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The Middle East @ Work

It’s the Holiday Inn Express, next to Knowledge Village.

Meaw Mar 10, 2008

First of all, greetings from Dubai. If you’ve never been here, if you have, or even if you don’t think you’ll ever come, this is a place you ought to know about. More about this when the show hits the air later today.

Second, yes, we’re staying in a Holiday Inn. This is public radio, you know. (Technically, it’s ‘Express, by Holiday Inn’ which makes me think it’s a franchised-out sub-brand or something.) Still, it’s clean and has a free continental breakfast, so it works fine for us.

Finally, and the real reason I’m writing, Knowledge Village.

It’s the landmark we give to cabdrivers when we need to get back to the hotel. Because the Express by Holiday Inn is kind of out in the middle of nowhere. But Knowledge Village is a great introduction to why we’re here. It actually is a little village — a condo complex, really — that’s home to dozens of what are called ‘educational entities.’

Just a partial list is enough to make your head spin. There’s the University of Wollongong in Dubai, Saint-Petersburg State University of Engineering and Economics, The British University in Dubai, and Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology.

Should you be so inclined, you could study online at Syrian Virtual University, or good old University of Phoenix.

There are trade schools, too, like the In the Mix Audio Training Institute and my personal favorite, the International Institute of Coffee and Barista Training. And yes, there is a Starbucks right around the corner. Seriously.

But…why? Why are all these companies here? One word. Well, two. Free Zones. As in Tax Free Zones. The government of Dubai has set up dozens of them all across the city as a way to grow and encourage investment. Come, it says, spend your money. Pay. No. Taxes. Education is a business, too, so what’s a company to do? Especially when there’s a huge potential student body across this region, from other countries in the Middle East all the way to Bangladesh.

Remember that phrase — Tax Free Zones. You’ll be hearing it again this week.

— Kai

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