Annual Supplement: Middle East 2013


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Passengers arriving at Dubai International Airport on Emirates’ double-decker Airbus 380 aircraft taxi up to a new $3.2 billion dedicated terminal, Concourse A, which opened in February. After disembarking, travelers are swept by an underground, automated train to Terminal 3 —after passing a 50-foot-high waterfall in a glass-walled elevator—all before reaching passport control. Passengers are greeted with signs reading, “Hello Tomorrow”, the new slogan of Emirates Airlines.

Concourse A boosts the airport’s capacity from 60 million to 75 million passengers a year. By 2015, Dubai expects to be the world’s busiest international passenger airport.

Dubai is dreaming of big investments again after being chastened by the 2009 debt crisis. Its more conservative neighbor less than two hours away, the United Arab Emirates capital of Abu Dhabi, is also going for glitz with fancy new museums, towers and a water park planned.

Meanwhile, the less prosperous economies in the region, including Egypt and Iraq, are being touted as economic powerhouses of the future, with the potential for rapid growth. Al Watany Bank of Egypt, a subsidiary of National Bank of Kuwait, reported 35% growth in profits in 2012, despite the challenging situation in the country. Iraq’s oil production is at the highest level since the late 1970s, and the growing demand for ethical banking is propelling Islamic finance to new heights.

There are plenty of exciting developments going on in the Middle East, and you don’t have to look hard to find them.

Following a long day of interviews with bank CEOs, we decided to take Dubai’s new metro back to our hotel. Approaching the station, we noticed a crowd of people milling about. “The system went down and there is nothing we can do, as it is fully automated—people are trapped between stations,” the station manager explained. “We are trying to get some buses, but it will take a while.” It was getting dark, and there were no cabs available. Luckily for us, the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest, was within walking distance, and it has its own hotel and taxi stand (as well as scuba diving with sharks at its aquarium). We still haven’t tried out the Dubai Metro, but our pass is good for five years!

Gordon Platt
Contributing Writer
Global Finance

alt Annual Supplement: Middle East 2013