Has Dubai lost the plot? $30 Million on fireworks!

Posted on November 22nd, 2008 by Jim

Hi from surreal Dubai flower folk. Jim here still recovering from witnessing Nakheel’s iconic palm island development launch at The 1.5-billion-dollar “Atlantis, The Palm”. Shrugging off the global financial crisis, Dubai toasted a new luxury hotel with a 30 million dollar bash attended by film stars and sporting greats and marked by a spectacular fireworks display – talk about an alternative way to address the global recession:

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More than 2,000 world celebrities were invited to the event, which began Thursday night and continued into Friday. Among those who showed up for what the local press described as the “party of the decade” were Hollywood stars Robert de Niro, Charlize Theron, Mischa Barton and Wesley Snipes.

Other notables who walked the red carpet at the  included singers Kylie Minogue, who performed before the fireworks display, Shirley Bassey & Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra and catwalk model Yasmin Le Bon.

Located at the trunk-top of the Palm Jumeirah, one of three palm-shaped islands, Atlantis occupies the entire central part of a huge breakwater and is opulence beyond anything I’ve ever seen.

Is it harsh to view Dubai as having………….

The environmental irresponsibility of Las Vegas, with the megalomaniacal social control of Disneyworld, and the government-sanctioned slave labour of India, all rolled up into a giant mess and inflated with oil money to the point of being visible from the moon.

Or am I having a bad day? How else could I sum this place up? I choose to live here and am determined to make a difference here, despite the bling and inequality around me……

….as I learn about the Atlantis hotel, built by 2,500 Indian labourers and boasting the largest waterpark in the Middle East and a gigantic aquarium in which 65,000 fish, along with an enormous whale shark, swim in 11 million litres of water.

I wonder how many of the labourers were at the launch party?

Dubai has pulled it off in becoming a regional business and tourism hub, begins to feel the heat of the global financial meltdown with oil around the $50 per barrel mark. The wealthy government of the United Arab Emirates has earmarked a 32.6 billion dollar credit facility to shore up confidence in its banking sector but has failed to encourage banks to continue financing the real estate sector, a major engine of Dubai’s rapid economic growth over the past few years.

Palm Island

The government-controlled Nakheel have just announced that it is scaling down its activities (15% of staff will GO!) , although the two other iconic palm-shaped islands are far from being complete. In a sign of serious concern, Dubai set up Wednesday a high-profile committee to assess the impact of the crisis on the emirate’s economy.

“We cannot be in a state of denial about the challenges,” said Nasser al-Shaikh, general director of Dubai’s Department of Finance announcing the forming of the committee.

Kerzner’s company also recently laid off 800 of its employees at Paradise Island Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas because of a sharp drop in the number of American visitors.

Those financial concerns were however put aside on Thursday night for the memorable party in this Muslim, yet very open, emirate, where local dignitaries in traditional white tunics, and women in black cover-all abayas mingled with women in fashionable revealing dresses, while alcohol flowed like water.

Fireworks which were said by organisers to be seven times larger than this year’s Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing, lit up the sky along the sea front of Dubai, erupting from every branch of the palm island.

This firework display appears to have reached every corner of the globe with a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED as all that money went up in smoke. I ask you did you see or read about the event where you are AND what else could that money have been spent on?

Do tell and re assure me that this place has indeed lost the plot! How can Dubai justify such an over-the-top display of wealth and extravagance in the midst of a global economic crisis? Now move away from the area and ensure your pets are indoors as this post could get messy!

41 Responses to “Has Dubai lost the plot? $30 Million on fireworks!”

  1. Arvind says:

    Thanks Jim for this insider’s viewpoint about the Fireworks extravaganza. I read about it in one of the tabloids and seems like quite a party.

    As you say, I wonder if any of the Indian labourers were invited to the party?!

    It seems to me to be a case of if you have it, then flaunt it!

    Thankfully it seems sanity will eventually prevail but money talks at the end of the day – for now anyway.

    I am convinced that sooner or later, common sense and also a sense of equality will win through. Let us hope this is sooner rather than later.

    It is after all about being personally socially responsible.

