A view of central Dubai from above a camel racetrack on the outskirts of the city in March. The water at the edge of development is the emerging Business Bay district, where as many as 240 mixed-use skyscrapers are planned for 2015 around the extended creek.

Fifty years from now, New York will be considered the economic and cultural capital of the previous century, fille­d with quaint artifacts of another time and places to visit for the sake of nostalgia, but not the center of world culture—­somewhat like how we think of Paris today compared to 100 years ago. Federal immigration restrictions, the religious police, and the protection of large corporations from foreign competition will have cut off our biggest sources of wealth—invention and innovation—and historic preservation will have saved the unique character of neigh­borhoods and conserved innumerable buildings but killed the spirit that made the city the greatest of its time.

The megacity of Dubai, one of the seven federal states of the United Arab Emirates, will be...

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