Written on the Kidzania’s (a children’s role-play park in Dubai Mall) map and leaflet, this simple question “What do you want to be today?” reflecting hospitality could be asked not only to the minor guests of the specific kids’ place but to all who visit Dubai. Well, Dubai is actually a big play park for adults.
Every time, in every visit, Dubai looks and feels different, the result of an allegro paced growth that seems untouched by the financial crisis that hit the Emirate not that long ago. They might have appeared losers in the short run and they might have been accused by their adversaries for being foolishly pride or taking hasty steps; but it seems that they are now cashing in their well developed plans: tourists from all over the world pour in to experience this blend of European cosmopolitan air with Middle Eastern exotic scent; a man-made paradise which smells like the interior of a brand new luxury car. Visitors can find literally everything and “play” according to their moods or tastes changing from one day to the other, as Dubai offers a variety of activities that satisfy even the most demanding guests.
Turning a “dry” land into a touristic “oasis”
Glazing Dubai from high above, while the airplane is about to land, it is amazing how beautiful it looks, with the imposing Burj Khalifa, the world’ s tallest building in its center, so tall one might fear the aircraft’s belly will scratch its top during descend. This unique panoramic view is the result of a simple vision.
Dubai’s ruler had a vision and a vision is just a bet. Actually it is even worse than a bet, as quite often visions are against winning odds, something which in the eyes of the common mortal makes the visionary look like a big gambler. So where did this gamble lead the once upon a time dry place? To the creation of not just a superficial show-off city but to the foundation and settlement of an infrastructure to support the glowing image, thus the amazing airport (one of the busiest in the world), the introduction of a complete scheme of public transportation including the new metro rail, road and water buses and taxis, the establishment of Media City, amazing hotels and huge shopping malls (among them the world’s 7th biggest Dubai Mall), all making the experience of visiting Dubai very pleasant. It is not called “Paris of the Middle East” for nothing.
On the other side, the elevated Jumeirah Palm monorail, reportedly the first of its kind in the Middle East, connect Dubai’s Gate towers to Atlantis hotel resort and Aquaventure Park, another architectural wonderland for adults and kids. With guestrooms literally submerged in the huge aquarium situated in the center, and a reception hall where people are delighted in the view of a simulation of the ocean, the resort is an example of a great antithesis: the serenity of the deep sea contrary to the excitement offered in the aqua-park.
But the aquatic experience doesn’t stop in Atlantis. One of the world’s largest aquarium tanks is situated in the heart of Dubai Mall featuring the world’s largest viewing panel. The visitors line up to get tickets in between their shopping frenzy breaks to see up close more than 85 species in the underwater zoo.
Dubai’s marvels include the first in-door ski resort in the Middle East: Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates is yet another proof that nothing is impossible for a visionary: a snow park in the heart of a desert.
Opposed to such up growth of a “futuristic” nature goes the speculation that Emirati nationals might lose their identity. With more foreigners visiting and living in Dubai the mixing of cultures might threat the core elements that synthesize the Emirati’s values and beliefs system. The initiative by Ali Alsaloom, an Emirati entrepreneur and communicator tends to bridge the gap between the Middle East and the wider world. His website www.askali.com is a valuable source of information both for visitors and expats living in the UAE.
Ali had realized there was not sufficient or accurate information on the web about Emirati culture when he envisioned his now successful website. He initially drew on a piece of paper his action plan. Today he’s thought to act as a cultural ambassador; he’s celebrity starring in a television series, hosting radio shows, publishing his Ask-Ali Guide books that disappear from the bookstore shelves, with the only aim to educate people of the customs and ethics of the UAE tradition.
Ali’s vision came into light the same way that Dubai’s vision did: with strategic planning and years of hard work to achieve and complete the picture that only started as an idea in a visionary’s mind. Dubai conception for the future might have been a one night’s dream but turning this dream into a reality was nor easy or quick, even if since the 1990’s I was hearing stories of family and friends who had visited the all sandy place that would turn into miles of concrete by the very next morning, to their amazement.
“Hellooo! Bahrain, wake-up, I’m calling you, What do you want to be tomorrow?”