    Jim – you are in a great position to do something about it at grass-roots level :-)

  2. A/C says:

    GDay Mate…

    Yes Dubai has lost the PLOT, you are not suffering some dellusion it is a mad place.
    I heard about a huge party but only because Kylie was being paid 4.4 million Dollars US to perform….
    Didnt know it was the palm island opening….
    That thing is amazing but reminds me of I think it is the Japanese airport build on water which is sinking, not to mention the Sydney Opera House which also falls a few cM each year… hmmmm….

    Eventually all the decadance, wealth, greed and lust for oil power and cash will catch up with a society whom relies so heavily on them at the expense of those who really know how to make the things work…
    The next generation who grow up with everything need catered for, never going without, spoilt beyond repair and generally living a life such as these do will sooner or later fall flat on their faces….
    When the oil runs out what then, when the cash runs out where to…

    The society is a strange one, run by Clerics and Politicians, it works for now but when push comes to shove who is really going to left holding the reins… the next few years will be interesting, as either mindsets change as does the direction, or the country itselves shifts a gear, bringing about equality to immigrant workers or not using them… after all if something breaks down who will fix it if the workers arent there anymore…

  3. lvs says:

    Most of the labourers from India are illiterate and are lured on the pretext of a good life. The good life turns out to be a mirage. Their passports get stored with the employer for 2-3 years and they are made to struggle to get it back.

  4. RYK says:

    but you all do realise that SPENDING is the best thing for a recession, and it tends to be extremely secular in nature, drugs, ferraris, pizza, fireworks, etc, no matter what the spend on, it creates positive movement. GO! Spend.

    • A/C says:

      Our PM has been sying this months..
      He has given to pensioners etc.. over 10 billion dollars in the lead up to Christmas, as well as spending on infrastructure projects, tax breaks etc….

      I owe I owe so time shop I go… ;)

      • Arvind says:

        Yes, AC, but how is all this government lending being funded?!

        By the likes of me and you and the generations to come who will be repaying….

        • RYK says:

          Ac, pick up a few things for me while you’re at it ;)

        • A/C says:

          No worries RYK give us your shopping list… :)

          Ours is currently coming out of our budget surplus, which is mostly from the mining boom….

          thankfully they held on to..
          The Reserve Bank is cutting our interest rates again, and the Government is looking at Tax cuts in next years budget,

          Time will tell…. We are being told to go shopping, but most folks are saving up any extra for the rainy day, although it many think the storm is fast approaching

    • Jim says:

      That’s one way of turning it on it’d head RYK!

  5. ettarose says:

    Why should this be any different than spending millions on one camel as they do in Saudi? Movie stars and sports greats for the most part have blinders on to the real world that the majority of us live in daily. Granted there are some who look out for the poorest in the world, but this extravagance is shameless. Why could the money not have been spent on the poor for education and new jobs?

    • Arvind says:

      Each to their own – as I said in my earlier comment, it seems that if you have it, you flaunt it.

      There are many wealthy people around the world doing a lot of good – in fact I do believe that the problems of the world will be solved by the rich and not the poor.

      Let the rich have their extravagance – as long as some of them back it up with projects and ideas to help the rest – and I am sure they will.

  6. Lil'thoughts says:

    Throw a party yea! but to over spend and show nothing for it is not wise in any business measure. The time will come and those that have, will not have. I would spend the money on feeding the world, bring fresh drinking water to the world, and medicine. I think they would have been noted for doing some kind of humanitarian act the same as having this party. Maybe even more so, what a shock it would have been that the World’s Richest spend that much money on helping others. :) Do you mind if I use your post and make it mine for my blog? I would like to show video and pose the question to family and friends. I would be glad to link your post as well. Thanks :)

  7. Lib says:

    Well I think as long as you recognise that Dubai has lost the plot your alright aren’t you?

    I’m completely with RYK on this one, spend, spend, spend.

    I don’t think its in bad taste at all, say for example you and your neighbour were good pals, of equal wealth. If he lost his job would it stop you from going on holiday?

    Let them spend their money whilst they’ve got it, there’s too much misery in the UK at the mo so hopefully some of that party spirit will filter over.

    I’ve also noticed a recession band wagon, a lot of companies in the UK are making redundancies as a ‘cost saving’ exercise when they’re not actually in trouble.

    Highly annoying.

