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Once upon a time in Dubai

Once upon a time in Dubai

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The “upright kilometer”, the works of Petros Kostopoulos, Medical Tourism and national pride for “Nammos”

We drink a glass of white wine “Sancerre” with doctor A.K., in “Nammos” of Dubai. The price exceeds the wage of a middle business executive in Greece. But none of the guests seem to be concerned with such things. After all, this is the secret their success: to be in the view of others.

A few days have passed since New Year’s Eve, yet the echo of the reactions has not stopped. “For all of us living here, it seems inconceivable that there was so much noise about an inconsequential issue”, my collocutor emphasized.

“People who traveled here for Christmas did so, because they could do it. The country opened its borders on July 7th, with strict entry conditions and after it had followed hard lockdown policies, starting in April. It also managed to control the viral load, with the cases never exceeding 1,000, and the deaths, as we speak, to be less than 700”.

I retorted that the uproar in Greece did not happen because a few people broke the law, but because in the midst of the pandemic they crudely provoked the common feeling.

The image of celebrities merrily enjoying themselves, without a without worry in the world, while everyone else back home is suffering, is at least insensitive, I insisted.

“I agree with that. They should not upload photos or brag on TV, but again, I think everyone overreacted. Even I got caught in the flack, and had to hide from everyone that called me to comment about what happened” and with that he ended the discussion annoyed.

Living in the miniscule Persian Gulf state for the last seven years, the doctor left a job that hadn’t paid him in months, to seek out his fortune in a place where there was demand for his specialty. The “miracle” that is taking place in Dubai for the last twenty years, includes investments in the field of medical tourism. Hospital giants from all over the world have opened branches and are attracting patients from place that have developed medical care services. They combine treatment with holidays. For 2020, 630.000.000 euros was the expected income from this type of tourism, before the invasion of the Coronavirus. A negligible amount when compared to money left by about forty million tourists, that spend an average of $2,000 per night. When the leader of the Emirate, one of the seven in UAE (United Arab Emirates), Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, decided to proceed with the pharaonic investments, essentially building from scratch a modern and state-of-the-art city in the middle of the desert, many were skeptical.

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The financial crisis that hit the global economy in 2008, almost blew up the plans of the visionary sheikh. The opening of tallest skyscraper on the planet, the Burj al Dubai, as it was to be named, came very close to being cancelled.

The “standing kilometer”, another name for it, finally opened its doors to the public in 2010, after a cash injection by the neighboring Emirate of Abu Dhabi. One of the terms of the agreement was to rename the tower to Burj Khalifa, after its benefactor, the leader of the neighboring Emirate. Investments, mainly in infrastructure, real estate, tourism, and services continued at a steady pace until 2014, when the supply of available real estate exceeded the demand, driving prices down.

“At the moment, I’m house-hunting with my family for apartments in skyscrapers and the prices are outrageous. In the Burj Khalifa, I found a two-bedroom apartment for 1.000.000 euros”, he answers and continues: “And here where we are now, prices are very high, but I feel proud when I bring my foreign friends to this successful Greek shop. From this entire story, I feel sorry that my friend Petros Kostopoulos was singled out, who actually came here for work with his namesake Petros Stathis and of course for Stefanos Tsitsipas who got caught up in this unintentionally, and like the rest of the tennis players that were going to participate in the Australian Open, was forced to train in Dubai because of the quarantine. It’s a unfortunate that Greek journalists don’t cross-reference the facts before reporting a story”.

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