The Hub of Everything

September 01, 2008
Fares from Washington DC:

    Unless you've been wandering the desert for the past few years, you have no doubt heard one thing or another about Dubai. The rulers of this stamp-sized sandbox not much bigger than Rhode Island have certainly made no secret of their quest for world domination, or at least worldwide recognition, and aim to fix this insignificant pinpoint on the Arabian Peninsula firmly on the map of human consciousness by any means available.

    Unlike their rich neighbors, flush with oil and petrodollars, Dubai has precious few natural resources to fuel their outsize global ambitions, so they have to rely on time-honored tools and tricks of the tourist trade as ancient as the Pyramids: grand architecture and awe-inspiring engineering, sheer ingenuity and lots of slave labor (OK, cheap imported labor) plus an almost unseemly dose of very modern marketing moxie.

    In the mold and spirit of boomtowns like Las Vegas and Orlando, also created out of less than nothing, or less frivolously, the great trading ports of Singapore and Hong Kong, they are banking on the age-old premise that if they build it bigger, taller, longer, shinier and, perhaps, better, we--that is, you and everyone you know along with the rest of besotted mankind--will come, and bring plenty of cargo and hard currency.

    A promise of eternal sunshine, unfettered fun and shameless conspicuous consumption is expertly designed to get us to buy into all the hype, hubris and huckster hocus-pocus of the place long enough to spend some serious money before we just might realize that, in the end, there really is no there, there. Of course, that's all a matter of personal taste and maybe culture and history and beautiful scenery really is overrated, especially when the golfing is this good.

    Certainly, getting you and your shiny suite of Samsonite there is easier than ever. In the past year two daily nonstop routes have opened, with Delta flying out of Atlanta and Emirates serving Houston in addition to their existing New York route, now serviced twice daily, on some days by the Airbus A380 mumbo jumbo jet. Big whoop, but wait, there's more...

    Over the next four months, no fewer than three new nonstop routes will be launched when United takes to the air from Washington and Emirates adds Los Angeles and San Francisco to their network, inaugurating two of the longest nonstop routes in scheduled service, although Singapore Airlines still holds the record with their New York to Singapore by-way-of-the-moon flights.

    It's worth noting that so far only United is celebrating the launch of new service with an official sale, offering fares that are, in many cases, not the best around. And despite all this talk of nonstop flying, you can get there for considerably less if you don't mind changing planes, and possibly socks, on the way. One of the best deals we've found is just $900 from Chicago, perhaps as a consolation for being the only major international airport not blessed with a nonstop route to Neon Nirvana.

    Finally, it should come as no surprise to anyone that in order to accommodate the massing hordes and all their luggage, Dubai is building the world's biggest cattle ranch airport with a handling capacity--and a duty-free shopping mall--expected to be twice that of any airport currently operating anywhere in the Solar System. This will serve not merely as the Gateway to Arabia but as the future crossroads for all things going East, West, North, and South. And if it doesn't quite pan out as planned, they can always lay claim to the biggest elephant in the world--a really, really big white one--and turn it into a space and aviation theme park.