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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 July 2006, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
The New Arab World
First broadcast on BBC World Service in July 2006

Hotel in Dubai

In recent years, a number of Gulf countries have been making progress towards economic, social and even limited political reforms.

These advances are so rapid that many believe the Gulf - once seen as a relatively backward region - could one day eclipse the Arab world's more established centres of influence, such as Egypt and Lebanon.

The BBC's Arab Affairs Analyst Magdi Abdelhadi investigates how far these changes might go.

Part One: Dubai

Magdi Abdelhadi begins his journey in Dubai, a tiny Emirate that has managed to throw off its dependence on oil by building a vibrant service economy.

Millions of visitors come for holidays, hot weather, beaches and shopping. And thousands are putting down roots by buying second homes.

What do Dubai's Arab neighbours have to say about the adoption of so many western values? Does the pace of change have to be so furious - and is it irreversible?

Magdi tries to uncover the grand plan, and finds out if everyone in Dubai subscribes to it.

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