Spend enough time in the historic quarter of Lyon, and you'll want to take it home with you. Which is almost exactly what a Dubai businessman has plans to do. I say 'almost' because he's not moving it London Bridge-style across the world. He's just rebuilding it back home. The city, or at least a sizeable chunk of it.
Now everyone knows Dubai has a thing about building, and building big. This is the place, after all, where they create hotels on synthetic islands. The place where they build towers that appear to penetrate the ozone layer. And this is the same neck of the woods in which they are building a whole new cultural island, complete with an extension of the Louvre.
But this plan could dwarf them all. And it was, it seems, dreamt up on a whim. The story goes that Dubai entrepreneur Buti Saeed al-Ghandi was walking the streets of the French city last October with his wife, and fell in love with it. In January, Ghandi, who heads up investment firm Emivest, signed a memorandum of understanding with the mayor of Lyon, stating that they were about to embark on a big adventure.
That adventure is provisionally called Lyon-Dubai City, to be located in either an urban area near the Burj Dubai tower or in the desert near Dubai's second international airport. This new city (sized at 750-1000 acres) will include a university, branches of Lyon's museums, homes, a hotel, office space, cafes, restaurants, town squares, and possibly a church. There's even talk of creating a local version of the Lyon soccer team, and some kind of giant air conditioner to replicate the French climate. All of which should be ready by 2012. It makes Vegas look like child's play. RM
Images: Dubai marina: Imre Solt