As I write this I am sitting in our Dubai office. I came on a whirlwind visit to work with our team on the ground on a new business pitch. It’s my first visit to the city my previous attempt being thwarted by the volcanic ash cloud that saw me stranded in Paris in May 2010. That however, is a story for another day.
Truth be told as I am here for business, I haven’t really had time to have a full Dubai experience but from what I have been exposed to, I have to say I have been underwhelmed. Yes there are amazing buildings, the biggest mall I have ever seen in my life, great infrastructure and a show of wealth – I haven’t seen one beggar on the street! But what is missing is soul.
I have been surprised by how few nationals there are and a colleague informed me that the Emirate make up around 20% of the total population of Dubai. Being used to the warmth and culture of home and our unique ‘africaness’ I feel like everything is shiny and new but somewhat lacking.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Dubai has done a great job of positioning itself as a key business hub and shopping hotspot for the region, you only have to look at the companies and brands who are here to see how successful this has been. It’s just not my kind of place.
I am a sucker for history and culture and want to feel like I’ve grown a little through a connection with humanity.
Looking at the city from your eyes though as I always try to do when I am away on business travel, I am amazed by the buildings and infrastructure that fill the Dubai skyline which weren’t in existence 20 years ago. The most unbelievable of these is the Burj Khalifa.
I took a taxi to Dubai Mall to go and get a closer look at this incredible tower and wow it is incredible in design. At 828 metres it is the tallest tower in the world, has the most number of floors (over 160) and has the elevator with the longest travel distance. Standing and looking up, I was blown away not only by the sheer height of it but by the beauty of its design. I think if you had been there monkey you might just have been speechless, well for at least a minute or two, and then you would have babbled non stop with excitement!
The more I travel the more I recognise that we have something unique to our make up as South Africans. We have warmth and culture and well, just a certain ‘africaness’ in spirit that I think helps makes visitors here feel so welcome. My boss recently attended the final of the African Cup of Nations, he also attended the final of the Soccer World Cup in 2010 and he said that for him the African Cup experience was just that much more special because of this African spirit.
As much it is great to see the world in all its glory there really is no place like home.
So, I won’t be rushing back to Dubai for a break any time soon, but will definitely have to add the city as a stopover destination on a family holiday just so I can get to see your face when you see the tower!