The shiny towers of Dubai sprouted from the sand at an alarming rate, turning it into the world's fastest-growing tourist destination and biggest building site.
Now the credit crisis has hit, and the future looks increasingly precarious.
Jenny speaks to nervous expats and locals to find out how the boomtown in the desert is coping.
As the less well-known, wealthier neighbour of Dubai, Abu Dhabi has never sought the limelight.
But, with potentially disastrous timing in the light of the global economic crisis, the emirate has embarked on a massive cultural development programme including beach resorts, housing, art galleries, museums and an opera house.