For two decades or so now Dubai and its airport have presided over air transport and tourism in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. Now it is set to face a challenge from Gwadar on the other side of the Gulf, 500km away in Pakistan and close to the Iranian border. That, at least, is what some people would have you believe, although such optimism is, at the very least, overstated.
What is happening at Gwadar, though, is the construction of a giant port (which actually began 20 years ago) and associated free trade area modelled on the Special Economic Zones of China, together with a floating liquefied natural gas facility connected to the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.
The new airport, now set to open in Mar-2023, is only a small part of this huge enterprise, but it could turn out to be a very significant one, for freight if not initially for passengers. Then again, Gwadar has many beaches, natural beauty spots and is favoured by domestic holidaymakers.
If Chinese money goes into developing tourism as well, then ‘The New Dubai’ claim could one day be substantiated.