In Dubai’s ever-growing lust for a bigger piece of the tourism industry’s pie (or perhaps a tasty morceau de la tartelette?), the Arab emirate appears to be taking a cue from Disney’s Epcot in order to clone the city of Lyon, France.
The $685-million deal between the Dubai and Lyon governments paves the way for a 700-acre metropolis to be called Lyons-Dubai City*, featuring replicas of the French city’s postcard-ready restaurants, squares, and cafés as well as the “university, a hotel school [a Paul Bocuse Institute, emulating the one in Lyon named for the renowned chef], a film library, subsidiaries of Lyon museums, and a football training center run by Olympique Lyonnais,” according to Geoff Manaugh at BLDGBLOG.
The Times Online explains further, describing Dubai businessman Saeed al-Gandhi’s love affair with Lyon that sparked the deal. “He wants to recreate Lyons's soul,” a town hall official, José Noya, explains to the Times. According to a past article by Suzy Gershman in National Geographic Traveler, Lyon—known for its très-bien gastronomy and considered the birthplace of cinema—is where you go “to soak up the glory of La Vraie France—the real France.”
BLDGBLOG’s Manaugh muses on the concept of successfully franchising the city, and we can’t help but agree with his argument on the lack of authenticity in the plan:
It will only be complete, however, if the existing population of Lyons (aka Lyon) is cloned, raised in the exact same way as the source population, reading the same books, dating the same people, working in the same offices, etc.—so that they can wander round, eating tomato salads in sidewalk cafes, stunning future tourists from China. It'll be a cross-cultural Tom McCarthy novel—precise and choreographed reenactments on the scale of two cities—or perhaps some surreal, heavily Gallicized remake of Westworld: instead of being killed, however, you simply get over-fromage'd frites.
*Note: The traditional English spelling of Lyon, France, is Lyons.