At a 2007 Harvard workshop focusing on sustainable architecture in the Persian Gulf, the assembled academics and practitioners quizzed a public relations official from a large Abu Dhabi real estate developer. The workshop participants, among them experts in the field of sustainable development, were curious to know how the developer could claim its projects—large enclaves of high-end retail, entertainment and tourism—were “sustainable.”
Surprisingly, what first strikes one upon landing in Dubai is not the skyscrapers going up at a dizzying pace. It is the sheer bustle of humanity.
To live the East as film is to be in Dubai in mid-December, perched front-row in the outdoor cafés that dot the Madinat Jumeira Oriental theme park. An integrated hotel, shopping and entertainment “experience” sprawled on the city’s booming beachfront rim, the Madina and its whimsy of stucco battlements mass an Arabian fort effect plucked straight from an Indiana Jones set, and as such, the red carpets and film banners that have also come to adorn it in wintertime key a double sense of enframement. From December 11-17, 2005, the Madina hosted the second annual installment of the Dubai International Film Festival, a production whose rumored budget of $10 million has quickly distinguished it as the richest Middle Eastern event of its kind.