Dubai’s downfall lends itself too perfectly to metaphor. The Burj Khalifa could not provide a more textbook example of hubris if Emaar had expressly set out to rebuild the tower of Babel. The skyscraper was the crown jewel in Dubai’s collection of superlatives, emerging from the forest of glittering spires as one triumph among many. As Dubai’s economy collapsed, though, the Burj became the Emirate’s last hope for recapturing its lost grandeur and refuting international ridicule. The building opened with much fanfare, but could not rescue Dubai from abysmal financial straits. Today’s report that the tower is already closing (albeit temporarily) proves the failure of this desperate attempt to save face.
Instead of struggling to maintain a crumbling facade, Dubai should embrace the spectacle of failure as wholeheartedly as that of success; stop denying that their islands are sinking and their skyscrapers are abandoned shells, that thousands of cars sit empty in derelict parking structures. Exaggerating the aesthetics of decay could recapture the global imagination. Dubai should manipulate the glorious tragedy of their own downfall into an equally vulgar, glamorous sideshow.