Dubai – the vertical city of the world heralds global tourism recovery with 3.97 million visitors in the first quarter of 2022. In fact, the Middle East leads travel recovery in the post-Covid-19 era. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) travelers have an important role in tourism recovery due to their huge spending power. According to UNWTO, GCC travelers spend more than 6.5 times the global average. Saudi Arabian travelers reportedly spend the highest globally on travel to Europe. Travel to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is increasing by leaps and bounds among Europeans, Africans, Indians, and GCC citizens and residents. The Sultanate of Oman is also attracting a huge number of tourists. Now, with the Salalah Khareef Festival in progress, the numbers are bound to increase further.
Dubai tourism has been making spiraling strides due to its tourist-friendly measures and the introduction of different visa types. There are not just single-entry tourist visas but also 5-year multi-entry tourist visas for families, who can show at least $4,000 in their bank accounts. Sometimes, visas are rejected for no reason despite submitting all the documents. Applicants whose requests for visas are rejected stand to lose a part of the visa fees. This needs to be looked into by the federal authority for issuing visas. New hotels are added by the day both in the 3-star and the 5-star category. The Dubai Municipality collects Municipality Tax. Plus there is a Tourism Tax. But some of the 3-star hotels are spoiling the name of the hospitality industry. Even towels are not provided to the guests and rooms are not cleaned despite requests, according to some hotel guests. The Dubai Municipality should cancel licenses of some hotels like The Signature Inn, Deira, after checking with the staying guests and going through the reviews of the guests who left. Many Saudi Arabians visit this hotel.
During the Eid Al Adha holidays, Dubai witnessed house full boards even at 5-star hotels. Anticipating this huge rush, I had booked Hyatt Regency Galleria in advance. The luxury and ambience provided are worth value for money. Housekeeping was excellent. It is a good place for journalists who do not move about with personal security guards. The world knows how Russian President Vladimir Putin trails and hounds journalists, who speak and write the truth. So, I did not take chances with my security. I cannot expect Ukraine to provide me with security. Thanks to the handsome and courteous Egyptian receptionist Ibrahim Kamar (Qamar), my premium 2-bedroom apartment was upgraded to a premium large 2-bedroom apartment. All the 486 rooms at Hyatt Regency were booked during the Eid holidays. The ballroom that hosts breakfast was bursting with 815 guests on a packed day. It resembled a wedding reception. One should not miss breakfast and particularly the variety spread at the Hyatt Regency.
There are many attractions in Dubai. But the latest attraction is the Museum of the Future, which opened in the first quarter of this year. Can you imagine life and its advancement in the year 2071? The outer building has a message of hope in Arabic from the Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, which reflects inside the building also through the LED lights. These should not be mistaken as verses from the Holy Quran because of the Arabic language.
The museum has six floors of superb exhibits that imagine life in the year 2071, including a space station which is named OSS Hope – the same name the United Arab Emirates gave the spacecraft that began orbiting Mars in February 2022. A digitally re-created Amazon rainforest on a huge screen amazes nature lovers and children. Take a walk through the rich Amazon rainforest and view models of the DNA of 2400 species ensnared in glass cylinders – some are extinct, others are threatened with extinction. Then lift off on the spacecraft I Hope to visit a NASA-approved international space station, about 600 kilometers above our Earth.
One can enroll as an Ambassador of Mars Colony on Earth like I did myself. In this travelogue, you can see my picture in a space suit with the caption – Ambassador of Mars Colony on Earth. This may give you one reason to laugh while looking at the picture – even laugh at me! Hahaha! Who knows? I may be the pioneer of a Mars Journalists Association there in the future. Even children can enroll themselves in the junior category for different new professions. There is a children’s area, a 345-seat theater, and a cavern-like top floor that could comfortably accommodate as many as 1,000 people for a meeting or event.
The marvelous 320,000-square-foot Museum has no columns to support its structure but it relies on a network of 2,400 steel tubes that intersect diagonally in its outer frame and onto which slabs of concrete flooring and about 183,000 square feet of cladding were attached. One must explore all the floors of the Museum including the future gadgets and the emerging vehicles of transport. Located beside the Emirates Towers Metro Station on the Red Line, two stops from the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall station, the Museum of the Future is open 365 days a year from 10 am-5 pm.
