growing again.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

First Days in Dubai

After a 2.5 year stint in the U.S., it is now time for a stint in Dubai. For good or bad, I've taken a decision to break out of my comfort zone, resign my job and pursue a MBA degree. I landed in Dubai on 01-Apr-09 and will be spending the next 4.5 months here.

We went around Dubai yesterday (03-Apr-09). Compared to Indian cities and the Us, Dubai is very different. The pattern of growth has been unlike any other city in the world. I'll write a whole different post on Dubai :)

Today, we had a full day of inauguration activities. We were asked to wear suits for the occasion. So, I had to wear a tie for the first time. It is one of the most uncomfortable things to wear :) but I felt I do look good in a suite. :):):)

The day was filled with speeches. Our president and dean gave long speeches on the value of MBA program and their expectations from us. There was a 2 hour session where each of us had to come up to the stage and introduce ourselves. I think I did good, though I forgot to say a couple of things that I had planned.

There were a few other sessions dedicated to scare people - sessions on grading system, warning against plagiarism of assignments (this was a long one), effects of absenteeism ... Suddenly I felt as though I'm in school again. College does make you feel young :)

There is one common thing that everyone is saying - the course will be tough, tough, tough. 4 hours of sleep is supposed to be a luxury. Sometimes I do ask myself - "What have I gotten myself into?". But then, hard work need not be painful. I just hope that I can turn this into a transformational experience and have an open mind.