As Dubai continues to rule the world tourism, it is not leaving its culture behind, writes AKEEM LASISI, who was recently on a trip to the UAE city
Like an eagle that has conquered the length and breadth of the sky, Dubai has mastered the art of thinking ahead. It has done it before and it has seen the ample fruits, especially in terms of infrastructural and lifestyle facilities that many people from different parts of the world cannot resist.
It is not only doing it again, it also seems to be thinking every minute, a virtue that sets it apart from many places where leaderships appear to be in enmity with quality thinking. Unfortunately, Africa naturally comes to mind whenever a dirge like this is being sung – especially the biggest but toddling culprit called Nigeria.
So gripping has the Dubai’s story become that, of its about 11. 5 million population, only about 1. 5 million people are citizens, that is, of the emirate blood. The remaining 10 million residents are said to be expatriates from probably every part of the world. One guesses that, unlike the old slogan, ‘See Paris and die’, the song in the United Arabs Emirate star city is, ‘See Dubai and stay.’
But, so sorry! No matter how exciting the Dubai socio-economic landscape is, the visiting millions have to remain foreigners as the law does not allow them to become citizens. More on this later.
Well, there is so much to savour in the star city of the United Arabs Emirate that visitors — whether those on short or ‘permanent’ stay — have little cause to worry about not having the opportunity to become citizens. The city continues to tease and thrill everyone with solid institutions and novel projects and programmes that keep renewing themselves.
For instance, this writer’s recent visit to Dubai, in company with some other journalists, showed that the likes of the J Marriott Marquis Hotel, the Dubai Mall, the Emirates Mall, La Mer, The Global Village and IMG World of Adventures provide experience great enough to makes one to feel at home.
While Marriot, a 70-storey, two-tower five-star hotel, is reputed to be the world’s tallest and largest with vivid comfort, the Dubai Mall harbours so much that it is said to attract more than 750,000 visitors every week. The Global Village, which hosts culturally compliant houses of different regions and countries of the world, also has the fame of attracting five million people annually — according to figures from the Dubai Tourism.
One of the newest attractions in Dubai, however, is the Dubai Frame, which, though is presented as a picture frame, is a landmark house of cultural and entertainment varieties. Beyond giving people an opportunity to take pictures and behold the gold-plated Dubai from the sky, the Dubai Frame serves as the memory of the city. It has in-built museums that give a view of what Dubai was before its visionary leaders, especially the king and visioneer, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, took a heroic charge of the land and the people’s destiny. Perhaps more important, however, is the fact that visitors have the opportunity to come to terms with what is currently going on in the heads of the Dubai’s wise men, in terms of the future they want for themselves. In other words, while several of the much hyped democracies of the world are busy stagnating the destinies of their peoples, Dubai is busy trying to surpass itself by designing a possible paradise ahead.
Inside The Dubai Frame, the visitor watches a documentary in which the establishment gives a picture of what the city will be in the next 50 years. It is a haven where robots will do many of the things that humans do now.
Sorry, no citizenship…
In glittering and highly absorbing Dubai, the temptation to get carried away by entertainment and lifestyle-oriented facilities and products is high. Just indicate your choice and taste and everything begins to fall on your retinas and upon your laps. Anyway, most good things attract a price.
But for those who are thirsty of cultural knowledge, the city has memorable things to offer. A place to get such is the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. It is an institution that teaches visitors a lot about the culture of the UAE, with the belief that people who visit Dubai from different parts of the world need to know about their hosts, at least for the purpose of mutual understanding.
This writer got a taste of what makes the city unique culturally, religiously and educationally. After a free lunch of local food, the host, simply identified as Fatyahah, spoke on their culture and the ideology that has worked for Dubai. According to her, the system does not tolerate religious extremism. Its education system is so liberal that it offers learners varieties right from childhood — in terms of curriculum.
The host added that the Emirate did not grant citizenship to expatriates while marriage between the people and foreigners is a rarity. If a foreigner (man) marries a Dubai woman, there is no citizenship for him. Indeed, the children produced by the marriage do not become citizens until they attain age 18. But if a member of the Emirate marries a woman from outside the country, she will be granted citizenship. The host noted that the need to protect the people’s legacy informed the rule.
The centre’s profile further indicated, “Expatriates and UAE nationals are neighbours; however, they can also be strangers. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, saw the need to reach out and educate expatriates in the traditions and customs of the UAE. His vision led to the creation of The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in 1998.”
Other places of interest in Dubai include the evening desert safari, which provides the opportunity to experience the famous Red Dunes safari; the IMG Worlds of Adventure, an indoor amusement park in Dubai. It is Dubai’s first mega themed entertainment destination; Mall of the Emirates, located at interchange four on the popular Sheikh Zayed Road; and La Mer, described as a world-class beachfront development, which opened its first phase to the public on October 15 2017.