Reading much of the press from a distance over the past two years you might have thought the Middle East was one of the last places you would want to move to. Stories of Porsches and Mercedes parked at the airport with keys in the ignition as panicked former high-fliers fled Dubai with tails between legs filled the Western media at the height of the global financial crisis. At the same time, in the wider region, in Yemen, Iraq and Palestine, troubles of a more tragic kind have continued.
Visit the Gulf countries however and a vastly different picture emerges. Instead of chaos, you find cosmopolitan and relaxed cities industriously getting on with business. Dubai may have seen its overblown property market collapse in 2008 along with its government finances. But those who thought the emirate that built the world's tallest tower, biggest artificial islands and most opulent hotel would lie down and admit defeat were proved wrong.
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The sun never set on Dubai. Despite its troubles, the city remains an international crossroads and tourist paradise
The easy-credit-fuelled expansion of the city - which saw hundreds of gleaming apartment and office blocks emerge along the 20km (12.5 miles) Sheikh Zayed highway to Abu Dhabi in the mid-2000s - has virtually stopped as property prices have halved. A number of high-profile construction projects may never be built. Many who made their living from financing, building and selling these edifices have lost their jobs. However, other parts of the economy - tourism and aviation among them - have remained robust.
If you passed through Dubai International airport or flew on an Emirates aircraft in 2009, it would not have felt like a recession. Both businesses raised traffic and revenues during the period. Dubai's reputation as an international crossroads and upmarket holiday destination have remained intact. Emirates' latest A380 order at the Berlin air show and the growth of smaller carriers such as Flydubai reflect the city state's self-confidence. Emirates alone plans to recruit 700 pilots in the next 18 months.
In Abu Dhabi and Qatar the global recession barely registered, thanks to rising oil and gas prices. The International Monetary Fund forecasts 3.7% economic growth for Abu Dhabi this year. Starting from a low base and boosted by sovereign wealth funds - which has allowed them to acquire assets and businesses abroad rather than seek finance from outside like Dubai - these states have continued to develop their fledgling aviation sectors.
Qatar has done it through its fast-expanding flag carrier and a massive new airport, Abu Dhabi through its national airline Etihad, high-end business aviation and a new aerospace manufacturing complex in Al Ain. And with small national populations, both need expatriate professionals to drive their expansion.
Bahrain - featured in detail in this guide - is keen to win back some of its former status as an aviation centre. From the 1970s until a decade or so ago, the kingdom was the Middle East's aviation hub thanks to Gulf Air, as well as its financial capital. The rise of Dubai and Emirates robbed it of that title, but the island's more mature economy was less rocked by the credit crisis. Bahrain is restructuring Gulf Air and creating former flight training and maintenance subsidiaries as independent companies.
Aside from a few hotspots, the Gulf region is one of the safest and stablest regions in the world, with low corruption and crime, and run benignly - by and large - by hereditary rulers keen to co-operate for their mutual defence and benefit. Although the Islamic fundamentalist terror threat remains, as it does throughout the West, it has been quietly contained. Economic co-operation is also on the rise, although the euro crisis appears to have tempered enthusiasm for a common Gulf currency.
In the next few years, the only way appears to be up. Blessed with energy resources that the world badly needs, a location at the crossing point of four continents and land aplenty, the Gulf's energetic and liberally minded rulers are determined to place their countries in the centre of the global economy. The one thing most lack is human capital. That is why, for those with the necessary skills - pilots, airline managers and aerospace engineers among them - the Middle East is still the promised land.
Source: Flight International