NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 14 – I am one patriotic Kenyan and that is why no matter what, I will always book a return ticket.
East or West home is best. But let’s be real; there are places you can go and wonder, where did the rain start beating us? This is the feeling I had when I visited Dubai city, in the United Arab Emirates last week.
From the famous breathtaking Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, to the large Dubai Mall, save for the super planned commercial buildings ‘knitted’ together and the beautifully marked roads with a Lamborghini in every 50 cars.
A Dubai visit has always been in my bucket list, and I was thrilled when Emirates Airlines offered me an opportunity for a media tour; largely because of the success stories I have heard of the Emiratis as well as the never ending narrations of how beautiful the city is.
Landing time is 22:12 UAE time, on Tuesday, an hour ahead of Kenya and against my expectations, the Dubai night weather feels like on a normal day in Nairobi. The temperatures are around 18 to 20 degrees, what they call ‘Dubai winter’ because the global city has a hot desert kind of climate.
“Welcome to Dubai,” the man holding a welcome placard from Arabian Adventures says, before leading us to the Five Star Le Meridian Hotel, a stone throw away from the airport. From the warm welcome by the hotel staff, to the time I get to my room, I honestly feel first class.
Our Dubai tour starts with a visit at the Emirates Flight Catering Unit and we are welcomed and taken round by Glory Kinyua a Kenyan, who is the unit Operations Manager.
The Emirates Airline catering facility in Dubai is the largest of its kind in the world, with an initial design capacity of over 175,000 meal trays a day after expansion.
“On an average day Emirates Airline Catering facility handles 488 flights which include 250 for Emirates flights and 238, other International flights. 160,000 meals are prepared every day but during a high season, this goes up to 180,000meals. I remember there was a season, I think Christmas, when we went up to 184,000 meals in one day,” says Kinyua, who is quite excited to meet journalists from home and those from neighbouring Tanzania.
It was interesting to see the automated overhead cart transport system (monorail), designed to transport meal carts from the vehicle off-loading bay area to the dishwashing area where over three million utensils such as cutlery, crockery, glassware are washed every day.
“After washing, the system transports meal carts to a buffer zone for storage. Upon user request, the system will automatically transport the requested number of trolleys from the buffer storage area to either bonded store preparation or the meal pre-setting area,” she says.
This process and many others in the unit are so controlled to make sure that there is no room for mistakes.
Our Dubai tour could also not go without visiting the Burj Khalifa building and we managed to ascend up to 125 floors out of the 163. For those who dread heights, that may not be the place for you. But for those who don’t, you will enjoy the breathtaking view of over 90 kilometres.
But how did Emiratis manage to do this? I ask our tour guide, Anwar who is Iranian, has lived in Dubai for 17 years.
“I know a lot of people say Dubai is this developed because of oil. As much it would sound true, I will want to disagree. What people use here is their brain. They maximize every little thing they have. At the moment Dubai has no oil, production is less than 5 percent, unlike Abu Dhabi. But what they have done is now focus on tourism. The shift was so smooth you could not notice. That is why they came with such building like Burj Khalifa. I mean they had to do something to be noticed. It was a desert, but now among the most beautiful city in the World,” she explains.
Anwar is also quick to elaborate how the government has managed the high number of foreigners, 250 nationals, in the country and as well protect the interests of locals who are less than 20 percent of the population.
“What you need to know is that there are even residential estates for locals only, where no foreigner is allowed to buy property. But there are also areas where foreigners can reside and even own property,” Anwar explains as we stop by Jumeira Mosque, one of the two mosques in Dubai where non-Muslims are allowed in to attend prayers.
We did not manage to do a desert safari because it rained heavily (a rare occurrence) but in the evening, the Emirates crew treated us with dinner at the Palace Downtown Dubai Hotel.
Set in a traditional palatial residence, The Palace Downtown overlooks the world’s tallest performing fountain and the lake surrounding Burj Khalifa. It is also directly connected to Souk Al Bahar, a modern shopping destination.
It is our last day, and of course, you can’t go to Dubai and not shop. But I have to warn you, it is a dangerous place for impulse buyers. But I manage to get beautiful stuff at Dubai Mall as well as the Deira City Centre.
Every song has a climax and our three day tour is closed by a Bateaux Dubai Cruise dinner. I have been to a floating restaurant but not on a cruising boat as I enjoy a glass of wine, at night, overlooking glittering city lights across the river.
Magical is the word.