Alan Joyce and Qantas eat your heart out! This is the new mosque in Abu Dhabi. Construction began in 1996, with completion in 2007. It's a striking building that I have enjoyed vicariously via trip photos. Further comments follow the photo.
Abu Dhabi is home to Etihad Airline. Eldest has just flown on Etihad, staying in Abu Dhabi. Just 120k down the road is Dubai, home to Emirates Airline. We flew Emirates and stayed in Dubai on our Greece trip. Two carriers, two international airports, yet closer together than Sydney and Newcastle!
Australia's carriers have been affected. Etihad is linked to Virgin, while Qantas has bet on Emirates. The competition isn't friendly. "Qantas un-Australian, says Etihad boss James Hogan" read one July headline. Qantas has effectively closed its Singapore hub, refocusing on Dubai. The Kangaroo route is gone; Qantas struggles to relocate.
But how did two adjacent Middle East centres with a total population less than Sydney come to dominate air travel so quickly? Why is Australia with its 23 million people actually struggling to retain a viable locally based international air service?
The answer partly lies in money, the capacity to spend big dollars. The answer partly lies in the willingness to back winners. But more, the answer lies in location, location, location. At a time of Australia in the Asian Century, it's helpful to remember that Australia still sits on the periphery, the periphery of Asia, the periphery of a world of which Asia is still only a part.
From Abu Dhabi or Dubai, the planes travel on to Europe, but they also travel to Africa. And Africa is a rising continent in its own right. By contrast, we have New Zealand and the Pacific Islands! I think that it's helpful to remember that in all the hype.
Just to finish with another shot of Abu Dhabi from eldest's trip. This is sand dune 4wd. Once you get the people, then you have to entertain them.
Note to readers:
This post is part of an irregular series that began with Economic threads & the need for a new view. I am listing all the posts there.