And now Dubai wants to build the Taj Mahal.
The emirate city known for carving islands into the sea, erecting ski slopes, submerging underwater hotels now has its eye on reconstructing India’s most famous monument at a cost of $1 billion.
This being the place of plenty, the so-called Taj Arabia will be about four times the size of the original monument.
Unlike the true Taj, built by the Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife Mumtaz, Dubai’s version won’t take 20 years. It should be open by 2014, and fashions itself as a wedding destination with gardens and hotel rooms, residences and retail.
“Marriage is a celebration. It needs to be announced and glorified,” Arun Mehra, chairman of the Link Global Group, sub-developers of the mega project, told Gulf News. “We … want to create the same spirit of love and passion in today’s modern times when divorce rates are fast picking up.”
It’s debatable how successful this model might be. The uber-rich tend to be able to secure 17th century French chateaus and 14th century Indian palaces with few problems. (And surely Mehra knows that the more they spend, the higher their chances of divorce?)
But Dubai dreams big, and is banking on brides with visions of their husbands loving them as much as the Mughal emperor doted on Mumtaz. While exchanging their vows, they best ignore the true inspiration for the Taj’s erection: profound grief. Mumtaz died while giving birth to their daughter, and Shah Jahan famously said: “The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs and makes sun and moon shed tears from their eyes.”
That’s emotional architecture Dubai can’t manufacture, no matter how hard it tries. You can fake snow, but you can’t fake love.