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The Sister City Qualities Of Dallas And Dubai

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Dallas and Dubai were both picked as initial test sites for Uber's "flying taxi" project — along with Los Angeles. Frequent traveler Grant Pruitt, co-founder of Whitebox Real Estate, wasn't surprised at the choice, as he can list a bunch of similarities between the home of J.R. Ewing and United Arab Emirates' luxury capital.

The Sister City Qualities Of Dallas And Dubai
The Beck Group's Uber Skyport Concept: The Hive

First there is the obvious similarity. Both of these places are hot, really hot. Average temperatures in Dubai are well over 100 degrees for four months of the year. And Dallas has been known for its hot summers, too, especially during heat waves, like those in 1980 and 2011. 

"I think anybody who has spent any time in Dubai says, 'Man, this feels just like Dallas,'" Pruitt said. "You have big freeways. You've got a lot of cars on the road. People in Dallas ask me all the time, 'Does everybody drive a luxury car here?' I always say after six months they'll give you a luxury car. After three years, they give you a Porsche."

That is why, when Dallas announced its latest its-bigger-and-better-in-Texas project — the Texas Odyssey on the banks of the Trinity River — Pruitt didn't blink an eye.

The Sister City Qualities Of Dallas And Dubai
Dubai

Of course Dallas is building a massive 500-foot observation wheel on a scale that would rival the London Eye. That's just Dallas, Pruitt said. And for anyone who has stood at the top of the 160-story Burj Khalifa, it's Dubai, too.

Both Dubai and Dallas have sprung up over the course of decades rather than centuries, Pruitt said. In the case of Dubai, the growth out of what was essentially desert land is even more stark.

"People will go, 'Where did this come from?'" Pruitt said. "'It just came out of nowhere.'"

Dallas started with cattle, moved to oil and now has a diversified economy of finance, real estate and commercial ventures, Pruitt said. Dubai started as an oil economy, too, but it is now far more diverse, with finance, tourism and, most recently, a emphasis on coding and technology. Dallas, too, has had a tech push with the presence of TI, Raytheon and Perot Systems.

"There's a misnomer about Dubai, and there's a misnomer about Dallas, too," Pruitt said. "With Dubai, they think of oil. With Dallas, they think of oil. If there wasn't the 'Dallas' TV show, people would know oil is just 3 or 4% of our GDP."

Dallas Skyline at Night; Daxis/Flickr
Dallas skyline at night

Both cities have to face that type of stereotyping, Pruitt said.

"People come to Dallas thinking they're going to see people riding horses down the street, and then they're shocked when they don't see it," Pruitt said. "Dubai has its own image problem, too. People think its just sitting in the desert, with a bunch of sheep herders."

Those perceptions are ones both cities have spent years combating, even as the two cities have grown into major international destinations. Both cities are intermodal hubs anchored by two of the busiest airports in the world. Both cities put a significant value on high-end retail, although Dubai has yet to land its own Neiman Marcus. And both cities have a long culture of stewardship from the leading families in the city, be it the Perots and Hunts of Dallas-Fort Worth or the royal family of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Pruitt said the fact the two cities are so similar is one reason why he wasn't surprised Dubai and Dallas were both on the Uber list. Dallas and Dubai — and even Los Angeles — are the type of cities ready to be first, biggest or best, he said.

"It just made sense," Pruitt said.