The Western perception of the Middle East and its people used to be characterized as hot and backwards. Its people were considered inhospitable and so devoted to their culture that they did not want or need to interact with the Western world. This view or perception dates back hundreds of years.
Beginning in the 1990s, a new perception developed about the region and its people. Major cities in the Middle East began to become more westernized and prosper. Particularly, cities in the United Arab Emirates, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, experienced a tremendous building boom, including an investment in their public infrastructure. It seemed that overnight the West was learning that huge buildings–some of the largest buildings in the world today–were being designed by world famous architects. Fabulous indoor shopping malls with high-end stores and indoor amusement parks were being built. The Middle East, as the West once “knew” it, was changing.
As the rest of the world learned about these changes, in a day of instantaneous communications, Western perceptions began to change dramatically. All of a sudden, these areas of the Middle East were seen as cosmopolitan and world-destination spots for investment and tourism. This brought even greater economic prosperity as transportation to and within the area became more sophisticated and easier. Additionally, Western investors and tourists found the culture to be warm and inviting. This was seen in popular culture through movies like “Sex and the City 2” and “Mission Impossible 3”.
The Middle East will always be the Middle East. Its geography will always be desert-like with violent sandstorms. Its climate will remain hot, dry, and sunny. The West’s perception of this area is the only thing that has changed. As a result, major economic benefits have occurred throughout the Middle East from Western tourism and investment. Sometimes, it is solely perception of an area or region that can make or break its economy.