Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism” as Want to Read:
City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  438 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism by Jim Krane. St Martin's Pr,2009
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published September 15th 2009 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about City of Gold, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about City of Gold

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This account of Dubai’s history and challenges isn’t quite a textbook, but it’s much closer to that than the sort of popular nonfiction people read for entertainment. It is quite thorough, covering Dubai’s history, its leaders, the downsides and seedy underbelly to its fantastic growth, and the challenges it faces going forward. The book is organized in academic fashion, in short topical subsections, and would be well-suited to a college course.

For someone who doesn’t know much about Dubai – I r
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Disclaimer: I lived very near Dubai practically visited the city every weekend for 2 years.

This book would be a fantastic read for anyone who is interested in Dubai for whatever reason. I have some very strong feelings about Dubai, mostly negative, and this book helped change a lot of my thoughts about this very interested city.

The book is divided in to basically three sections, and I really enjoyed all of them.

The first section is the history of Dubai. This was my favorite part. It really chan
Mohammed Rasheen
Dec 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
When my grandfather first came to Dubai, early 70s, he crossed the Arabian sea in a dhow, like most of the people did during those times, from Bombay without a passport. My mother said there was no contact from him at all for around 4 months, no news from him, and no letters except the one he wrote home just before he left the Bombay. And then it started coming after long wait which had long descriptions about his trip how this dhow stopped some offshores of Khorfakhan how he had to swim to the ...more
Apr 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
I'm not sorry I didn't read this book before moving to the UAE, but I do wish I had read it sooner after our arrival. It answered so many questions I've had about Dubai over the last few months, and I loved all the great "insider" stories. I also appreciated the very even-handed treatment of Dubai - the author neither fetes Dubai undeservedly nor dismisses its oddly triumphant successes. It's tempting to characterize the UAE as a backwards qausi-nation of migrant tribesman who subsisted for a mi ...more
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I read this book in anticipation of my graduate program’s intercession trek to Dubai. I wanted to get a general overview of the city so that I could really understand what I was seeing and get the most out of my time there. This book did not disappoint*. It gave a concise but thorough history of the city and its rise to the global stage. It also introduced me to the founding fathers of modern Dubai: Sheikh Rashid, whose vision saw Dubai transforming from a small village on the edge of nowhere to ...more
Sep 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last quarter of this book is when it really gets going and becomes hard to put down. Great insight into Sheikh Mohammed's decision making process and how he factors in being an in between of the US and Iran, and explains why democracy will likely never become prominent within the country.. Found the overall history to be fascinating, and even after living in the area for two years, Krane was able to clarify things that I had previously believed. If interested in how to build a city and major ...more
Rachel Carter
Mar 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Fascinating. I simultaneously wish that Dubai didn't exist, and that I could move there.

Krane is a journalist for the Economist, and has a lot of flair for storytelling. He discusses many aspects of Dubai, including it's tribal system of government, middle-eastern culture and history, feats in engineering, environmental and labor issues, and current local and global economic situation.
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book confirmed my preconceived notions that Dubai is both a strange and fascinating place. It doesn’t quite fit the mold created by other countries in that region, yet it’s not quite Westernized either. It seems to walk a fine line, but a zigzagged one, if that makes any sense.
Oct 12, 2009 rated it liked it
There are thick layers of fog in this book and gorgeous sunshine. As in the city of Dubai, the history seems useless. If it's happening now it seems to take on the graceful arc of the Burj al Arab hotel and glimmer in the desert sun.
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book. The beginning (History of Dubai) was the best part of the book. This was very interesting throughout and it gives an honest, un-biased telling of the rise of Dubai. I am already recommending this book to other co-workers.
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

A fascinating book charting the rise and stumble of Dubai and the UAE as a whole. A great insight into the allure, opportunities and challenges of an increasingly globalised society. A shame that the final chapter is a bit wet - otherwise 5*s would have been richly deserved.
May 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The antedotial testimonials coupled with the journalstic facts were a perfect combination. I learned a lot from this book.
Sayde Scarlett
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a long-term resident of Dubai, and this is one of the fairest accounts of the city-state's history. It's also incredibly readable, informative, and lucidly written.
Apr 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Dubai: The Story of the World’s Fastest City by Jim Krane is a fascinating and enlightening book about the development and the grandiose personalities that pervade Dubai’s historical landscape. The book is divided up into the historically positive developments of Dubai and the drawbacks of its aggressive growth alongside with its future challenges. Mr. Kane does an exquisite job painting the story of the rise of the late Sheikh Rashid al Maktoum who took risk by “betting the farm” on a handful o ...more
Alex Zakharov
Oct 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Got it for the trip to the region and mostly enjoyed it – first half is a chronological history of the city’s development while the second is a collection of essays on a variety of topics (prostitution, terrorism, traffic, immigration) that play out in an often unusual form in Dubai. Some notes (from the book and the trip):

