Monday, October 27, 2008

Singapore Dubai similarities

I've been meaning to post some photos from our last trip to Singapore for the past couple of months, but as usual time slipped away somehow.

At last here they are, but I have a point to make with them.

There are often comparisons made between Dubai and Singapore, with some justification because there are similarities.

Both are in ideal central locations to bridge parts of the world together, both are commercial centres, the commercial base is changed to meet changing situations and demands, both are authoritarian, they're amongst the safest cities in the world.

They're also similar in that they have 'iconic' (how I hate that word) buildings.

As in Dubai, there are plenty of shopping malls in Singapore too, a whole row of them side-by-side on Orchard Road for example.

But there's one big, big difference that the death of Dubai's old Satwa suburb has highlighted.

I know I keep on about preserving what little there is of historic, or even old, Dubai, but it's the heart and soul of a place.

On my earlier posts regretting that old Dubai wasn't being preserved several comments were posted which argued that they needed to be demolished.

For example: I think we have to demolish all the old villas as it is not save for living; sanitary system of Satwa is worst compare to any other city in dubai. By demolishing, new building structure is taking place, which is more hygienic, fire protective, accommodate more number of people etc.

I've never agreed with insanitary conditions, unsafe buildings, inadequate infrastructure. It should all go.

My point is that things can be renovated. Power and water can be piped in, buildings repaired and renovated. Bastakiya in the city is a good example of what can be done.

Some years back Singapore was going in the same direction. Everything was being torn down and replaced with modern high-rise and malls. The PM talked about the shame of tourists coming to see people living in run-down houses.

Then they woke up to the fact that they were destroying their history, their heritage, their heart and soul. So the policy changed and whole areas were renovated instead of being demolished.

The famous Bugis Street had to make way for a Metro station but they rebuilt it a few metres away. Shophouses on the river in the centre of the city have been renovated and it's now a thriving dining and entertainment district.

So here are a few photographs of some of the buildings which were saved, renovated and given a new lease of life. Which add immeasurably to the city's look, feel and culture.

From the roaring twenties some Art Deco buildings have been preserved, with their memories of tea dances and early cinema

And in areas such as Chinatown and Little India, traditional buildings take on a new life:

Many of the larger renovated buildings are excellent restaurants:

Running right in to Orchard Road, the main modern tourist street, beautiful old shophouses probably look better than they ever did.

That's the big difference between the two cities. I think it's sad that Dubai hasn't followed Singapore's lead.



My fav in S'pore is Clarke Quay. What is yours?
What is the similarity of CQ in Dubai?

Seabee said...

I like Clark Quay too. In Dubai I guess the nearest similar place would be the restaurants on the Creek in Shindagah, the historic part of the city.

The Wizard of D said...

I couldn't agree more. So much of similarity and yet so diff. I particularly found your comment on the preservation work in Singapore which is missing in Dubai. except may be the Bastakiya area is an exception.

LDU said...

Do you have a local Member of Parliament you can express your valid concerns to?

Rose in Dubai said...

Looks really nice. I'd love to go back for a look. I loved in Singapore for a year when I was 8. We lived at the Ladyhill Hotel and I remember People's Palace Mall, going down to the harbour with my dad and being amazed at how clean and tidy everything was, and being terroized by my dad ordering sharks' fin soup in a restaurant becasue he told me to be careful I didn't get bit!

I would imagine its changed a bit since 1975!!

Seabee said...

LDU this is not a parliamentary democracy so the answer is 'no'.
There is a Federal National Council voted for by a very limited number of selected Emiratis, otherwise it's an absolute monarchy.

Rose you wouldn't recognise most of it. With huge reclamation even the shape of the island has changed. Raffles is on Beach Road but the beach is now a long, long way away.
Ladyhill hotel is still there though.

Gautam said...

I absolutely agree with you on everything you have to say Seabee.

On a psychological level, what I have noticed is the lifestyle of the people in Singapore in modern yet in touch with tradition. They have accepted the new along with the old.

The problem I see in Dubai is that of 'GREED'. With everything being new and money not being an issue for some, we have pushed our lifestyles way to far. So fast that we can not stand the sight of something that is more than 5 years old. But this can be changed if the leaders of the country utilise their powers in right direction.

