Dubai’s newest development, Burj Dubai, will contain the tallest building in the world – briefly. Its developer Emaar’s chief competitor, Nakheel, has an even taller one planned for the causeway to one of the vast artificial islands it is constructing in the shape of a palm tree in the Gulf.
At the moment though, the selling point that Emaar is pushing for Burj Dubai is the yet-to-be-constructed “Old Town”: Own a Little Piece of History, goes the slogan. The history in question is still a patch of sand just off the main Dubai – Abu Dhabi highway, containing nothing that functions beyond the developer’s dreams. The headline over the ad goes Live where the Old Town meets Downtown Dubai. It promises spacious parks, luxurious pools, and spectacular skylines; it name-checks London and New York.
There is a real Old Town in Dubai: Bastakiya, an area of attractive little courtyard houses with traditional wind towers next to the Creek, the city’s main waterway. Many of them have been converted into art galleries. There’s also a scarcely definable point where this district meets the rowdy tangle of the real downtown Dubai, but it’s about ten kilometres on the ground from Emaar’s construction site – and much further in spirit.