With major civic projects underway, and grand instant cities emerging in the desert, the reality of urban development in the region raises questions of sustainability, pace and cultural relevance.
"To a critic traveling through the region, the speed at which museums are being built in Abu Dhabi - and the international brand names attached to some of them - conjured culture-flavored versions of the overwrought real-estate spectacles that famously shaped its fellow emirate, Dubai. By contrast, Doha's vision seemed a more calculated attempt to find a balance between modernization and Islam.
But in both cases leaders also see their construction sprees as part of sweeping efforts to retool their societies for a post-Sept. 11, post-oil world. Their goal is not only to build a more positive image of the Middle East at a time when anti-Islamic sentiment continues to build across Europe and the United States, but also to create a kind of latter-day Silk Road, one on which their countries are powerful cultural and economic hinges between the West and rising powers like India and China."