Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dubai, Dream of Desert!

“Dubai was founded on trade, not oil”… Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. 

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, and Emir of Dubai & is writer of some really motivational books about leadership. His above quote is from the book “Flashes of Thought”, which shows the clarity of his thoughts & that’s how he has made Dubai a world trading destination. Remember it’s never easy for a Muslim Country to attract outsiders in first place for any reason & then to make them Dubai as their trade business center is cracking hardest nut especially when the visitors are white i.e. Europeans & Americans! Exactly that’s what Mohammad Rashid & his team has done. This was my second trip to Dubai in just two years span & again the city amazed me with the ease it accepts challenges on trade front, changes itself & delivers! Actually what change you can expect in a city in hardly two years span? Agreed in my last visit which was nearly after twelve years I have seen enough so I wasn’t that much exited while this visit. I was just accompanying my teen age kids as they haven’t seen much of Dubai. Though the additional attraction for me was few of my friends have visited Dubai in early January & they told me about night life of Dubai which I never got exposed to. Rather in my earlier visit I travelled across Dubai solely to see the ongoing construction works, so didn’t even have time for famous Dubai shopping also. So this time when my kids said they wanted to see Dubai, I also joined which didn’t go well with them but then we have grown up in a system where elders in the home are always right! And what I saw in Dubai wasn’t just night life but how it makes lives out of nothing!

Starting from travel booking as my veteran Dubai visitor cousin Kedar was along so he booked all the things from travel to stay. To share a tip, it’s always better to go by any available air line from Pune to Dubai as you save nearly a day but better to fly back via Mumbai by Emirates Airlines as then only you get to see Emirates terminal & it is worth seeing! Stay in Dubai is cheaper than any Metro City in Pune as loads of options are available but always better to get a service apartment with restaurant facility & close by to Metro station, which we did.

As usual Rolex watches displaying time on the Emirates terminal were telling story of the wealth the city holds yet first thing I noticed after coming out of airport was weather! It was some 20 degrees & it remained that way for next four days making me feel I was visiting some European country in summers & not any Middle East country! My most favorite thing in any new city is long walks as you get to know the city geography & culture only if you hit the city streets on feet! Unless you become part of the street crowd & melt in it, you really don’t get feel of any city. So one more tip, whenever you get to visit any new city try to be on streets as much time you can, use public transport like Metro or Bus as well share a cab, walk along the crowded streets & be part of the crowd. Speak with the residents & ask as many questions you can, not just about popular tourist spots but what’s local & what they like most about their city that will make you know the city better than any Wikipedia or Google search! Especially a city like Dubai where most commoners can speak or understand Hindi, then you must explore the city on your own as it’s these people on road who are real city & any dialogue with them will make you know the pulse of the city, how it’s progressing or is it in bad shape & what city offers to its residents.

One thing was different than my last trip & it was general trade was a bit low. I can see many taxies vacant, local crowd was there but lesser tourists; may be the DSF i.e. Dubai Shopping Festival was just over & malls were awaiting new lot of tourists. What was important is Dubai Govt is smart enough to understand no more a city can survive just as a shopping destination as there are many competitors for that position, Bangkok, Kualallampur & Singapore are to name a few. And then USA always is a big market trade place for all electronic & fashion accessories with its mega malls concept via Cosco & Wal-Mart of which Outlet is front runner. So Dubai bought in Outlet mall, displaying out of the mind stock of every fashion accessory at equally amazing rates! And there is Mall of Emirates, Dubai Mall along with street side shopping & Gold Sukh market to lure shopaholics! But then shopping is area of interest for mostly grownups & kids even teens are rarely interested in shopping or getting tagged along all the daylong with their parents! So it’s obvious that when the debate starts back at home, where to go for holiday most kids says big “No” to Dubai as they used to get bored by just shopping frenzy their parents’ displays at Dubai.

