When Sheikh Rashid\'s sons took over the transformation of Dubai, the third born, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, dreamt of making the emirate a global city. Indeed, that is what Dubai has become and its population is now made up of citizens from more than 100 nations around the world. The Sheikh further dreamt and launched Dubai onto a pinnacle of modernity and global commerce. That pinnacle included the Emirates Towers, taller than any building in Europe; the Burj Khalifa, the world\'s highest; a brand new airport, Dubai International; and an airline, Emirates, which today connects Dubai to the world. But there were changes along the way that the leaders probably did not dream about, including hijacked planes and hostage negotiations with groups such as the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Such historical titbits stream from Daniel Brook\'s eminently readable A History of Future Cities, in which the author profiles Dubai alongside St Petersburg, Russia; Bombay (now Mumbai) and Shanghai (Lagos in Nigeria and Dhaka in Bangladesh, Brook notes, are also poised to become \"future cities\"). What does the label mean? To Brook, a US journalist, his \"four unlikely sister cities\" are unified by the sense of \"disorientation\" they impart to the world, since all are located in the East (although St Petersburg\'s location beside the Gulf of Finland hardly qualifies it as an authentic eastern city) but were purposefully built to look as if they were in the West. \"Love them or hate them, these dis- oriented metropolises matter,\" Brook writes. \"They are places to be reckoned with because they are ideas as much as cities, metaphors in stone and steel for the explicit goal of Westernisation.\" Travellers to these places, he explains, are less likely to ask Where are we? than Who are we? \"These global gateway cities raise the question of how to be a modern Arab, Russian, Chinese, and Indian and whether modernisation and globalisation can ever be more than just euphemisms for Westernisation.\" Dubai aside, cities modelled on the West have a long history: Shanghai and Mumbai date back two centuries as world players - and St Petersburg was founded in a Baltic coastal swamp in 1703. Yet today\'s big difference is rapid intercontinental travel, along with the sense of wonder that such sudden cultural change can bring: a visitor to Dubai, Brook says, has to stop and marvel at \"the human traffic jam that breaks out when a group of Afghan village men, all in their characteristic headdresses, crane their necks to see their tribesmen draw money from an ATM. \"The journey from developing-world hinterland to globalising city has become the defining journey of the 21st century,\" he says. Certainly that journey has had bumps in the road. After Peter the Great returned from an incognito shipbuilding internship in Amsterdam - then the world\'s richest city, based on trade - he marshalled his tremendous resources to begin a brand new city (with the Dutch name Sankt Pieter Bunkh) modelled on the West. The Tsar liked to brag how his megaproject took the lives of 100,000 serfs, many of whom worked in a freezing, harsh environment without even wheelbarrows or sophisticated tools. And Russia\'s serfs weren\'t forced Westernisation\'s only victims: Peter personally shaved off the beards of his nobles and cut the sleeves off their caftans. French became the lingua franca; philosophers were imported from Paris to advise Catherine the Great. And onion domes and other Russian architectural traditions were eschewed in favour of canals and public buildings adorned with European columns and cupolas. Peter even hired an Italian architect to make the metropolis mimic Rome, complete with a neoclassical central church.