One of the most visible signs of the economic downturn was the abandoned car. Throughout 2009 and 2010, you saw these vehicles fairly regularly, sitting in parking garages, along the street or on sandlots. The convertible tops were threadbare from exposure to the sun and sand; the interiors filled with coffee cups and other trash that some truly classless people had tossed inside. Some of these cars were very expensive cars, Ferraris and siblings, which no doubt during the good times were lovingly detailed and cared for. Their former owners had lost their jobs and could no longer make the payments, and so, “did a runner.”

I haven’t run across as many of them lately. But today in JLT, I parked next to this one. And it reminded me of a recent report from Dubai Municipality that there were more abandoned cars – about 10 percent more – the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2011.

On the passenger side, someone had scrawled: “I’m sad. I remember when I was new and shiny.”

All the news lately is about how “Dubai is back.” And the economy is recovering, abeit with a few significant weak spots. The office market, with a vacancy rate at 50 percent, is dismal, but the Arab Spring has filled up hotel rooms and residential real estate seems much more attractive now that prices are down 40 percent from their peaks.

But clearly, there is still distress. I find the scrawler, below, a bit arrogant. After all, I’d bet that more people than not around here are leveraged to their eyeballs, despite the lessons learned from the economic collapse just a few years ago. In a country where not being able to pay your bills – even one time – is grounds for a fairly immediate jail sentence, I’d suggest to this person he think twice before feeling too smug.

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