by Mishaal Al Gergawi
originally published in Al Manakh 2: Gulf Continued
The year is 2040. The United Arab Emirates is 69 years-old and under the reign of its fourth president, a son of its founding father Sheikh Zayed. The vice president and prime minister is the grandson of Sheikh Rashid. Al Qassimis rule Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, Al Sharqis rule Fujairah, the UAE’s eastern outpost; Al Naimi and Al Mualla rule Ajman and Umm al-Quwain respectively. The presidency, foreign, interior and presidential affairs ministries are still in Abu Dhabi; the vice-presidency, premiership of the cabinet, defense, finance and cabinet affairs ministries are still in Dubai. The apparent political structure has not changed but everything else has.
In 2008, when Abu Dhabi and Dubai were both investing heavily in infrastructure, restructuring executive authorities and launching new initiatives on an almost weekly basis, it was already evident that the two cities were heading in a direction that neither of them had envisaged or openly admitted. Other nations had been able to maintain separate administrative and commercial capitals but with greater distances between them: Beijing-Shanghai (1,067 kilometers), Berlin- Frankfurt (432 kilometers) and New York-Washington DC (337 kilometers). With 120 kilometers separating them, Abu Dhabi and Dubai were destined to run up into each other. And that distance had already dwindled; their expanding outer regions, measuring from Jebel Ali to Shahama, were within 80 kilometers of each other. The result was turning out to be Abu Dubai, the then unspoken name of a metropolis phenomenon that recharged both of its halves.