Abu Dhabi: The Next Bilbao?

by TNR Staff, TNR Staff | October 23, 2007

Look, almost everything is possible in a tiny country that has some some 10% of the world's oil reserves and only 370,000 citizens.  The other inhabitants (about 1.4 million souls) are visitors to second- and third-homes but mostly indentured laborers who, on arrival, are deprived of their passports and ordinary civil rights.  Oh yes, and guests in the many hotels (including one in the "seven star" class).  The world's tallest building will soon attract more visitors to Abu Dhabi which ABC reports (surely erroneously) whose citizens have an average net worth of $17 million.

I've commented on this madness before.  This is, after all, the resort mini-citi-state, torrid in temperature, but with indoor ski slopes.  And more:  There'll soon be a branch of the Louvre on Abu Dhabi's boulevards and also another of the umpteen outlets of the Guggenheim.  The question now is: will Abu Dhabi turn into Bilbao?  But Bilbao is a poor Spanish Basque town which, despite Frank Gehry, has not made up its initial investment in the museum's infrastructure.  But Abu Dhabi can convene ten or twelve of its citizens with that average net worth of $17 million and pay the debt off, abracadabra.

Now New York University, which seems to have lost control of some of its indigenous faculties to the Revolution, has gone to do serious business in--where else?--Abu Dhabi.  The genius educational entrepreneur John Sexton has gotten the elders of Abu Dhabi to allow him to start an N.Y.U. Abu Dhabi liberal arts campus, undergrad and grad.  Perhaps Tony Judt will be the dean of the humanities and his viperous hatred for Israel will mystify his audiences, which is truly what would happen. 

Will the New York State Board of Regents sanction the degrees given by N.Y.U. 

And then there will be the junior year in Abu Dhabi program.  Frankly, I'd prefer to go to Florence.  But, hey,

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