Everybody will tell you Dubai City is the destination of choice when you want to purchase anything under the sun, on the cheap. It’s the go-to place when you want pickings at rock-bottom price, especially used vehicles, to ship home for personal use or as merchandise.
What no one will prepare you for is the spectacle that’ll explode before your eyes after touching down at the Dubai I. Airport.
The expansive, modern airport may not move you if you’ve globetrotted a bit, even with all the records it holds. But what’s sure to amaze you, considering its location in the volatile Arab region, is the near-absence of police on Dubai’s streets and all around.
And yet as you will attest, the city is the epitome of calm and serenity. As a Rwandan used to your country being praised as an oasis of peace and order, it’ll definitely deflate you some!
Until you look very closely. The whole city is under camera scrutiny. Only the odd traffic accident or other mishap will bring police out, racing in their famed Grand Prix choice of cars, from their stable of millions-dollar-worth wheels that are otherwise a preserve of film and sports stars with money to burn.
Yet again, these entrepreneurship savvy Arabs have more tricks up their sleeves that only they can conjure up.
Those insanely-priced cars double up as a public relations gimmick. It’s said people are flying in from all over just to take a selfie with a Dubai cop leaning on a Bugatti Veyron, a Ferrari FF and other such dream cars that we only see in films. People even plead to be arrested for the simple pleasure of riding in them!
So, why are traffic transgressions rare? Under those watchful cameras, the littlest traffic offence will dig a $260-size hole into your pocket!
Enough dough to move you around in Dubai’s swift metro system so that you can marvel at its crazily outlandish architecture and other man-made wonders that have turned it into a tourist’s paradise.
Not even the know-all Google search can prepare you for the heady feeling of being in the majestic presence of those miracles!
A 7-star Arab-dhow-sail-shaped hotel that seems to be in motion on the Persian Gulf. A man-made set of islands shaped like a palm tree. The world’s tallest building that’s pyramid-shaped. The tallest 90-degree twisted building. The largest dancing fountain in the world. An indoor ski resort and the largest flower garden in the world, etc.
The above are in an erstwhile desert, remember? Yet today Dubai is almost greener and more wooded than Kigali. Without that freshness and naturalness of our highlands, alright, but green.
Otherwise, anything out of this world, Dubai has it. And it’s not done yet, for it’s a busy construction-site. In the offing: an even taller building and more superlatives of everything.
But methinks the wonder of wonders about Dubai is that its population is 96% migrants, putting to shame all the xenophobic countries of this mean-spirited and naïvely self-dwarfing world; a world that’s going west or, in a word, dying.
While others are cocooning themselves inside barricaded walls – Western countries, especially – Dubai is not only the global investors’ magnet but also a magnet to anybody and everybody: consultants, architects, bankers, big business, small business, big traders, petty traders, workers, all. All of them in their special economic zones, with their own laws, to boot!
And the United Arab Emirates (UEA) is becoming a powerhouse in great part because of the outlandish idea that visited those Emiratis: to lure the world to themselves.
Yes, there was oil (no longer drilled), a regional port, even talk of being haven to terrorists and their money. But today’s global-leader Emirates Airlines, starting off in 1985 with a laughable two aircrafts and hired staff, and other state-owned enterprises, without forgetting being open-borders, are said to have set off the spark for this galloping growth.
So, wherever you are from, you’ll find a home. To the extent that as a Rwandan, you’ll find that familiar ‘bife’ (buffet) with a range of arrowroots/taro (amateke), peas, all.
Thus satiated on your home dish, you squeeze yourself in a corner at the entrance into Dubai Mall, at the bottom of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and watch.
That rarely-seen police will have come out in force to direct the ceaselessly enormous traffic – human traffic of tourists! And that’s only at one spot of innumerable other spots. With the ultimate tourist attraction of all being ‘screamingly surfing’ the sand dunes of the desert.
So you think back: continually expanding RwandAir and other state- and party-owned enterprises; new bigger airport; investments giants like car manufacturers; unrelenting extension of all infrastructure; special economic zones; open-door policy; cameras being erected; expansion and variation of national parks; etc.
And your eyes open. Yes, Rwanda, the entire country, can go the Dubai way.
In fact, when I came to think of it, I pinched myself (kwicinya icyara)!
Unlike Kigali, Dubai ain’t got those ‘cool’ three-lane sidewalks; traffic lights counting down seconds; humane police to assist a vulnerable kid cross; backstreets without an iota of litter like cigarette butts; all-year-round sunny but mountainous cool climate; etc.
Most of all, UAE ain’t got a come-together-camaraderie gacaca nor a youthful bureaucracy.
“[Politics] thinks of the next elections. [Statesmanship], of the next generation,” as somebody said. Methinks we concur with the Emiratis on this, dubbed an absolute autocracy, as it is.
As for the self-trumpeted democratic West, it may be going west!
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.