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For a little over four years, Dubai has grown in the public’s imagination as the Vegas of the middle east, where Islamic devoutness could forge a local truce with unrestrained capitalism and a flood of oil money could fund obscenely ambitious construction schemes. But now that the boom times are over, the idea of a luxury oasis is seeming a lot shakier.

The Telegraph recently devoted 1500 words to cataloguing Dubai’s troubles, but the gist is familiar enough: lots of construction debt, less money than they thought, and a dwindling supply of optimism. The buildings are still going up, but no one is sure how they’ll pay for it all…at least until oil prices go back up.

Somewhere, Dana Thomas is smiling.