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City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism Paperback – November 23, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The modern city-state of Dubai exists largely because two men willed it so. Through a combination of prescient investment of resources, grandiose vision and the freedoms of absolute rule, the late Sheikh Rashid and his son (and current ruler) Sheikh Mohammed transformed the backwater village into a global powerhouse erupting onto the earth. Mohammed's ideas are so stamped on the landscape that two of his poems are being written on the sea as a group of [artificial] islands. Dubai-based journalist Krane does a superb job of conveying the near-manic atmosphere swirling around the creation of the world's tallest building (half a mile high), first indoor ski slope (in a mall) and—incidentally—the world's largest carbon footprint, revealing the creativity and tolerance that characterize a city where 95% of its residents are foreigners, as well as the inevitable costs of such lavish ambition. Environmental needs have been ignored (another island was built atop a coral reserve, and migrant laborers and sex workers face routine abuse and exploitation. A fascinating study of a small nation that has taken the ideas of modernization and capitalism to their outer limits. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Far and away the best book on modern Dubai, packed with fascinating insights and offering a sympathetic but balanced account of the city's huge successes—and occasional failures. Krane systematically tackles pretty much every important aspect of Dubai's past and present, with absorbing accounts of the city's history and the personalities and achievements of its charismatic rulers through to vexed contemporary issues such as human-rights abuses and environmental concerns, condensing a vast amount of detail into a compellingly readable roller coaster of a narrative." —The Rough Guide to Dubai

"Offers a vivid guide to how a Bedouin tribe turned a mud village on a scrap of desert into a glittering city state." —Bloomberg News
"This landmark work is recommended to those interested in the history, politics, and economics of the Middle East; an excellent choice for anyone who wishes to learn more about Dubai." —Library Journal
"A fascinating study of a small nation that has taken the ideas of modernization and capitalism to their outer limits." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Examines this small emirate with admirable evenhandedness and good humor . . . Krane also writes movingly of the conditions of the Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi workers who have built Dubai." —Financial Times (UK)

"The author hits his stride when he assesses Dubai’s current ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He proceeds to examine this small emirate with admirable even-handedness and good humor. But Krane also writes movingly of the conditions of the Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi workers who have built Dubai." —The Atlantic

“The history of a little Emirate’s epic transformation, from an impoverished pearling enclave to the shining city on the hill, is revealed in full detail. Jim Krane is a great reporter, whose journalistic credentials are brought to bear in this unique work that is infused with facts, ample history, emotion, and stunning narratives.  He leads his audience into the nooks and crannies of the 'unknown'  Dubai, to reveal the humanity and intrigue that pulsates beneath the surface. He shows how powerful persons with a global reach collaborated to build an economic gem out of the desert. This is a fast-moving Arabian tale, but very much a modern one; not only laden with facts, it is a guidebook and cautionary tale for other developing nations in their quest to rapidly achieve the Western dream.”—Justin Dargin, Harvard University, author of Desert Dreams and The Dolphin Project: The Development of a Gulf Gas Initiative


"Dubai is fortunate to have as skilled and passionate a chronicler as Jim Krane. The city leaps off these pages with panache, brassiness, splendor, and suffering. There is no better book about Dubai, and there may never be." —Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at CSIS, author of The Vital Triangle: China, the United States, and the Middle East


 “How did one of the planet’s last unexplored wastelands, for millennia ignored by history, become in just a few short decades the playground of the unimaginably rich? In City of Gold, Jim Krane traces the fascinating and long overlooked history of Dubai, from pirate battles and eccentric British explorers to the glittering spires of a metropolis that emerged from nowhere, in prose as spare and enchanting as a desert fairy tale.” —James Hider, Middle East correspondent for The Times (London), author of The Spiders of Allah: Travels of an Unbeliever on the Frontline of Holy War


“A marvelous book. Beautifully written! Jim Krane has written a fascinating account of a Middle East we rarely get to hear about.  Jim Krane’s book on Dubai’s rise and fall—in this era of global financial crisis—is a cautionary tale for us all.” —Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR's Middle East correspondent


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (November 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312655436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312655433
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jim Krane, Ph.D., is the Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy Studies at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. His research addresses the geopolitical aspects of energy, with a focus on the Middle East, including Dubai. His scholarly articles focus on many of the issues covered in "City of Gold," such as energy consumption, investment and technology in oil-exporting states.

