A City that Dares to Dream
Yeoh Siew Hoon on the dazzle of Dubai.
Investments are flowing, businesses are sending executives to explore opportunities and property prices are rising.
I couldn’t have picked a better time to visit Dubai. The weather was perfect. Cool, dry, sunny, and a lovely desert breeze was blowing. No wonder the northern Europeans flock here to escape their harsher winters, as you’re almost guaranteed sunshine. I heard European accents wherever I went, but people from everywhere make Dubai their home.
In Dubai, the first question asked is not “How are you?” but “Where are you from?” and everyone has a story about how they got to this amazing city. I met a Spanish girl who came here via Guangzhou where she worked in a hotel and was the only foreigner among 600 staff, a French-Chinese girl from Reunion Island who came to Dubai to finish her studies and a Bulgarian who flew with Emirates and made it her home after retiring. The chief executive of Dubai Internet City told me that the city is home to 220 nationalities. Pico Iyer, the author of Global Soul, said there are about 250 million people in the world living outside the city they were born, and this is probably true for most of Dubai’s inhabitants.
This truly global melting pot makes Dubai unique, but mostly I love it because it dares to dream. Its shopping malls are jaw-droppingly grand and enormous. The Dubai Mall has an aquarium said to be larger than that of Underwater World in Singapore. Its atrium has a waterfall effect with statues of men diving off a cliff. Its ice skating rink is always packed, and on this night, it was crowded with Emirati folk here for a weekend of shopping and entertainment. It was the busiest mall I’ve ever seen at 1 a.m.
Dubai’s hotels are grander than grand. The Atlantis Palm is so sprawling it’d take days to explore it thoroughly. And there are also more understated jewels such as the Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai, which was decked out with Chinese New Year decorations when I visited (of course I had a meal at Shang Palace to get into the spirit of the festivities). Chinese travellers have also discovered Dubai’s amazing shopping and many Asians buy family sized boxes of Kit Kats here. There were many Lunar New Year decorations around the city.
However the most prominent signs promoted Dubai’s World Expo in 2020. Dubai is euphoric about hosting and you can feel the excitement in the air as government bodies and businesses ride on the wave of optimism generated by the event. Investments are flowing, businesses are sending executives to explore opportunities and property prices are rising.
Emirates Airlines’ ambitious plans to expand, along with the largest order of A380 aircraft ever and more to come, make it clear that Dubai’s the place to be for business in the Middle East. It’s also a city that captures the imagination with its dare to dream so that you can explore what has been built and the achievements yet to come.