A little over a month back I was in Dubai Museum one afternoon checking up the city’s tryst with destiny. My octogenarian mother was with me, and it was just as well that she like me liked history. The museum was located in the Al Fahidi Fort, the smallest fort by area I’d seen thus far. As we moved about we could see the signs of austere life of a bygone era when people fought with the nature to survive in the harsh terrains of Arabian deserts.
To the far corner of the smallish compound a door led to the spiral ramp that wound down to the well-laid air-conditioned galleries. It was here that we came upon the audio-visual history of Dubai. And it surprised me.
For a city with barely 40 years of journey to modernity the transformation was both magical and spellbound for a first-time visitor like me…especially so coming from Kolkata where time had eternally stood still for as long as one could recall.
Dubai was a city of game-changing transitions, and some of the projects like the world’s largest airport at Jebel Ali were, in my opinion, no less epic than any in other parts of the world. But the city was also about compassion if you asked me. During my 3-week stay in the city I could see a sense of belongingness people had toward this great city. And for good reasons.
To give an example, in the Burjuman area where I stayed it was almost like mini-India during Diwali. People lighted up their balconies and window sills in myriad patterns and (to my surprise) burst crackers despite ‘strictures’.
The underlying message? You could enjoy your festivals as long as they remained within the limits of ‘civic’ tolerance. I said ‘civic’ and not ‘religious’ because frankly I wouldn’t see any religious undertone behind pure enjoyment which in this case I’d say the rulers of Dubai understood very well. Wasn’t that when the bond grew between you and the place you lived in? Because you knew you could enjoy life on your terms if you didn’t prove a nuisance to others.
So, when Dubai bagged Expo 2020 it wasn’t a surprise what an Indian student, Depika had to say. She beamed saying, “I am so proud to be living in the city of the future,” revealing that she was born in Dubai and had seen the city “develop very quickly”.
As the news spread the joy of people knew no bounds. Burj Khalifa, the iconic tower of soaring height, was lit up with an amazing display of fireworks (photo above courtesy this source). Reports said that Shaikh Zayed Road, the city’s main artery, remained jam-packed with cars for hours as everyone spilled out to celebrate the occasion.
Having just been there where I enjoyed my stay, Dubai’s moment of glory made me happy too. And I for one would harbour no doubt that Expo 2020 would be a grand success. After all if the city of 2 million people could think of building the world’s largest airport catering to 160 million people, Expo 2020 should be a cakewalk. No?
[The featured image is that of the runway being built in 2009 at Al Makhtoum Airport, Dubai.]