By Richard Bruce TurenDubai Al Burj AX

The news was starting to get to me. Too much negativity. The world seems to be in a knot, a twisted, convoluted series of pressure points, any one of which can explode at any moment. My clients have concerns. I have concerns for them as they travel the globe. I needed to get away with the family, away to the safest place I could find on this angry planet of ours.

So we packed up and flew fourteen hours on a new Airbus 380 to a place where I knew we would be safe and where I hoped we would find a pleased and productive populace.    

Norway would have been nice but I wanted a place safer than that. After months of following the news at home the tinkling of cow bells in a small Swiss village might have been soothing, but I wanted to go to a place that might be better for families.

This was an important family vacation. Safety and cleanliness were my primary concerns, along with great hotels and world class restaurants. I wanted to spend two weeks in a place where I would never encounter rudeness or obscenity, a place where we could take our nine year-old daughter anywhere without concern. I was hoping to find a place on this planet where crime is virtually non-existent, a place where you didn’t have to use your hotel safe, where locals leave the front door unlocked.

I suppose you could say that I was looking for the safest place on earth.

I flew the national airline. It had a lounge at the rear of the plane where I spent two hours talking with various crew members who had left their homelands to move to the place where we were headed. The airline required it. It struck me that each person I spoke to seemed thrilled with the decision and several told me that I had, indeed, found the safest place on earth.

We landed at a large, busy airport, unlike any I had ever experienced. What was it, I wondered, that was different? It was the quiet, the calm order of things that seemed to characterize everyone’s behavior. Dozens of people waited in line to approach the customs desks staffed entirely by men in white.

Our driver took us to the home of our friends who moved to this place three years ago and never want to leave. As we drove to their home, we passed through a belt of incredible architecture, all of it appearing to be newly built. Skyscrapers reached up to the sky, a gathering of giants with seemingly unique characteristics. Here a high-rise twisted like a pretzel with the middle narrowed to a single condominium – and then, in perfectly symmetry, unraveling floor by floor. There, a series of beautiful buildings where the window shades open and close automatically based on the position of the sun and the outside temperature.

We would have ten days here. As I looked out the window during my first hour after arrival I noticed something. I could not find a piece of paper on the streets or along the highway. I was in some super-city of the future where the cleaning people had just left.

In the days that followed, I came to realize that I had indeed chosen a vacation location that was safe. But I mean that in a very specific way. This place has never had any terrorism. There is no theft. There are no bad neighborhoods to avoid.

I started to really wonder about the phrase “Paradise on Earth”. What would it mean, what would it entail?

Well, first of all, it would need to be a healthy place. Check. It turns out that all of the citizens of this country have cradle to grave complimentary medical care, much of it of a superior quality and much of it imported. But let’s say that a citizen becomes ill with a malady for which in-country treatment is not available? No problem: The citizen is flown, at government expense, to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota where treatment is covered.

Paradise would have to have a well-educated citizenry. Check. Education is free up to and including University. The literacy rate is significantly higher than ours and is rapidly improving. Ours has remained stagnant for the last ten years.

There would have to be beaches, world-class beaches. Check. This place sits on the sea and where there is construction they simply add water where necessary. Most of the better hotels are built on islands with nearly every deluxe room having sea views. Cruise ships have recently started sailing from the harbor, Azamara, Holland America, and Royal Caribbean among them.

 There would need to be great housing opportunities and truly memorable hotels in my travel paradise. Check. This place has the world’s top-rated, seven star hotel. I stayed in the worst category of room they had, a two-floor suite with butler overlooking the sea with dining room, living room, fully equipped office, a few bathrooms, and exquisite service. I stayed at several other hotels that were each among the finest I have ever experienced anywhere in the world.

Most of the locals live in small, gated communities of twenty to forty homes. In the local culture, it is considered rude to show off one’s money or assets with the possible exception of the cars their drivers drive. One night I saw a Rolls parked on a crowded street that was silver. I don’t mean it was painted silver – it was silver-plated. I was told that there are several gold-plated Rolls around town.

Paradise would have to have things that a family can enjoy. Check. During our stay, my daughter rode a donut boat, assisted at a falconry hospital, rode a formula model at Ferrari World, and went waterskiing. She also got to visit a kid’s paradise in a shopping mall. The kid’s area is set up as its own country and kids are issued a passport. When they enter they find a miniature city filled with all sorts of municipal and private businesses. You walk in to any business that interests you and receive about ten minutes of training. You then must fulfill certain tasks. You are then issued payment which can be redeemed at the local toy store. But since the place was located in the world’s largest shopping center, with over 1200 stores and restaurants, a child has other options like playing hockey on a full-size rink or walking through a major aquarium.

I took this trip just after the mid-term congressional elections in the States. That involved months of carping, mean-spirited personal attack ads. Paradise would have none of that. Was there, I wondered, a place left on earth where virtually the entire population supported its rulers totally on the basis of their intent and competence? Check. This place has that. In an interview, the country’s leader was asked why he felt the need to move so fast. Why, he was asked, was it necessary to have the world’s best airline, its busiest airport, its tallest tower and highest per capita income of nationals?

“Why not”, he replied “if it took New York 150 years, why must it take us 250 years.”?

In fact it hasn’t. I found the world’s safest place just 150 miles from Iran, just south of the Sea of Hormuz. I am in the United Arab Emirates, spending my vacation in two of the seven Gulf States, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.     

This is a very safe place in a dangerous neighborhood. It is a wonderful example, I think, of perception versus reality.          In 1973, this place had no currency, no tourism, and the economy was based on a tribal barter system. To arrive and see what they have accomplished under the leadership of two royal families anxious to use their wealth to improve the life of their citizens, is, I think, an amazing story.