  8. Svasti says:

    Yep, I read about it and I have to say Jim, I cringed every bit as much as you did.

    It seems to me to be the epitome of lack of compassion and awareness to waste so much money on a party. And fireworks too…

    I mean, spend half the total amount they spent on the party and – give the other half to some worthy cause. Granted, that cause might be outside Dubai, but surely there are better ways to spend so much money?

    One day, the earth is going to stop giving with all that oil. And then what will Saudi Arabia and other oil countries do? Perhaps I’m just ignorant – perhaps there’s a whole raft of social development also achieved with the kazillions currently being generated, but its not something I’ve heard much about if so…

    • Jim says:

      It’s not just me then Svasti…..problem is when oil goes gas will prop us up for 150 years and by then nuclear will be at the fore (evil laugh)

  9. Rain says:

    Capitalism at it’s exteme obscene! Sadly, Marx will probably have the last laugh.

  10. I didn’t hear or see a word about it, but me head has been in the sand. However, not so much as not to watch the news or read the news on the Internet.

  11. Gareth in Thailand says:

    Wasn’t it just advertising?
    If you throw a 30,000,000 US$ party then its on every news station and in every newspaper in every country.
    I’m not sure you could buy that much advertising for the same fee, plus most people watch the news whilst during the adverts we tend to put the kettle on, go to the toilet, etc…..
    Looks a pretty shrewd use of funds if you view it that way.

    • Jim says:

      They do reckon that Dubai will recoup the money through the wealthy following suit at targeting the Atlantis Palm accordingly.

      The Cruises are rumoured to be staying there for New Year…..ROI will be within 2 years.

      Same with the Tiger Woods golf course – a world first due to open here in 12 months – Dubai threw $40 million at winning the order over China – the reason? Endorsements and golf tourists alone, post recession will put Dubai on the global golf map.

      • Gareth in Thailand says:

        ROI within 2 years for a development like this is superb, clearly they have not lost the plot.

        We can look at this sort of thing and have the first thought that its a waste but when you compare how much India and China spend on space when some of their population are stony broke poor then something like this really doesn’t register.

        Sure its a lot of money but ROI in 2 years, you’re sure of this?

        • Jim says:

          Easily within 2 years – in terms of Hotel occupancy and events held – not ROI on the whole of Palm Island which is 8-10 years. Take media coverage alone from the event, the A listers that will now stay at the Atlantis and that Dubai is on the map for wealthy oligarchs, Indian techs and the globes elite – that’s the target market as ego out does ego -even during recession…..

  12. Jim says:


  13. O'DB says:

    Dubai’s certainly up there in the stakes of the weird & wonderful. Never known a place like it with poverty rubbing shoulders with stupendous riches, religion & austerity mixing it with seemingly endless bacchanalia – wherever you turn it seems to be a city of contradictions, all possible through oil money.

    There’s always going to be causes more deserving, so many schools, so many hospitals, etc. that could’ve been financed but as pointed out above by GiT, the global PR that such an event amassed will undoubtedly pay for itself, all part of the highly orchestrated move from oil to tourist money. In the long run if Dubai pull this financial change of direction off, they may be very well placed amongst the Emirates & have a sustainable financial model for the forseeable future. Whether, this model will work & eventually trickle down to all elements of society, & not just the usual suspects controlling purse strings, is to be seen but is a bold direction to take in face of dwindling possible revenues from their existing natural resources.

  14. Lyndsay says:

    Hello, I was supposed to be working In Atlantis last July but I changed my mind, nothing negative about Atlantis. In fact, I would love to work there if given another chance because they offer great benefits and salary in Atlantis. Another thing is, I think rich people are not as worried as average waged citizen in any country because they have all the money to spend to whatever they want. They could always cut costs for their own benefits as well as their business to get expensive services like the Atlantis is offering. It’s hypocritical, but it is reality.

    Sorry, I did a litany there…:D


  15. Ange says:

    Those fireworks were spectacular!! Dubai will always do what Dubai does best and that is to spend lots of money. They sure do flaunt it!

  16. Those fireworks were spectacular!! And there’s no doubt about Dubai flaunting it but with crude oil prices touching $48 a barrel and the entire world including UAE reeling under a tough economic condition wasn’t waste of precious money.

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