The world became introduced with Dubai only a few years ago. The city that launched a thousand magazine features was introduced to Westerners as many things: Rich, strange, tacky, threatening and captivated the world with unimaginable skyscrapers, indoor ski slopes, and a different population. With 96 % of its population foreign born, 37% of New Yorkers are immigrants. Dubai is a city where everyone and everything in it, it’s full of luxuriousness, labourers, amazing architects, accents, even its aspirations. The truly new thing about Dubai is the “flown in” part. Dubai was touted as a new phenomenon. The rise of these global crossroads cities was once checked by the speed of ocean liners and locomotives; today their extension is powered by intercontinental jets that can move a passenger from any major city in the world to any other in one day. So while the city of Dubai is new, the idea of Dubai is not. It’s just that in the period of jet-powered globalization, the concept can achieve liftoff as never before
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Through a strategy designed to attract multinational companies, Sheikh Mohammed successfully turned Dubai into the global business centre of the Middle East. In the early 1980s, Mohammed had declared Jebel Ali port Dubai’s 1st free zone. Free zones in many countries were only areas where companies were free from taxation. But in Dubai, there were no income taxes or corporate to begin with; the government was funded mostly with the profits of state-owned enterprises. Jebel Ali Free Zone was more like a Special Economic Zone in Deng Xiaoping’s China, where classify laws applied within the SEZ than beyond the doors. But in the new free zone, business could be done much as it was done in the West, according to a particularly crafted civil legal code geared specifically toward port businesses. Jebel Ali increased under the new management, becoming one of the busiest ports on the planet
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With the success of Jebel Ali, Sheikh Mohammed began creating other free zones out of the desert; each designed to woo an industry he felt would profit Dubai. But shaping Dubai up into free zones was more than just a financial development strategy. Being a single city governed under many legal regimes would come to represent Dubai. Dubai had come up with a new answer. In Dubai, the same people would be governed by separate legal codes depending on where they were within the city. In Shanghai, extra-territoriality meant that no matter where you were in the treaty port, you were, in a legal way, always back home; in Dubai, the free zones made moving from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, and country to country.
The Dubai International Financial Centre free zone, opened in 2002, is physically set on a block of desert off of Sheikh Zayed Road, this building covered around a central 12-story arch, soon filled up with the global banking like Citibank, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Credit Suisse; Which directed the Dubai government to build a financial district governed by Western-style business regulations.