Dubai, UAE

Emirate Oasis

Iyna Bort Caruso

Dubai is built on sand and superlatives. Biggest. Tallest. According to Forbes, Dubai is “one of the most futuristic, worldly and luxurious cities on the map.”

One of seven states that make up the United Arab Emirates federation on the Arabian Peninsula, Dubai is also an international city with a Western-style business model. In its annual survey, the global consulting firm of Mercer rated Dubai as one of the best places to live in the Middle East and Africa in 2014.

Aviation, real estate, financial services and tourism drive its economic engine. It is one of the most visited cities in the world. Shopping is a major draw. The city has some 70 shopping centers including the colossal Dubai Mall. The success of the Dubai real estate industry is evident in its ambitious skyline of towers and high rise buildings, which includes--another superlative--the world’s tallest, the mixed-use Burj Khalifa (2,716.5 feet) in downtown Dubai. Internationally renowned architects and engineering firms have put their fingerprints on this Persian Gulf territory.

The emirate is a conservative society, though a tolerant one that is stable and economically vibrant. It is an outpost of expats, and residential real estate demand is high from foreign investors. English is widely spoken and the UK is a just a five-hour flight away, although buyers originating from Russia, India and China make up a growing presence.

Owning land, a right limited in most areas of the Middle East, is legal here as of 2002. Previously, property had only been available to foreign nationals on a leasehold basis, but new laws granted freehold rights in designated areas. The move sparked an influx of immigration and became the catalyst for a real estate boom. A barren landscape was transformed into a thriving metropolis. Another incentive is Dubai’s favorable tax laws. The emirate imposes no capital gains or inheritance taxes.

Dubai has established its own interpretation of luxury real estate. An eight-figure sales price can nab a triple penthouse or a private estate with separate chauffer’s quarters, indoor pool and 24-carat gold architectural details. Buyers find premium addresses in places like the golf and lifestyle development of Emirate Hills, waterfront towers in Dubai Marina and the iconic man-made palm tree-shaped island of Palm Jumeirah.