Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Architectural Engineering

First Advisor

Sahera Bleibleh

Second Advisor

Khaled Adham

Third Advisor

Rula Awwad-Rafferty


In order to decrease the reliance on oil and create more economic opportunities, the UAE has witnessed a development boom over the last few decades in an effort to promote tourism. Dubai specifically has purposefully undergone dramatic architectural evolutions with the aim of transforming the city into a tourist hub and a global attraction. Over the last few years, iconic buildings including Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa have been built at different times to become prominent landmarks that promote the city’s global image and combine traditional/local elements in such a way as to form completely new unrecognizable forms i.e. a new genre of design. Those architectural spectacles attract not only visitors from outside but also Emirati citizens/residents as well. However, one is bound to ask: How does the indigenous Emirati population ‘receive’ and ‘perceive’ these major architectural developments and what kind of identity implications do they pose on the Emirati on a daily basis? This research is a qualitative ethnographic comparative case study that explores the Emirati voices and feedback on Burj Al Arab. Based on the findings of Bleibleh’s and Al-Saber’s (2014) previous research on Burj Khalifa titled Cultural Modernity in Urban Space: Indigenous Performance of the Everyday in Dubai’s Architectural Wonders, this research borrows the methodology, theoretical framework and explores the same research question in an attempt to compare the perception of the indigenous Emiratis of the two sites of Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa in the light of cultural modernity. Relying on the Driving Forces of Everyday Life as a base for comparison, the study explores the similarities, differences and patterns between the two sites. The study also examines whether the research outcome could be extended and generalized to other iconic buildings in Dubai or elsewhere.