Here is where Dubai Govt shifted gears & realizing if they develop something which can attract kids then its win-win situation for entire family & that’s what best trade is i.e. to make every party of the deal happy! Here also Dubai Govt played smart, to rope in kids amusement parks is the best bait but then Disney Lands are already out there so is Universal Studio! My generation has grown up with Tom & Jerry & Donald Duck & Mickey Mouse but today’s genre lives in world of Super Heroes & their rides, no more fairy tales (barring Frozen Princes). So Dubai got latest rage in kids Marvel Studio & its super heroes known as Avengers! In form of IMG Studio which is house of Avengers along with Cartoon Net-Work they have made another wonder in the desert! As remember all the amusement parks in world are in open air but with mercury souring to 50 degrees over five months span which is summer holidays for countries like India, Dubai couldn’t afford open air amusement park. So what, they surely can afford an indoor amusement park & that’s what they did! Nearly some eight odd acres i.e. 40 lac sq ft entirely enclosed theme park with average height of seventy feet & fully air conditioned! Seems a joke or dream? Well then visit IMG studio, with all today’s kids dream rides of superheroes like Iron Man, Spider Man & Hulks, that too indoor, protection you from scorching heat of sands, you doesn’t know what it is outside, a day or night!

And IMG studios is just one of the arsenals in Dubai’s armor they also have another kiddo favorite theme park, its Lego Land. Lego comics are very much popular in smaller age group of kids & right from creating miniature models of Dubai Sky Line to seven wonders in world, Lego Land offers rides for toddlers also. And while the toddlers have blast with their heroes parents are kept busy by enormous shopping pavilions across these theme parks. Also to beat the heat the latest concept coming in is water parks, where tourist can chill out with big water pools & rides along with entire family. And yes there is Bollywood studio for die-hard Hindi film lovers with rides of popular Hindi films! I felt really sorry though I enjoyed all rides but couldn’t stop wondering, why can’t we have something like this back in our country as with our hit films if Dubai can make a theme park?

One more concept which fascinated me was Global Village; here pavilions of some eighty odd countries has been erected on a huge landscape, which has lawn, canals, sand dunes & what not! All the countries specialty items are displayed in these pavilions where in one go you can visit the culture as well trade of that country. Needless to say to keep children occupied a huge stage is there where from circus to dance shows on Shakira songs are going on. There are food stalls of every country for the taste buds of the visitors, what more fun one wants? Then the city has developed another wonder that is Miracle garden, where you can see every botanical specie right from rain forests to cactus, around the world under one roof & structures made up of flower decoration.
Then to boost real estate in the city huge public parks & public recreation areas are being developed. As shopping can be good for tourists but what about city’s residents, they need space to relax & spend leisure time. For that Dubai has long sea shore of which most is being developed as promenade in form of beaches like Goa. Also a huge canal (our rivers are also small in compare to it) has been developed right in city center making real estate more lucrative along it by making canal side recreation developments along. Here people can jog or cycle or just get along their lunch packs & enjoy family dining out on the lawns; what more a family want as a holiday!  When I visited this place it made me think sadly about so called river side development in our Pune city; of which only dreams had been shown to us but not even 100 meter stretch of river front development has come in existence in last many years! 

In Dubai the best part to learn for engineers, planners & architects is the way culture, engineering & aesthetics has been blended while developing all these along with keeping the soul intact that is entertainment! As in one of the parks I saw a concrete path way with colorful patterns on the surface. End effect was very interesting which otherwise would have been just a dry gray concrete patch but a dash of colors & it has become so wonderful to our eyes! This is what we need to learn from Dubai as it’s not just money but it’s the vision & a will to execute that vision is what makes the difference.

On one of the drives the cab driver showed us a site & told “sir yaha Burj Khaliphase badi aur unchi building Shaikh bana rahe hai” i.e. Sir here a building bigger & taller than Burj Khalipha is being build, because seems somewhere out in the world another taller building is on verge of breaking record of Burj Khalipha’s height. I saw one hoarding of Mr. Rashid Makatoum, saying, “Dubai will never settle for anything lesser than first place”! Yes this is the way how you not just reach to first place but you create you first place. I am usually reluctant to go anywhere else than forests as I feel nature teaches you most of the things but I was wrong as Dubai there may not be forest to teach me but it’s the rulers like Mr. Rashid & his team who are doing a job of creating their own nature which is worth learning! To conclude, a huge hoarding was hung outside of Dubai airport displaying a message, “In Dubai we don’t wait for things to happen, we make them happen”! With those words carved on my mind I said adieu to Dubai, to come back again to learn something new!

Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.

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