dubai, new york, tokyo – alphabetically

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these three cities have something in common – i often find it hard to describe or convey the essence of any one of them to someone who has not been there, even the well heeled. and each for a different reason. having lived in all three, i have developed my own set of ways to describe them and it still does not work. these are, in my mind, the only cities that you have to go there to get a sense of the place. london, cairo, manila, or whatever, you can almost convey an idea of what to expect. dubai, the 21st century city of superlatives, is not exactly a livable city, actually, many might argue it is not even a city because its devoid of public space, walkable destinations, or a proper public transportation system. but this is not what dubai is about now. dubai is arguably the largest construction site in the world, and a unique model of its own right, never before attempted in the modern era. it is a city with all its infrastructure, housing, and public institutions, all under construction at the same time. the enormity of this undertaking does not have a parallel anywhere else in the world. none of the purpose planned and realized capitals like abuja, nigeria; islamabad, pakistan; or brasilia, brazil, are of the enormous scale that dubai is. it is said about 25-30% of the world construction cranes are in dubai, and with a population that is almost 90% ex-pat, the demographics are yet another unique attribute. new york city? well, it is the capital of the world.  i have a reason to be biased. how can a gridded city be exciting? but the buzz in new york is unmatched anywhere else in the world. look beyond the grid, and the seeming rigidity or straightforwardedness of it, and you will find a city that is anything but. it is not difficult to understand why new yorkers are jaded – they have everything in the city within just a few subway stops, be it food, garments, art, you name it. once you’ve been to new york, you will have a different appreciation of movies like woody allen’s manhattan, or the tv series seinfeld, mad about you – it is the true ‘gotham’ or ‘metropolis’.  and finally tokyo, it is probably the hardest of the three to describe. i always refer to the scene in the 1982 cult movie bladerunner where deckard [harrison ford] is eating udon at a street vendor on a narrow alley, and the camera pans to the tall buildings in the background with video displays on them and a voice making a public announcement bellows from some public pa system. tokyo, the hi-tech city of the future without equal, is very much like this scene on steroids.

but would you want to hear second hand about any of these cities? they should be priority destinations on your list.

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