Emirate of the North

Part 1 of 6

Where is Whitehorse? Why are you going there? What’s it like?

Three great questions and at first I struggled to answer any of them. So when Ed, a friend and former colleague asked me the big three, I thought I might veer from the truth.


I could be straight about this: “It’s in the Yukon; Northern Canada,” I said with some authority – by this time I’d checked.


“I’ve decided to leave the Middle East, retire from the world of security and follow some writing projects, Ed. I can’t think of a better place to concentrate than in the Canadian wilderness.” More honesty: “I have a friend living in Whitehorse; she’s a performer.” (Little did I know before I arrived in May that everyone in Whitehorse is a performer of some description.)

What’s it like?

I’d worked with impressionable Ed in the Middle East. Now here I could begin to play: “Well, Ed … it’s a lot like Dubai actually.”



“How so?”

Think quickly, le-Queux. “How so …?” I spoke slowly, buying extra thinking time – like a school child repeating the teacher’s question.

“For a start, the scale of construction in Whitehorse is phenomenal. Did you know that the city boasts 14 per cent of the world’s cranes? I know Dubai has 25 percent of the world’s cranes, Ed, but momentum there is slowing and here it’s still growing.

“The city is also a communications hub; Whitehorse International Airport sees a higher volume of passengers annually than anywhere else in the world except London Heathrow. It has more cell phone masts than any other Canadian city and its exploding population has even caused a shortage of available mobile phone numbers.

“Whitehorse is also a global sports destination; the Canada Games Centre is the largest sports venue in North America, comprising 26 ice hockey rinks, six Olympic-sized indoor track and field courses, the world’s largest indoor ski complex, a full-sized NASCAR track and the floor space of the gym is large enough for a 737 to take off.

“How do I know this last fact, Ed? Because they actually pulled this stunt for the opening ceremony of the Canada Winter Games in 2007 – watch it on YouTube.

“The leisure industry is blossoming, too; the Marsh-Laberge Project has elevated terra-forming and land sculpting to an art form; Marsh Lake has a giant man-made island shaped like a spruce tree to rival Dubai’s Palm Island and Lake Laberge has just entered Phase 2 of a project to create a series of islands in the shape of countries of the world. David Beckham and Wayne Gretzky have each bought off-plan holiday apartments on the most exclusive island parcels.”

“What about the Burj?” asked Ed.

He was referring to the world’s tallest building in downtown Dubai which has just past the 2,000-foot mark and continues to rise.

“Ah yes,” I replied, “the historic competition between Dubai and Whitehorse! Always trying to out do each other. It’s true that Whitehorse is limited by building restrictions but the city has decided that what it can’t do with height it can do with length; at the top of Two Mile Hill, they’re building condos which, when they’re finished, will surpass 2,000 feet in length.

“The Sultan of Whitehorse couldn’t look the Sultan of Dubai in the eye if he didn’t build something bigger and better, so Whitehorse developers are keeping the final planned length of the condos close to their chests just in case the Burj project team gets wind of their plans and build even higher.”

I was getting into my stride and just about to tell Ed about the Whitehorse-Tokyo tunnel before I was distracted by a call waiting tone.

“Sounds like quite a place,” said Ed. “Be sure to keep me posted.”

“I will, Ed. I will.”

I’ve decided to keep the charade going and I’ll keep you posted, too.

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