- Very open to immigration and absence of safety net nicely bypasses the issues faced by Europe and US. In that sense almost self-regulating.
- Stable, same-family rule with bl
Oct 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel-regional
This informative and fact-filled book was a highly valued companion on my recent visit to Dubai. The first three chapters describe the city's origins in oil and pearls. They read slowly to me and I wasn't sure I was going to make it through the book. However, around page 60 the city's story starts to unfold more rapidly. I was intrigued by the uniqueness of the circumstances and the vision of Sheikh Rashid. I found the writing on planes, real estate and commerce to be easy to follow and illumina ...more
Philip Girvan
Feb 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Book is particularly strong on the early history: the details re the rise of the al-Marktoums, who have had 175 years of uninterrupted succession, and the family's willingness to take risks (developing ports, airlines, a vibrant tourism industry); Iranian missteps which have greatly benefited Dubai; the uneasy relationship with Britain; the tensions between Islam and Dubai's commitment to capitalism and cosmopolitanism.

Timing is right for an updated edition, but this provides a good introductio
E.M. Epps
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Astonishingly good. I would wish that all countries had books this riveting written about them, but I don't think it's possible; most places just won't make your jaw drop this often. If this were a story about oil, I wouldn't find it very interesting. But oil came late and comparatively little. Instead, the history of Dubai is primarily shaped by the ambition of the Makhtoum family to make their city among the best in the world. And I find ambition a fascinating thing. Monarchy has a major upsid ...more
Travel Writing
Mar 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Dubai
First, this book fascinates and infuriates me in equal measure. I am assuming that if you read this book while safely ensconced in another country, it would read like, "What a fascinating country with some serious issues. I wonder how that will all unfold?"

While living in the UAE, it reads like, "Godd@#^t! Thats why human trafficking, work slavery, and economic advantage is based solely on skin color and nationality! No wonder you can't get decent stats on anything: car wrecks, work place death
Nov 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Krane delivers a great synopsis of Dubai’s startling emergence (at least I think so, having never been there). This is an exemplary example of neutrality, positioning Dubai presumably as it is without any other apparent agenda on the author’s behalf. Roughly speaking, the first half traces the city’s transformation from sand to Singapore in fewer than 50 years (or, in many ways, fewer than 15 years). Obviously an amazing – even inspiring – story, I damn near began thinking a hereditary monarchy ...more
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came away from a recent trip to Dubai, a place I had never been interested in visiting, astounded by the transformation this place has gone through in the last 50 years.

I read this book to wrap my head around how a small Emirati fishing village with no electricity became a global city with the world's tallest building, busiest international airport, free college, and a population that is 83% foreigners. Did I mention this happened in 50 years??

This book absolutely helped me understand Dubai's
Laura Little
A great overview of Dubai's history, past and present. Particularly liked the author's exploration of the Al Maktoum family and the last three sheiks' motivations to create Dubai literally out of sand. The presentation of the book does put all the negatives (poor labor conditions, horrendous traffic, sex trafficking, eg) at the end, which is a bit jarring. I would have preferred more review of foreign policy as well - beyond just relations with Iran, US, and Israel (which was primarily covered i ...more
Tahir Hussain
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the BEST books to read on How an Economy works, Real Estate Booms, Developments, Creating Business avenues out of Nothing.
Dubai was a DESERT in the 70's - This book tells you the Remarkable, One of a Kind Journey of a City that Boomed out of the Desert and is Now, Truly One of the Greatest Cities on Earth.
This book is for anybody who wants to understand How Industries and Opportunities are created.
HH Sheikh Mohammed is Truly an Inspirational Man. One of the Best Leaders in the World.
Faizan Ali
Nov 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic read for anyone who wants to understand the meteoric rise of Dubai as an international city of importance. The author traces the origins of Dubai as a sleeping pearl fishing village to a city handling over 70 million passengers in transit and the busiest seaports of the world. A must read to understand Dubai's philosophy of "what's good for the merchant is good for Dubai". The author also does not shy away from some of the darker issues such as low paid ex-pat workers from south Asia ...more
Jacki Johnson
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well written informative read

