Retro Middle East: From camels to cosmopolitan - the changing Gulf landscape
When we think of urban regeneration projects, we automatically turn to the Western world or Japan to be wowed by the most futuristic visions. But while people thought the Arabs were sleeping, the Gulf states have been undergoing radical structural overhauls.
What makes the transformation of the Gulf all the more miraculous is that before these deserts were developed into metropolises, there was nothing but huge expanses of inhospitable sandy expanse.
It's hard to imagine Dubai, Doha or Kuwait City, today's avant-garde cosmopolitan hot-spots, as nothing but sand dunes grazed haphazardly by drifting rogue camels. Their exponential transformation into dynamic urban dwellings, offering all the modcons for an affluent 21st Century lifestyle, are all the more impressive for their shady past.
Abu Dhabi, a glamorous, bustling city in the Middle East, was nothing but a small village of pearl fishers until the 1970s.
Qatar's Doha has come a long way since its independence from Great Britain in 1971, yet is still considered something of a sleepier Arab city in respect of its pioneering parting Gulfi peers. Sill, Qatar has its hands in many developmental pies: it has dipped its gas giant mitts into education, setting up prestigious satellite college campuses in its sandy climes.
Exploding with skyscrapers rather than the bombs of the wider Middle East, the Gulf states' innovative designs that scream modernity reflect a city planning style that has remained loyal to the Occidental roots of the region. The Gulf cities, although unrecognisable from their former selves, still retain an Eastern charm.
Tourism in the Gulf is also booming - as cities like Dubai who took a recent gamble in turning a mean tourism trade are reaping the rewards of a successful investment, with vistors in scores seeking a beach holiday or lucrative prospects flocking to the once-deserts backwaters.
Perhaps having more to do with its favourable tax laws, the Gulf affords a tempting safe-haven for expats and constitutes a fascinating cultural experiment in bringing locals and expatriates together, melting pot style.
If the world is your oyster shell, then the Gulf is your pearl! But at what cost all this extravagance and towering empire-building? Now the Gulfis and their expat guests face a compromised air quality as pollution replaces nature's sand-storms.
Take a look at some of the most impressive transformations that the biggest Gulf cities have undergone to turn them from arid desert into sexy metropolises.