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...a sweatshop of moxie

Saturday, July 23, 2005

In the Beginning, there was The World

As everyone knows, we in South Florida are going through a real estate bubble, perhaps unmatched in American history for ridiculously hyper-inflated prices for middle-class homes.

Even so, sometimes whenever I hear the pricetags for residences around me, I gasp in disbelief.

I just came from a having my favourite espresso tipple around the corner from where I live, where new condos spring up so fast, you have to re-programme your GPS system to compensate for new cul-de-sacs, and valet parking grids.

Next to me, were two sets of couples, one young and one old.

Their conversation, loud enough to pierce the muggy night air, soon revealed the younger set were newlyweds, and the older, estate agents, going through a portfolio of what I presume were sites they had visited earlier in the day.

Once in a while, you could hear condo building names, some of whom are infamous before they're even opened. "Murano", "Portofino", "Grand Bay", "Bellagio".

There's even a 24-hour cable channel available only to South Beach residents, which is all real estate, all the time -- except at night when it briefly becomes Nightlife TV.

As I sipped the caffè latte, I heard the deal close. They had settled on the Portofino. I think I heard "3.2 mill".

3.2 million dollars. US.

For probably just a 3/2 and a half facing the ocean! Madness. You can buy a ski châlet in Vicenza, Italy for under 1 million dollars, for pity's sake.

I know where my money would go, should I ever receive my inheritance. And it wouldn't be on a nouveau riche set of flats in some beach town. Not even in the real Portofino.

Or would it?

That's when I remembered that I had heard of a real estate project so fantastic, as to evoke visions of utopias, leviathans and cities of God in my mind.

It seems the world is not enough for some -- they want to duplicate it, and sell it to the highest bidder.

The Crown Prince of Dubai, General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, is not content just being UAE Minister of Defence. Oh no.

He also moonlights as a real estate developer, and his firm, Al Nakheel Properties, is developing an archipelago of 223 artificial islands made in the shape of...The World.


  • Island Capacity - 223, but could go to 300
    • Distance from Capital - 4 km from Port Rashid
      • Island Sizes - 23 226m² to 83 613m² each
        • Estimated Price - 25 million U$ each
The only mode of transport will be via boat or helicopter, and those aren't included, so you Tube-taking yobbos are not even in it, so don't even send away for a brochure... and that's a shame, because I really wanted a brochure too. If I can't have Britain, nobody will!

This of course, brings us to another ticklish topic.

Right, put away your philosophical questions as to what kind of person would actually be so bold as to buy, say, France. Other than Saddam Hussein, I mean.

Psychologically, you are being given the chance, for mere money, of buying a slice of the world, and calling it your own.

This is the spiritual homeland of every frustrated RISK player, ever.

...where the weather is always a balmy 39C; where Antarctica has no snow and the penguins frolic in sand; and where landlocked Switzerland can languish with the relaxed airs of a Caribbean getaway.

Don't like the US government? Buy New York and start over! Be your own George Washington, or if you're more of the Emma Goldman type, do away with government altogether! Kick the Queen out! And the corgis!

No laws, no rules, no visas, no quotas, no nitchevo nietsky.

So why is it that I can only envisage this kind of real estate project as coming from a Middle Eastern mind?

Or do you think that the Japanese never had the money and werewithal to do something so derivative and hokey -- they of that museum which proposed to have copies of all the Western World's artistic masterpieces, so they didn't have to traipse to Paris every time they wanted to see the fugly features of Mona Lisa? They, themselves, an island nation?

Come on.

Of course this comes from the Middle East, where they have new money, and lots of problems, and this is the utlimate utopia scenario. Just start over, in the quintessential deus ex machina move.

In case you are antsy already to visit the islands, they won't be completed until 2008, although the project is very much on schedule.

In fact, the islands are already being purchased, but just in case you were salivating for Australia, forget it, mate. It's sold.

See, I heard "Australia" had the best views of Dubai's harbour, and if you cast a gander at the .jpg above, well, you can see another interesting psychological scenario being played out, can't you?

The equator separates the world between the ones who are more haves, than have nots, but to get the best views of Dubai, the only God-made landmass around, being in North America, or Europe isn't a plus.

It's very much a minus.

It IS the World. On its head.


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