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March 29, 2002

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Early morning, Air Yemen flys us from Sana'a to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. We see women's faces for the first time since visiting Yemen. It's a shock to be back in the first world. No beggars, no hassling touts, people ignore us. The airport's bathroom shines cleaner than any we've seen in months. Dubai stands with six other shaikdoms in the United Arab Emirates. Trade, not oil, forms the backbone of Dubai's economy: it's the free port of the Middle East, the business engine of the Bedouin. Years ago they started with pearl diving, then moved to gold smuggling, and finally graduated into a Singapore-style economic powerhouse.
Dubai symbol: the Burj al-Arab (Arabian tower). It's a 7 star hotel that charges $50 just to enter it for a look. The building's backbone forms a cross - not appropriate for a Muslim country. Rumor says the foreign architect built this cross to offend Iraq; it squarely faces that country.