The United Arab Emirates, and in particular Dubai, are under the spotlight, as at least three major factors come into play to give a massive boost to tourism.
The World Expo, pushed back a year due to the Covid-19 crisis, the opening of the Emirates to Israeli tourists and investment funds, and the opening of the breath-taking Museum of the Future are creating a veritable tourism vortex, thanks also to the fact that borders remain open, unlike many other destinations (with provisos, of course).
The countdown to the first General World Exhibition ever to be held in the Arab world will see its gates open on October 1, 2021. Delegations from many participating nations have already been visiting the Expo site, and the new transport network designed to handle tourists coming to the event has begun operations. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced that Route 2020, the extension of the Dubai Metro line from Jebel Ali Station to Expo 2020 station, would start commercial operations on 1st January, 2021.
Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer, Director-General, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of the RTA said, “The initial operational phase covers four stations, namely Jebel Ali (interchange station), The Gardens, Discovery Gardens, and Al Furjan, and the other remaining three stations would be opened later.”
The journey between Jebel Ali and Al Furjan takes about six minutes, with services running every ten minutes.
Museum of the Future – described as the world’s most complex construction
Without doubt the most remarkable feature of Dubai for foreign tourists in this early part of 2021 is the stunning new structure of the Museum of the Future.
It was early in October 2020 that the final piece of the building was installed in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
The Museum of the Future is considered an engineering miracle at 30,000 square metres and 77 metres in height. The building consists of seven floors and characterised by the absence of columns inside, making its engineering design a milestone in urban engineering. The Museum is also linked by two bridges, the first extending to Jumeirah Emirates Towers, and the second linking it to the Emirates Towers metro station. The building is powered by 4,000 megawatts of electricity produced through solar energy by a new station connected to the Museum. The station was built in collaboration with Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA), making the Museum upon completion, the first Museum in the Middle East to obtain a Platinum certification from LEED, the highest rating for green buildings in the world. The facade of the Museum consists of 1,024 pieces entirely manufactured by robots. The facade panels are produced using automated robotic arms.
The building was designed by Engineer Sean Keila to offer visitors an interactive experience that is the first of its kind. A veritable engineering miracle, the Museum of the Future “floats” without pillars or columns, thanks to the use of the latest technologies. In the design of its exterior, meticulous engineering calculations were used through advanced software on super-computers to calculate the most durable and responsive curve formulas to design its foundations, solid metal structure, and its unique external interface.
The Museum’s design is a model of sustainability in future creative design. Its exterior façade was designed from advanced glass manufactured with new technologies to improve the quality of interior lighting and external thermal insulation.
Contrary to the usual concept of traditional museums based behind closed windows displaying eras of the past, masterpieces, and encounters, the Museum of the Future is distinguished by being an incubator for innovative ideas, technology, and future projects. It is a global destination for inventors and entrepreneurs.
The Museum of the Future is situated in a strategic location in the very heart of Dubai. With an eye to the future, the museum is situated at the “Dubai Future District” that includes the Emirates Towers, the 2071 area of the Dubai Future Foundation, the Dubai World Trade Center, and the Dubai International Financial Center.
Abraham Accords change the face of the Middle East
For Israeli travellers, the UAE are set to be THE place to visit in 2021. Previously completely taboo for all holders of Israeli passports, that has now changed, following the signing of the “Abraham Accords”.
Indeed, since Israel’s creation in 1948, the nation had been recognised officially by only two of the 22 states in the Arab League: Egypt and Jordan.
Across much of the Arab world, Israeli travellers were banned from entry, as their passports, and country, weren’t recognised. Citizens of most Arab countries were also unable to travel to Israel.
But all of that changed after August 2020, when Israel and the Emirates signed the Abraham Accords. It’s an agreement that made the UAE the third Arab nation to officially recognise Israel, melting decades of chilly relations between the two countries.
The first flight carrying Israeli tourists to the UAE landed November 8 at Dubai international Airport. Since then, tens of thousands of Israelis have visited the Emirates. And the numbers are likely to skyrocket when visa-free travel comes into effect early this year.
Flydubai runs several daily direct flights to Dubai International Airport from Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion, and El Al offers also has a growing number of flights to Dubai.
With Israelis of course eager to visit a brand-new destination just a few hours away, another good reason for Israeli crowds flocking to the UAE is that the destination is one of just three countries Israelis may visit without quarantining there or upon return as of now (the others being Seychelles and Rwanda).
And with the Dubai World Expo drawing closer, Israel’s new commissioner to the event is reported to have stated that it offers the country a “unique opportunity to present a fresh face to the Arab world, just as Israel is growing closer to the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf nations”. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile says the participation reflects the country’s continued progress in normalisation with the Arab states.
Photo – top of page – His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Dubai Future Foundation