Sales of costly homes have been booming in the Middle Eastern city of Dubai during the coronavirus health crisis.
People from Europe and the United States have been moving to the city, which is one of the United Arab Emirates. They say it is because the city follows a “business as usual” policy.
Christophe Reech is a wealthy French businessman who lived in London for nearly 30 years. But when Britain put in place restrictions because of COVID-19, he decided it was time to leave.
In Dubai, he said, the plan for dealing with the virus is simple: “Let’s make sure everyone’s vaccinated and keep everything open.”
“Of course that attracts people like me,” he said.
The U.A.E. is mainly using a vaccine from China to protect people from the virus. The country has a population of about 9 million and has provided over 10 million vaccine doses so far. Other vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca are also available.
Dubai reopened to tourists last summer. It had a sharp increase in virus cases in January. But, unlike some countries, not very many people in the U.A.E. died.
The country used to be a place for rich people from the Middle East and Africa. Now people are coming from places like China, Russia, India and Europe. One reason is that it is easy to get vaccinated.
Reech was able to get an appointment for the Pfizer vaccine as soon as he arrived. In London, the waiting list was four months long.
It is also easy for foreigners to get permission to live in the U.A.E. The country is offering visas for people who are able to work using the internet.
In the past, some westerners worried about moving to Dubai because of its Islamic laws. But recently the country changed its rules to permit people from other parts of the world to observe some of their own laws and traditions. For example, it used to be illegal for men and women who were not married to live together.
These changes made some people think about moving to Dubai: a busy city with beaches, bars, restaurants and tall buildings on the Persian Gulf.
In March, a home in one of the city’s rich neighborhoods was sold to a family from Switzerland for over $30 million. Less costly homes are being bought at record rates. Ninety homes worth over $2 million changed hands in April.
But there are some signs that the housing boom is ending.
Prices for space in the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, have fallen nearly 70 percent from their height in 2013. Prices are falling in other buildings, too.
Home sales experts say there are now too many places to live in Dubai. Jackie Johns is a home sales expert. She said the “boom time … can run too quickly and it all falls apart.”
Matthew Cooke works for a business that sells costly homes. He said people are buying without thinking too much about the future.
Robert Mogielnicki studies the Middle East at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, D.C.
He said a property boom does not usually hurt rich people. If the market changes, they are in a good position.
“The people who lose out are on the lower end,” Mogielnicki said.
I’m Dan Friedell.
Isabel Debre wrote this story for the Associated Press. Dan Friedell adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
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Words in This Story
boom –v. to grow or expand suddenly
vaccine –n. a substance that is usually injected into a person or animal to protect against a particular disease
dose – n. the amount of a medicine, drug or vitamin that is taken at one time
tourist –n. a person who travels to a place for pleasure
attract –v. to cause (someone) to like or be interested in something
change hands –v. to move in ownership from one person to another