This is no accident: faced with dwindling oil supplies 30 years ago, the emirate has since gone to great lengths to remake itself into a centre for trade, services and tourism. Real estate development has been critical to these efforts, and remains so. And it is in the finished projects that a sense of how far the emirate has come since the 1970s – not to mention where it is headed – can be seen.
Bahrain, too, recognised the need to diversify its economy and has been selling itself as an offshore financial services centre. The success of this venture (more than 360 financial institutions and counting) has in turn created a thriving market for upmarket residential and commercial properties. The kingdom has also cleverly capitalised on what ought to be a disadvantage – the lack of space – with innovative offshore developments and land reclamation projects.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s building boom has come less from a need to replace lost oil revenue (it raked in more than $10bn from oil and liquefied natural gas last year) but rather a desire to shake off its somewhat stodgy image and increase its appeal to foreign investors. This is evident in new cultural institutions, such as the Museum of Islamic Arts and Qatar National Library, and in planned luxury developments, such as The Pearl Qatar, North Beach and Al Khor Resort.
Exciting opportunities for real estate investment are scattered across the Middle East but, for the moment at least, Dubai, Bahrain and Qatar are the hot spots.