Welcome to Du-Buy?

A flurry of deals by Dubai, Qatar and Abu Dhabi highlights their global ambition and regional rivalry

Steve Crisp / Reuters

Fog rolls by early in the morning, as construction cranes work, near the Dubai Marina construction and residential zone, in Dubai on September 20, 2007.

Arab sheikdoms are steeped in conservative desert traditions, which discourage risky ventures in everything from marrying daughters to herding camels. The old rules, however, don't apply to the Persian Gulf's new generation of rulers. They may still wear the flowing thobe of their ancestors, but their mind-set is all pinstripe when they are taking on the modern world.

Or, to be more specific, buying it. In September another dizzying array of multibillion-dollar deals became public, notably Dubai's bid to acquire a 20% stake in NASDAQ, the high-volume New York City-based stock exchange known for its listing of star tech firms including...

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