The financial pyramid game that Dubai was, shows to have collapsed. When I started studying urban design ten years ago, I would never believe a city to be nothing more than an investment project. In the case of Dubai, city planning here has become speculation, not only as a private matter, but as a collective system. This shines a new light on urbanism in general and has a great impact on our understanding of cities these days. Although predictable, Dubai’s fall is a surprise at the moment and above all a complete discontinuity in the history of urbanism. For ages we haven’t witnessed the fall of a city. As far as my historical knowledge reaches, Carthage was one of the last famous cities to fall, or at least it was mentioned like that.
In 146 B.C., Carthage was completely destroyed by the Romans who rebuilt the city hundred years later, ten kilometers from what now is Tunis. It is not fair to call Carthage a fallen city though, because its fall was a consequence of warfare, as cities still suffer from huge demolition during armed conflicts. This also applies to Pompeii, a city that changed into a ruin after facing a tragedy of the most horrible form and scale. One cannot really speak about falling here. Mohenjo-daro in contrary, a city in what we call now Pakistan, did disappear because of a specific economical decline. Just like we see in Dubai now. A city fallen because its main ‘raison d’être’ had gone.
“For 900 years, Mohenjo-daro was the urban hub of a thriving civilization, the New York or London of its day. Around 1700 B.C., residents suddenly abandoned the Indus Valley city, and it was lost in the sands of time until archaeologists began excavating it in the 1920s. Today, visitors can wander for hundreds of acres among its deserted streets and homes. It’s believed that Mohenjo-daro had already fallen into economic decline when an invading army attacked, delivering the sudden fatal blow. Mohenjo-daro never rose again, and the Indus Valley civilization that it dominated soon disappeared too.” (Forbes)
Will Dubai soon join Sparta, Troy, Pompeii, Corinth, Delphi, Olympia Tikal and Memphis in the illustrious list of disappeared cities? Mohenjo-daro has become a ruin overblown with desert dust, to finally never raise again. Will this be a scenario for Dubai as well, considering the 95% of Dubai’s inhabitants who have no other reason to be there besides the fact of joining the ‘Dubai Dream’? They’re all foreigners in a business that doesn’t run anymore in this particular place. Will there be any good reason to stay in Dubai now the gold rush is over? This similarity with the gold rush during the American colonization recalls the picture of the classical ghost towns from the spaghetti westerns. I’m curious what Dubai’s fate will be. These are just some thoughts. It’s maybe a little early to speculate here, because the whole ritual dance of rescue plans and relaunch proposals hasn’t even started. Good luck there.