Dubai: Mapping dreams?

Dubai from the sky, an unforgettable skyline.

Dubai has become the global city of the Middle East. This centrality is manifest in many aspects: very important transport hubbing, highly-specialised financial and banking services, great cultural manifestations, cosmopolitan population, and a growing real estate sector. In spite of bad effects of 2008 financial crisis Dubai has again found its vitality and its aspirations for a more brilliant future (cf. Dubaï et la centralité en crise” URL:

Dubai, as a city-planning achievement, is colossal. Skyscrapers, reclaimed lands, artificial islands, airports, great ports, highways, infrastructure, malls, etc. constructed in such a short lapse of time are indeed more than what anyone can imagine. Burj Khalifa, the new centre of the city, can be easily considered as an “eighth Wonder of the World”. Yet Dubai wants more: the projects designed for the city are numerous and future Dubai aspires to be a unique global marvel, or maybe the new seven wonders of the World combined together. Dubai, in this quest, always follows the maxim “Tradition and Modernity.

Dubai from the sky, an unforgivable skyline.

Dubai from the plane, an unforgettable skyline. Old Dubai is around the khor, Burj Khalifa is visible in the background.


The “future Dubai” mapping tendency

But there is a tendency to map what to come, to map what will be in Dubai (and not only what is there). A well-known example is the Nakheel Project map of Dubai. Nakheel is one of the main real estate companies of the Emirate. The map shows features which are not yet “real”, that is, they are not yet constructed.

The Dubai project map of Nakheel Properties, taken from Emirates247 Newspaper

The Dubai project map of Nakheel Properties, taken from Emirates247 Newspaper


The same map can be found at the Dubai Tourism and Commercial Marketing Department’s site online: a “simulation” of a reality that has never existed and that does not exist for the moment:


… And mainstream representations

For mainstream medias Dubai is, sometimes, mapped and presented in an illusive way. Medias take from Nakheel Project map (and not from états des lieux maps or from actual satellite images. A good example can be the Buzzfeed’s link on incredible views of cities and landscapes:

A link about “incredible views” of cities and landscapes from sky. All the photos stem from “actual situation” photos: Chicago, New York, Paris, San Francisco etc… Except Dubai: the photo (cf. the photo below) is presented as a Google-Earth map of the city (thus an “actual” photo) from the sky. As usual, Dubai is amazing to look at… But is the photo real?!

The Buzzfeed's map of Dubai, supposedly from Google Earth

The Buzzfeed’s image of Dubai, supposedly from Google Earth


Here is a Google map of Dubai, a “live” map:


It is clear that numerous projects of Buzzfeed’s “photo” do not exist in the real world: The Waterfront (that is, the crescent to the left of the photo) is not there, the palm to the right is not there, too. Many quarter and urban-sprawl features of the Buzzfeed’s do not exist either. Of course a Google Map can tell unreal things; but, here, it is much more honest. Simply, the Buzzfeed’s photo is fake, but presented as real.


Conclusion: would Dubai need such maps to be unique?

Many academic works on Dubai follow the same pattern: they do not present an image/representation of Dubai as it is, but as it is supposed to be in the future. There is a big difference, of course, between the two cases.

Dubai is a real centre of the Middle East. Dubai is beautiful. Dubai is amazing. Dubai is a real achievement. Dubai is unique and a unique experience. All true. But to say that future projet maps of Dubai stem from the actual situation would not be of the interest of the city. Dubai, even without any other future adding, is one of the most astonishing cities in the world. I do think that this photoshop-free fact is sufficient.

Burj Khalifa, the highest building in the world and the centre of the New Downtown Dubai, a sort of eighth wonder!

Burj Khalifa, the highest building in the world and the centre of the New Downtown Dubai, a sort of eighth wonder of the World!


Image and Photo Credit: Jack Keilo, Emirates247, Buzzfeed.

For further information on Dubai, please visit the following sites:



Cite this blog post
Jack Keilo ( Jacques Keilo ) (2013, December 20). Dubai: Mapping dreams? Centrici. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from

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