As we start to consider our Summer holidays, we take a look at a selection of books on countries from around the world. This week: two books focusing on very different destinations – Dubai and Vietnam.
If you live in the United Kingdom, you will have noticed that the weather has become considerably worse in the last week. This ominous sign usually signals the end of the ‘sunny’ part of the year and the beginning of our ‘summer’. Cynicism aside, the holiday season is approaching, and with that in mind, we will be focusing on two Yale books that tackle very different holiday destinations. Dubai (for the discerning holidaymaker looking for a luxury vacation) and Vietnam (a popular hotspot for backpackers and gap year students). These books are not travel guides, but they are essential reading for those looking to further their knowledge in either of these two fascinating countries.
In less than two decades, Dubai has transformed itself from an obscure Gulf emirate into a global centre for business, tourism, and luxury living. It is a fascinating case study in light-speed urban development, hyperconsumerism, massive immigration, and vertiginous inequality. Its rulers have succeeded in making Dubai into a worldwide brand, publicizing its astonishing hotels and leisure opportunities while at the same time successfully downplaying its complex policies towards guest workers and suppression of dissent. In Dubai: Gilded Cage, Syed Ali delves beneath the dazzling surface to analyze how – and at what cost – Dubai has achieved such success. Ali brings alive a society rigidly divided between expatriate Westerners living self-indulgent lifestyles on short-term work visas, native Emiratis who are largely passive observers and beneficiaries of what Dubai has become, and workers from the developing world who provide the manual labour and domestic service needed to keep the emirate running, often at great personal cost.
Did you know?
1. Dubai is building the world’s first man made islands, they are called the Palm Islands.
2. Approximately 80% of the residents in Dubai are foreigners
3. The Dubai Emirates Mall allows visitors to ski indoors while they shop.
4. There are no personal or income taxes in Dubai
5. When completed, the Burj Dubai will become the tallest building and tallest man-made structure in the world.
The eyes of the West have recently been trained on China and India, but Vietnam is rising fast among its Asian peers. A breathtaking period of social change has seen foreign investment bringing capitalism flooding into its nominally communist society, booming cities swallowing up smaller villages, and the lure of modern living tugging at the traditional networks of family and community. Yet beneath these sweeping developments lurks an authoritarian political system that complicates the nation’s apparent renaissance. In Vietnam: Rising Dragon, experienced journalist Bill Hayton looks at the costs of change in Vietnam and questions whether this rising Asian power is really heading toward capitalism and democracy. Based on vivid eyewitness accounts and pertinent case studies, Hayton’s book addresses a broad variety of issues in today’s Vietnam, including important shifts in international relations, the growth of civil society, economic developments and challenges, and the nation’s nascent democracy movement as well as its notorious internal security. His analysis of Vietnam’s ‘police state’, and its systematic mechanisms of social control, coercion, and surveillance, is fresh and particularly imperative when viewed alongside his portraits of urban and street life, cultural legacies, religion, the media, and the arts. With a firm sense of historical and cultural context, Hayton examines how these issues have emerged and where they will lead Vietnam in the next stage of its development.
Did you know?
1. People in Vietnam often keep potbelly pigs
2. In Vietnamese schools, instead of bells, gongs are used to call children.
3. There are more bikes and mopeds than there are cars in this country. Due to the lack of vehicles there is very little pollution.
4. Vietnam is famous for its bio-diversity and has the world’s six biosphere reserves.
5. Vietnam has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the Third World.
Both Dubai: Gilded Cage and Vietnam: Rising Dragon are available from Yale University Press.