Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Places&Culture from
Wall Street Journal

IRBID, JORDAN -- If you ask a Jordanian about the Internet, he'll invariably tell you how this college town in the country's north holds the Guinness world record for "the most Internet cafes in a single kilometer." In fact, the Guinness folks in London say there's no such record. Too bad, because Irbid deserves it. Irbid, with its three big universities, is a busy, vigorous, but frankly, not very pretty small city. Plain brick buildings dominate, their facades usually plastered with billboards, most in Arabic but many in mercantile English, like the "Big Taste of America" Viceroy cigarette ads. Internet cafes are everywhere, like pay phones, with names like Apollo and StarGate. One two-story minimal had five. The cafes are an easy way for someone to have a small business. It helps that Jordan's young, Western-educated King Abdullah II is a big techno-buff.

DUBAI -- There's a buildup going on in the Persian Gulf these days, but this one has nothing to do with a possible war with Iraq. A mile off the coast of this thriving emirate, huge dredges are sucking sand off the bottom of the sea and spraying it along the edges of one of the world's most unusual construction projects -- a giant, artificial island in the shape of a palm tree. Due to open in 2006, the Palm Island resort will stretch roughly three miles from base to tip and is expected to include 49 hotels and nearly 4,500 luxury villas and apartments, with a total price tag of about $5.5 billion.

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