"(The developer) wanted to create a feeling of you're in Italy in the  
middle of a desert," he said. "We fooled the eye, created little  
piazzas and little promenades you can walk through. We tried to create  
them in such a way that they looked organic, they were not planned."

His company won the job.

 From there, things snowballed.

A planned three- to four- person office in Dubai became 50 employees  
as more and more projects rolled in.

Ashai's profile soared.

Ashai went Bollywood, with film star Shah Rukh Khan paying to open a  
small Beverly Hills office so he could say the architect of his  
project -- a $1.5 billion mixed-use development that included an  
underwater disco -- hailed from the center of American glamour.

"Romance will be there," Khan said at the project's launch. "Tony is  
very romantic also. He is immensely romantic in the way he designs. I  
just want people to live there and say 125 years from now that it is  
not only beautiful, but a nice experience, too."

The Bentley-driving Ashai was also introduced to potential clients  
such as tennis star Maria Sharapova -- now involved in Dubai Lifestyle  
City herself -- as well as Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Tiger Woods.