Jim was also a longtime reporter in the Persian Gulf region who wrote "City of Gold," also published under the title "Dubai: The Story of the World's Fastest City." The book received warm reviews from the Financial Times, Bloomberg News, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and the New York Review of Books, among others.

The book benefits from his unique insider-outsider perspective. Insider, because Jim got a rare look at the inner workings of government as a consultant in the office of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed; Outsider because his is the first popular work with the scope and courage to examine every angle of Dubai's development - from the swish offices of the city's top policymakers to the grimy labor camps housing the underpaid men who built the city.

Jim has been a journalist for nearly 18 years. He reported from the Middle East and beyond as the Associated Press's Dubai-based Gulf correspondent from 2005-2007. Prior to that he was AP's Baghdad correspondent, covering the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion and the rise of the Iraqi insurgency in 2003 and 2004. He also reported frequently from Afghanistan during those years. Previously Jim was an AP business writer in New York, focusing on technology news.

Besides writing his book, Jim also pens freelance articles for the Financial Times and contributes to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Jim also reported for U.S. newspapers including The Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey); The News-Tribune (New Jersey); The Laredo Morning Times (Texas);, a now defunct news service; and Newhouse Newspapers' online operations. He is the winner of several journalism awards, including the 2003 AP Managing Editors Deadline Reporting Award, for coverage of Saddam Hussein's capture in Iraq.

Why a book on Dubai?

Jim arrived in Dubai in January 2005, where he found a city erupting onto the earth. Thousands of new residents streamed in each day. The entire city was a construction site, with more than 10 percent of the world's building cranes at work. Neighborhoods spread across the desert like kudzu. In the course of its six-year boom, Dubai swelled from a modest city the size of Milwaukee to a bloated megalopolis the size of Houston - doubling in population and quadrupling in area. Most incredibly, this wild growth was taking place within a short distance of the carnage in Iraq, and was receiving little notice in the United States.

Dubai, it turned out, was the antithesis of Baghdad. As fast as Iraq was being destroyed - bombed, dismantled and otherwise collapsing - Dubai was accomplishing the opposite, casting off the vestiges of primitivity and rising into magnificence.

There are few, if any, places on earth where the span of modernization is so compressed, where extreme capitalist excess is just a generation removed from Third World poverty. Here, men born in palm shacks became billionaires. Shrewd professors, holders of PhDs from American universities, had been raised by illiterate parents.

The fact that such a success story has risen in the Arab world is of great importance, both inside the region and out. With little notice, Dubai's undemocratic capitalism has become the development model for the rest of the Middle East. Like it or not, the Dubai effect has already touched your life.

But all is not well with this brash city-state. Dubai accomplished its feats on the backs of a vast labor force of mistreated men who have never received their due. The city's success has destroyed far more lives than was necessary. And its wild growth upset the demographic balance, leaving the city 95 percent foreign and nearly 80 percent male. Dubai's pampered natives are such a tiny minority that retaining their sovereignty has become a major worry. Meanwhile, prostitution has become a necessity, spawning the tragic industry of human trafficking.

And, in the years since the onset of global recession, Dubai has emerged as the poster child of the previous era's gluttonous excess. Dubai's once soaring real estate values have collapsed further than anywhere on earth, and unemployed expatriates have fled for the exits. Krane's book examines the viability of Dubai's economic model, going forward.

In short, Dubai is a fascinating topic.

Subsequent research grants include awards from the Qatar National Research Fund, the Dubai School of Government and Cambridge University.

Krane was based for more than a year in Iraq, where he covered the aftermath of the U.S. invasion and ensuing insurgency for AP. Previously, Krane was an AP Business writer in New York, responsible for technology news. He is the winner of several journalism awards, including the 2003 AP Managing Editors Deadline Reporting Award, received for his coverage of Saddam Hussein's capture in Iraq. Krane is a member of Cambridge University's Energy Policy Research Group, where his Ph.D. studies took place. He holds an M.Phil. in technology policy from Cambridge University's Judge Business School and a master's in international affairs from Columbia University.

