Now clawing its way back following its recent real estate collapse, Dubai and its over-the-top development approach has been great for architects seeking to flex their muscles on one skyscraper after another. Unfortunately, the environment has taken a beating, from disrupted coastlines to an enormous per capita carbon footprint. International residents greatly outnumber native-born Emiratis, but this cosmopolitan population suits the place’s history as a trading center.
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:
"A grand city of grand gestures. Dubai is exciting and very modern in a theme park kind of way, but its natural environment is virtually invisible. Tourists find few opportunities for interaction with local residents. Other problems relate to water supply and quality, the use of immigrant labor, and a lack of cultural content in the resort product."
"Has a charming old quarter, a beautiful coast, and a rich history. Unfortunately, the developments that give the city its unique character (palm islands, world islands, indoor ski arenas, etc.) are the antithesis of sustainability."
"Beach resorts are artificial and cater primarily to tourists from the West and the former Soviet Union. The rapid pace of development has put the traditionally Arab quarter under pressure."
- Nat Geo Expeditions
"Tourism is destroying the ecological fabric of the desert and ocean. The town has been bursting at the seams for a while now. Traffic jams are horrendous. Tourists sometimes wait several hours just to get a taxi. With Emiratis benefiting little from development, Dubai offers few authentic cultural experiences. In terms of sustainability, Dubai's future outlook is grim at best!"
"The transformation of the desert to a city is mind-boggling. Landscapers' use of recycled water is particularly extraordinary. Unfortunately, everything depends in some shape or form on fossil fuel. Solar energy is abundant but underutilized."