I was attending a conference in Dubai. This book was an enjoyable read that helped me prepare for my visit. Although it is a little out of date finishing in 2009 as Dubai sunk into recession it did assist me to understand what I was about to experience. Without reading this book I would not have been able to critically evaluate what I was observing . It also helped me admire the planning, commitment and decision making that got Dubai to where it is in such a relative
Dec 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Jim Krane offers an intriguing view on the history and current economic and political situation facing Dubai and the UAE as a whole. I found his narrative informative and frustrating at the same time. It's amazing how a country surrounded by such immense wealth and potential could squander such vast amounts of capital attempting to create a "diamond in the desert". I found his comparison of Dubai to Venice, Las Vegas and San Francisco very accurate. I think a prologue would be appropriate consid ...more
Jim Rimmer
Sep 24, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
A timely, given GFC, wander through the history of Dubai from bedouins to breakneck capitalism. The oasis may have been an apparition but Krane is even handed in his history (bias recent) and his range of interview subjects assists in contextualizing the hyper speed at which this city-state has developed, and the adjacent impacts of that development. But for some reason I finished without feeling as though my itch had been scratched. Maybe I'm more inclined toward polemicists.
Aida Al busaidy
Apr 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first book I have ever picked up that truly depicts the stories that make up my beautiful city. Unless you truly unravel the stories by the real people who lived, struggled, overcame and built the city of the future when no one paid 5 seconds to a desert with a few shabby homes, then you don't know Dubai. A must read book for anyone living, wanting to come to Dubai and the cynics as well as lovers of Dubai
Feb 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really interesting and quick read about the rise of Dubai over the past 20 years--particularly in the early/mid aughts. Wild wild west down there, and this is a good book going through all of the good (tolerance, ambition) and the bad (may not be politically, economically or environmentally sustainable, abusive labor practices, etc). Recommended read--a lot will change there over the next decade or so and this is a good snapshot at the beginning of the economic crisis.
Sep 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the book I was looking for after living in Dubai for several years. The journalist Krane is objective and respectful in describing the rise of this fascinating town. His humor and fluency make this book an easy read for anyone interested in Dubai. i highly recommend it to any new arrival in this city (of which there are many). The book is available with two tittles, one for the UK market and one for the US market, both available in Dubai.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World
  • The Coming Jobs War
  • The New Middle East: The World After the Arab Spring
  • Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texas
  • Route 66: The Mother Road
  • Bourbon Street: A History
  • The Wet and the Dry: Ventures into Worlds Where Alcohol Is Embraced...or Forbidden
  • Ibn Saud: The Desert Warrior Who Created the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Money: The Unauthorised Biography
  • Winner Take All: China's Race for Resources and What It Means for the World
  • The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous: Fighting to Save a Way of Life in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina
  • Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity
  • The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza
  • Tiger Head, Snake Tails: China Today, How It Got There and Why It Has to Change
  • Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia
  • Hot Stuff: Disco and the Remaking of American Culture
  • The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America
  • Pakistan: A Hard Country
“Once in power, Zayed was an energized man. One of his first acts in office was to throw open the palace strongbox, giving away all the money that his brother had stockpiled. Zayed made an incredible announcement: Anyone in the seven Trucial States who needed cash for any reason should come see him. People streamed in from every corner of every sheikhdom, traveling to Abu Dhabi by camel, by car, by dhow, and on foot. They lined up outside the leader’s palace, waiting for their turn to ask, and receive. Zayed kept up the handouts until he emptied the coffers. 13 The big giveaway sounds like a crazy idea, especially coming as it did before the UAE emerged as an in de pen dent nation, so that most of the recipients were, essentially, foreigners. But Zayed’s gifts weren’t mislaid. Local Arabs considered such over-the-top generosity as the behavior of their kind of leader. The upstarts in Dubai couldn’t match the gesture, nor could the has-beens in Sharjah. Zayed’s giveaway went a long way toward welding disparate sheikhdoms into a nation—and toward positioning Zayed as the paternal über-sheikh who should rule. Sheikh Zayed didn’t disappoint. Each year for the rest of his reign, he made a splashy tour around the emirates, visiting even the dust bowl towns of Ajman and Umm Al-Quwain. People yelled, “The president is coming! The president is coming!” and lined up to greet the great sheikh. He would ask what they needed. “Anything you want, tell me,” Zayed would say. His subjects asked for houses, overseas medical treatment, or the release of a jailed brother. Some handed requests scribbled onto sheets of paper, lest the great sheikh forget. Zayed’s handlers from the diwan, his royal court, compiled names, phone numbers, and requests. Over the next few weeks, the diwan would send officials knocking at each door with cash, whether 10,000 dirhams or 100,000 dirhams. 14 It was a fantastic nation-building tool. Not just the handouts of cash, but the in-person availability of the national ruler, who would respond like a kind father to personal needs. How could anyone speak against the union if it put cash in your hand? “We used to think he was too generous, that” 0 likes
“THE ARABIAN PENINSULA is a sun-hammered land of drifting sands and rubble wastes. Ranges” 0 likes
More quotes…