It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
In promotional materials, the World looks impressive: a scattering of computer-generated islands lush with palm trees and peppered with lavish hotels and villas. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were supposedly interested in buying Ethiopia, although a representative for the couple later denied the deal. An Irish investor (who committed suicide in February, after his company went broke) planned to build a theme resort on Ireland; never mind that the gulf's extreme heat would turn a pint of Guinness into a bubbling black stew. Only one island, reportedly belonging to Sheik Mohammed, ended up occupied, its palms shading a large mansion. The 299 others are barren smears of sand. From his lonely vantage point in the eye of the World, the sheik, a horse-racing enthusiast and multibillionaire, recently waved aside Dubai's financial crisis — economists say the emirate is $80 billion in the hole — as a "passing cloud."
The World is one of many architectural fantasies in Dubai that now appear to be shimmering mirages. The emirate boasts the 2,684-ft. Burj Dubai, the world's tallest skyscraper; a man-made island shaped like a giant palm; a ski slope in a shopping mall; and an 18-hole golf course (unfinished) in the middle of the desert that will slurp down a million gallons of water a day. But the dozens of giant cranes that once littered the skyline have migrated elsewhere. Dubai today has the feel of a futuristic, five-star ghost town blasted by sandstorms.
With a relieved wave, the boatman let me off at a souk filled with Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos and Yemenis — the immigrants who built Dubai and keep it ticking. But even there the mood was grim. The best-selling items were suitcases. At the rate of 5,000 a day, workers are heading home. Once, the world came to Dubai. Now all that's left of the World in Dubai is hundreds of empty islands.