people know better than others, that financial inequality
can more often be related to lack of information rather
than the money we hold. Information is a primary lever that
creates access to money.
Three trips to the Far East and Middle East this year, and
one thing resonates: the news doesnt really
tell us what is going on in the world east of Vatican City.
We had dinner at the Burj al Arab that boasts the tallest
atrium in the world, and from the 27th floor, we could see
the tallest building in the world, the Burj Dubai. The room
was full, the prices exorbitant, and the question was: who
are all these people here?
Clearly, they had to have lots of money. Or could they be
like us? We had lots of information, without the lots of
money, trying to figure out how to trade one for the other.
The day before, we drove out on the trunk of the historic
palm island, and walked on the beaches of the fronds. The
million dollar condos on the Palm are selling like hot bread,
and the real estate agents are minting! And somewhere nearby,
The Tiger Woods community is on fast track.
We went swimming in the Persian Gulf, with a thick crowd
of foreign workers who had gone to the public Jumeirah beach
for the Eid holiday. The workers served the construction
and the tourist industry.
They had left their homelands: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan,
Philippines and Thailand, to make a better life for themselves
there and through remittances to their families back home.
Another set of foreign workers had gone to the Marina --
the upscale beach; they would be the techies, the architect
and engineer types, who choose to swim in the shadow of
the Burj al Arab.
We crossed the Dubai Creek in an Abra, a water taxi, for
the price of one Dirham -- the equivalent of 28 cents US.
The crossing took about five minutes and we arrived at the
spice and gold souks.
We got there after the early afternoon prayer, and the shops
boasted mere plastic curtains, with the merchants absent.
The shopping alleys of the souk looked dark and lonely,
the shoppers all had European accents, and there was an
absolute sense of safety.
Stealing is well stymied by Islamic law -- the thief loses
his hand; if he is a foreigner he serves a jail sentence
and is then deported.
The merchants are patient and helpful. Perhaps they are
wise, perhaps they are not greedy. Their paradigms are different!
Back on the Abra, one more dirham, and we are back into
the world of elevators and escalators. We drive past the
old Dubai Tower, it is two stories high, and that once was
the tallest building!
Back along Jumeriah Beach road we see the condos of the
fishermen. They used to live on the coast in the shadow
of the Burj al Arab. Their humble homes were torn down and
they were provided, gratis, with upscale dwellings along
the beach, on prime property. They are a class of landowners
and they continue to be fishermen!
These fishermen now reside on the cutting edge of urban
development, and the billboard says it all: Buy me, I will
change your life forever.
Next week: Real estate markets