This post became a draft in June. I looked at it from time to time. I played around with it. I guess it’s something now.
I think about Dubai a lot.
I visited the Burj Khalifa (left) while in Dubai in May. It’s the tallest building in the world. It stands high above a modern city in a desert. It is a stunning sight to behold both day and night. I marveled at the building from the ground, and then I took in the view of the city from the observation deck.
In Dubai, I met a city that dreamed the biggest, most fantastic scene in its corner of the world. It has the world’s tallest building, the world’s largest mall and the world’s biggest musical fountain, among other fascinating creations (see World Islands).
Then this poem came to mind.
It’s really easy to think “Ozymandias” when looking over Dubai. We see all the work of human hands and think, “None of this will last. In the scheme of things, none of this matters.” We scoff at materialism and consumerism, even as we participate in it. We compare it to the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11): “Remember what happened when people thought they could build a tower to the top of the heavens (probably nowhere near as high as the one we are standing in)? God confused their languages and dispersed them. Dubai, beware.”
But really that comparison is not fair. For one, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote the poem about a statue in Egypt, where ancient statues once stood. No such statues stood in the desert surrounding Dubai (that I can find) prior to all the skyscrapers that now fill the city. Second, the city as it now appears is only a few decades old. The recording of the history of modern Dubai has only begun. Things on the surface have not yet started to decay. And third, when it comes to the Tower of Babel, today God offers redemption to all the nations, tribes and tongues that resulted from that fateful story.
For a quick moment, I was a critic of what I saw from the Burj Khalifa’s level 124. It was easy to turn my nose up at the extravagance and outlandishness of this city. It was easy to ask, “Really? Is all this needed? This place is crazy!” But then I remembered approximately 90 percent of the population is from somewhere else. The world lives in Dubai. What an opportunity to engage with people!
Now I pray for the city. I pray for the people. I pray for the opportunity to return.