, DUBAI, UAE, Mar 20 – The scene from the sky is breathtaking. Lights form a perfect kaleidoscope of lights and buildings as you approach the runaway clearly outlining the city’s landscape.
The ultra modern airport is an edifice. Bigger than most in Europe, its tastefully and expensively done. Here, the staff work.
Welcome to Dubai, the business hub of the Middle East. A city which in the last 35 years has undergone enormous transformation turning into one of the world’s busiest cities not to mention most visited.
The first thing that strikes you as you step out in daylight is the sheer amount of sky scrapers; various shapes and designs, it looks like a concrete jungle with building after building some completed others in progress.
Oh and the air conditioning.
I think it is safe to say that Dubai has the highest concentration of air cons in the world. Literally everywhere you venture in has air regulation-the hotels, the cars, lounges, even press centres.
Notices in hotel rooms warn you about opening windows which meant that having gone there expecting to get sunburned- a cold is what I had to show for my four-day stay.
Let’s talk transport and Dubai is absolutely first class. The super highways have smooth, six to eight lanes. On the side, speed cameras ensure that people keep to the limit. That may not necessarily stop young hyper drivers from occasionally pushing the limit.
And don’t even get me started on the cars.
Ferraris, Lexus, Audi 8, Lincoln, Jeeps, are common – the only car that Kenyan roads are familiar with would be Toyota Camry and even the model there is yet to feel the wrath of our potholes.
And electricity is plenty. All highways are so well lit, while at the Sevens Park, the floodlights would go on at 4:30pm!
I know you’re thinking that electricity is nothing to get excited about but if you have ever been inside Coca Cola stadium when our floodlights go on at 6:30pm, then you get the picture.
Another thing that completely hit me was the sheer number of Kenyans in Dubai. I mean almost everywhere you passed, you would get “sasa, niaje, vip”… Be it at the airport, at the hotel, stadium, everywhere.
Closely behind them are Indians, Philippines, Zimbabweans but curiously you almost do not get to see the locals. I can count on one hand how many times I met a local.
The venue for the event – the Sevens Park was located 40 kilometres from the city centre. In the middle of nowhere.
But once inside, it was like you are in another world all together. Hotdog tents abound, a stage for live performances, beer is sold by the dozen and rugby merchandise moving faster than you can say ‘rugby’.
The crowd is as cosmopolitan as they come, nationals from all over the world stream in all dressed in their national team colours. There is friendly banter as they find places to sit.
Even in the stadium, 95 percent were tourists from all over the world. But that took nothing from a fantastic atmosphere. From the loud – and I mean Kenyans who belted out “Who’s your mother, referee?” as if it was Ngong Road to the English singing ‘swing low sweet chariot’ – the fans ensured it was a cracking atmosphere.
Little wonder then that by the third day of competition, the Kenyan side of the stand is the most popular. Englishmen, Irish, South Africans all join in and are christened- made to wear Kenyan shirts.
Cheering goes on whether we win or lose and by the time the final is played, fans are too inebriated to care.
But despite that much fun in the stadium, most people in Dubai either did not have a clue or did not care about the premier sevens event.
On my first day there, a cab driver had no clue where the stadium was or that there was a world cup in Dubai. It took him an extra half an hour and frantic phone calls to his bosses before it clicked.
Oh, and Barack Obama has certainly done his bit in promoting Kenya as the most frequent reaction to hearing that you’re Kenyan would be, ‘oh Obama.’
My only draw back on a fun filled patriotic four days was that while Dubai may look every inch like a modern European city, it lacks soul and tradition.
Walking around, you feel like something is lacking. There is no sense of history. At the end of the day, it’s a concrete jungle.