Bong!... And now the Big Ben news

The prospect of Big Ben emerging from the sands of Dubai reminded me of that final scene from Planet of the Apes. Charlton Heston stumbles across the upper torso of the Statue of Liberty poking out of the ground. Visibly distressed, he drops to his knees, beats his fists into the sand and wails: “Damn you, damn you all to hell.”

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By  Sean Cronin Published  January 7, 2006

|~||~||~|The prospect of Big Ben emerging from the sands of Dubai reminded me of that final scene from Planet of the Apes. Charlton Heston stumbles across the upper torso of the Statue of Liberty poking out of the ground. Visibly distressed, he drops to his knees, beats his fists into the sand and wails: “Damn you, damn you all to hell.” I imagine that was pretty much the reaction of Dubai Municipality’s chief planning officer when the application for the Big Ben tower arrived on his desk. But it shouldn’t really have surprised us. In a city with three palm tree-shaped islands underway, replicas of the Eiffel Tower and Leaning Tower of Pisa about to start, and a Pyramid half-way finished, it takes a lot for us to drop our toast, put our newspapers down and ask: “Excuse me, what did you just say?” But that was my (slightly sanitised) response, on hearing of plans to build a replica of Big Ben on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road. Like every new high-rise development, it has its pros and cons. On the plus side, it will give comfort to homesick expatriate Londoners living in Dubai. The news will also be welcomed by people living on Sheikh Zayed Road who don’t own watches. There are of course negatives as well — although they are confined to the watch-owning non-homesick cockney population of Dubai. And who cares about them? The story behind the development reads like a modern-day version of the Rumpelstiltskin fairytale, but adapted by a group of planning officers. Once upon a time there was a developer who visited Big Ben in London and dreamt of building a replica of the beautiful building in the sands of Arabia, only three times as big, and with a selection of one, two and three bedroom apartments inside. But the evil planning officers refused to listen to his ideas, fearing that a 60-storey Big Ben built in the desert, may look a little, well, odd. After much huffing and puffing, they agreed to entertain the plan only if he brought them a letter of no objection from the Palace of Westminster, in the faraway Kingdom of London. Assuming that the bureaucrats employed at the Mother of All Parliaments would turn purple in apoplectic rage at the mere suggestion of their beloved Big Ben being cloned, they thought it was a safe bet to agree in principle to the development — only on the condition that the custodians of the original Big Ben would not object. So imagine their surprise when our hero developer appeared back at their offices several months later clutching said letter of no objection with the Palace of Westminster letterhead. And that was how the Big Ben of Dubai came to be. It truly is a magical tale. I do hope Chas and Dave are available for the groundbreaking ceremony. Sean Cronin Editor||**||

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