How many of us feel that we live in the Middle East when in Dubai? Not many I would say! When in Dubai people should feel that they are in the Middle East, not saying that they should have strict Islamic rules but there should be a touch of Arabia to everything.

Seabee said...

Well said Gautam.

beavc said...

The most significant difference between Dubai and Singapore...EFFICIENCY...

Besides the buildings and cleanliness, Singapore has at least 2 areas which Dubai has a long way to efficient civil service and a good public transport network.

ZeTallGerman said...

My mother is in the tourism business, and whereas a few years ago they had numerous return-vistors to Dubai, nowdays people come once - and never again. "Been there, seen that, got stuck in traffic & got gawked at by construction workers" is the usual response. Dubai isn't offering anything new and unique to travellers. An indoor ski dome? If you're an avid skier, you'll always prefer the real thing (Alps, anyone?) Theme parks? Don't we all agree that safety regulation in well-established parks such as Disney world or Six Flags are probably a lot better? People used to come to Dubai because it was "1001 Nights, Arabia with a modern infrastructure". These days many say to themselves: if I want traffic jams, huge shopping malls and heat/humidity, I might as well go to Singapore, Hong Kong or Bangkok instead!

Anonymous said...



Seabee said...

KMc, you might want to come back to comment again when you've sobered up.

Kerry said...

Personally, I don't like it when people compare Singapore & Dubai, we have hardly anything in common.

Singapore was built on the hard work of Chinese coolies & MM Lee, without a single natural resource (and we still import water from Malaysia). Racism is taboo and outlawed (unlike in Dubai), we have an established & diversified economy built on petrochemicals, finance & electronics.

I'm not sure what Dubai has, but first & foremost I think "petrocash". They may seem rich now, but the economy is really very vulnerable; it never had a solid, sustainable base to build on (2009 financial crisis).

Singapore & Dubai may seem similar at a VERY superficial level, but in reality we have nothing in common.

Seabee said...

Kerry: "I'm not sure what Dubai has, but first & foremost I think "petrocash". They may seem rich now, but the economy is really very vulnerable; it never had a solid, sustainable base to build on (2009 financial crisis)."

Completely wrong I'm afraid. 'Petrocash' doesn't come into it, Dubai has never had much oil and it contibutes less than 5% of the economy. Dubai was built on trading, it's always been a commercial centre and that has always, and continues to be, its solid sustainable base.

As I've pointed out with examples in several posts, there are indeed similarities.

Kerry said...

Well, I don't know much about Dubai, so I may very well be wrong on that point. But I do believe Dubai's economy would've collapsed if not for Abu Dhabi's petrocash support, no? And I believe a significant amount of government revenue comes from Abu Dhabi too. I don't see Dubai's finance or trading industries as being very developed at all.

Even then, Dubai's transport system, legal system, human rights law cannot compare. True, Singapore has a bad human rights record, but I believe Dubai's is much worse.

Kerry said...

By the way, with reference to my original point, I believe Dubai was initially built on petrocash (from itself or other Emirates). That's in accordance with a referenced claim from wikipedia. In contrast, Singapore was built solely from Lee Kuan Yew and Chinese coolies' hard work. So I believe my original point was correct.

With relation to the current economy, you may be right that Dubai has trading and financial stuff going on, but it's heavily dependent on property speculation and building. This part of the economy is evidently unsustainable, esp if its failues need to be constantly compensated for using Abu Dhabi's petrocash.

Seabee said...

Kerry, be careful believing what you read on Wiki, it's simply stuff posted by ordinary private individuals (like you and me) and is not necessarily correct. Dubai was a thriving trading port and retail centre for a century before a small amount of oil was found in 1966.

The UAE was not formed until 1971 and the independent emirates certainly didn't help each other out before that.

In this current financial crisis Abu Dhabi did come to the rescue with, from memory, $20 billion. The crisis was caused by the ridiculous and out-of-control property development and that's the bubble that burst. It was unsustainable, unregulated, uncontrolled and it had to collapse.

The real economy - the trading - has always been there, is still there and is very strong. Tourism and retail has added to that real economy in the last decade.

I agree with your last paragraph, and obviously there will be areas where one city is 'better'than the other and where there are no similarities. My post simply discussed some areas where there are similarities between the two cities.

Anonymous said...

Can anybody comment on which city is more advanced?