Another attraction — The Dubai Frame was completed at a cost of the Arab Emirates Dirhams (AED) 230 million and opened on 1st January 2018. It is undoubtedly an architectural landmark in Zabeel Park, Gate 4, Dubai. It holds the record for the most giant frame in the world. The Guardian newspaper had described it as “the biggest picture frame on the planet.” It stands 150 meters high and it is 93 meters wide. This 492 ft height of the Dubai Frame makes it one of the best vantage points in the city with stunning vistas of both old and new Dubai. It boasts 15,000 square meters of gold cladding.
When visiting the Dubai Frame, you will feel as if you have entered a time machine. The Frame takes you on a mesmerizing journey of three time periods in the UAE – the past, the present, and the future. The journey begins on the mezzanine floor where there will be a tour of a multimedia exhibition that features 3D projections and special effects to provide the visitors with a multi-sensory experience of Old Dubai. One can see all the elements of the Emirati traditions and the glorious heritage and how the city rapidly transformed from a humble fishing village to one of the most luxurious and sought-after urban destinations in the modern world.
After the tour through Old Dubai, the visitors will get to ride the express lift that will take only 47 seconds to reach the Sky deck, which represents the Present Dubai. Here, one can experience a 360-degree uninterrupted view of both, Old Dubai where you get to see all the residential units and areas in old Dubai. You also get to see the side of New Dubai which features views of the towering skyscrapers of the iconic Burj Khalifa in Downtown and the apartments in Business Bay. The visitors get to walk over the fascinating transparent glass floor.
At this level, there are many interactive screens which one can use to identify the buildings that can be seen from the Sky deck and take selfies, which will be featured on the ‘Dubai Moments Wall’ in this Dubai attraction. Once the tour of the Sky Deck is completed, the visitors will be taken back to the mezzanine floor where they will get to move through a tunnel, which uses special lights and sound effects to provide an experience of how Dubai will look 50 years from now. With bright, vivid colors and interactive projections, the visitors may feel like they are in an actual time vortex, experiencing a passage through time to Dubai Future. After the tour to the three phases is completed, the visitors are guided to the souvenir shop, where the visitors purchase their souvenirs to boast – I have been there and done that! Whichever attraction one visits it is wise to book tickets online to save time from long queues!
A stupendous attraction is – At the Top, Burj Khalifa. It is an outdoor observation deck on the Burj Khalifa. The visitors can have breathtaking views on the 124th and the 125th floor and also get to feel the atmosphere at the top. You may have cakes and coffee with your loved ones and watch the world from there. Children would definitely love to be at this place. Watch the sunset from here. At the Top, Burj Khalifa is in between the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Aquarium. After spending a few hours at the top, you can move to Dubai Mall on the same premises for a shop till you drop experience and entertainment. Book lovers must not miss one of the largest book stores — Kinokuniya in the Dubai Mall. The Dubai Aquarium is one of its kind and surely it is not to be missed. In Dubai Mall, it is a workshop experience! What is a workshop? Marriage is a workshop in which the husband works and the wife shops! There are other places like the mall of the Emirates and the Ibn Batuta Mall to complete the workshop experience. Go to Miracle Garden to refresh yourself.
Gold Souq – If a femme fatale accompanies you, your trip to Dubai will not be complete without a visit to the Gold Souq or market. Shakespeare opined – All that glitters is not gold! It does not matter if you have a golden heart. A favorite past time of Indian women is hoarding hold in bank lockers after a few fancy appearances at weddings and parties. All that matters is real physical gold for the beautiful lady. Gold, diamonds, gold dresses, purses, and shoes are all up for grabs but for a price. The most expensive gold dress covering the front and the back is only AED 4 million! See the pictures here.
Before my able Editor, Afroz Alam Sahil hauls me over the coals for a long travelogue, I would better stop this talk of gold and femme Fatales. An important piece of information is that: those visitors on a single entry visa will be reimbursed the tax paid for buying gold while at the airport or the borders. However, this does not apply to those on a 5-year tourist visa.
Advice: Do not carry any medicines without a doctor’s prescription!
The Indian diaspora, Bollywood divas, Indian businessmen, and Mughalai food are inseparable from the Dubai story. Despite the long queues at the airports/borders and some other challenges which include food poisoning, Dubai is truly worth visiting! Hon’ble Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and HH the UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan are great friends.