Customer Reviews

The detail gives life to this book.
Robert David STEELE Vivas
This was a book I could not wait to finish simply to pass it to the loved ones around me!
I read 2-3 books a month and this is the first review I've ever written.
My Pseudonym

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Nix on October 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Krane is a longtime Middle East correspondent for the AP who was also able to see the inner workings of Dubai's governmental and commercial operations--a feat no other Westerner has pulled off.

Far from an academic book written from a distance, Krane's book is full of the kind of detail and characters that make a book and its message come alive. It also manages to break news on Dubai's relations with the U.S., Iran and Israel. In particular, it shows how the CIA has been recruiting spies from the ranks of Iranians showing up in Dubai at the U.S. embassy looking to escape life in Iran.

Contrary to the review above, Krane pulls no punches and is tough on Dubia's leaders regarding issues like slavery and human trafficking, labor abuse, their environmental depredations, and the lush subsidized lifestyle that is contributing to the city's problems--particularly the shortages of water and power. He also criticize the leadership for completely missing opportunities to mute the effects of the financial crisis, and their sinking real estate market.

The book is considered so negative, in fact, that it's not selling in Dubai or the UAE--stores there are refusing to carry it.

Krane's work also challenges Americans, in particular progressives, to reconsider how the Dubai Ports World debacle reflects poorly on America for its anti-Arab hysteria, rather than the more conventional view that it was too dangerous to allow Dubai to oversee management of a number of our ports. He lays blame squarely on Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer. That's some very unconventional thinking, and nothing like what you would see in an AP report.

Read this book. You will learn a great deal. If interested, you can also read my review of the book on HuffingtonPost: [...]
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The author and I reconnected on LinkedIn and he had the publisher send me a copy of this book. I would not normally have bought it for myself, thinking it a "tourism" or "travel" kind of book, and I would have been very very wrong. The sub-title, "and the Dream of Capitalism," might better read "Case Study in Emirate Capitalism at Its Best."

This book starts very early in the history of Dubai, back when it was such a hole that no one even knew it was there or wanted to go anywhere within thousands of miles of it. The early part of the book persuaded me that the author has done some deep, serious, utterly professional and thorough homework, and the books reads easily, with gifted turns of phrase that educate and often inspire.

Putting the book down just now (and recommending the paperback that comes with a second epilogue for 2010) I reminded myself to recommend this book as a case study for both business and public administration graduate courses, as well as recommended reading for undergraduates. I certainly believe the author himself should be invited--and very well paid--to interact with the most serious and gifted of business and public administration adult students, both on and off the record. This book is a GOLD MINE of insights into what worked in an environment where, as the author describes so beautifully, the leadership knew that lawyers are generally worthless and bureaucracies are pathetic things to be dismissed. For that section alone this book goes into the Beyond 5 Stars (6 Stars and Above) and will be so rated at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.

This book will be cataloged there in Capitalism, not just regional or country, in Leadership, and in a number of other categories as well.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By S. Slayton on February 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
There is no shortage of journalism about Dubai, nor is there a lack of desire to know more about the emirate. The demand for information on Dubai--from those outside the emirate as well as those who call it their "residence"--is, especially these days, almost unlimited. However, most pieces tend to stumble into one or a couple of pitfalls: they are usually surface level analyses, picking and choosing from a series of stereotypes in order to support some already-articulated generalization; and they are usually far from impartial--either writers want to tell the tale of Dubai's success, or theorize about and/or encourage its potential downfall. It is rare to find a piece about Dubai that is not along one of these extremes. In addition, perhaps most frustrating for interested readers, despite Dubai's being a relatively young city, authors often any avoid any discussion of its history--any mention of a larger perspective on Dubai's origins, its lifeline, its intended future. Instead, most articles try to position Dubai as the main character in a story about the current era--the financial excess, the daring innovations, etc.--rather than telling the tale of Dubai itself. In City of Gold, Mr. Krane not only avoids all of the mentioned tendencies, but his writing seems to be in direct response to these failings.

For one, City of Gold is by no means a stale history of Dubai's development; rather, it is a vibrant telling of the emirates beginnings with the aim of putting into context the current Dubai. Mr Krane has the ability to parcel out the relevant from irrelevant and to assemble the pieces of the puzzle in a way that, even for those who know a bit already, is new and interesting. In building a coherent history, Mr.
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