The United Arab Emirates has been a part of my life since I can remember. But while I only moved here in 1989, my mother moved here with her family just 5 years after the country was formed.
When I asked her about it, this is what she said:
“We came here in 1976 from Beirut. The war had broken out there and the first flight out was to Dubai. I still remember, we stayed in the Phoenicia Hotel in Al Nasr Square. On the opposite side was the Creek. Everything was empty, there weren’t many buildings around…the only place to eat in front of the hotel was the Chicken Tikka Inn where we would go quite a bit. When I got admission to school, we moved into a flat in what was the Al Ghurair Compound in Satwa, near the Dubai World Trade Centre, which was the only building around, the tallest building around. It faced what was then a two-lane road going all the way to Abu Dhabi.
“For the first year, my father didn’t have a license, so when we wanted to go shopping in Bur Dubai, we would take a taxi there.”
I asked her about food options (of course I did):
“We used to go to this place called the Picnic restaurant in Bur Dubai at the Ramada Hotel roundabout and eat shawarmas – it’s an intersection now but before it used to be a roundabout. We’d also get shawarmas from Deira, at a restaurant on the creek, just next to the Carlton Hotel; I don’t remember the name though. The Ravi restaurant in Satwa was there at that time too, although it was much smaller. We’d also get shawarmas from Tarbouche in Karama but on rare occasions because in Karama…there wasn’t much at the time. You know the rows of low buildings behind the Lulu Centre area, behind where Pumpy’s and Ginny’s is now…that was all that was there. Everything else was empty sand. In Bur Dubai, we’d go to India House restaurant for South Indian food. And eventually, on every Friday we would go to Hilton hotel next to DWTC for a buffet lunch.”
My Mom got married and moved away from Dubai in 1984, but returned in 1989 toting a two-and-a-half year-old me. Already there were so many changes, compared to what she had seen when she arrived. Karama was already bustling, there were more restaurants, but the DWTC was still the tallest building around and it was still two lanes going to Abu Dhabi! These are some pics from after I moved here:
All these pics were taken in the late 80s-early 90s.
Captions: DWTC, the tallest building around | Me with my dog Dinky in an area in Karama where now stands the Al Maskan Building | Jumeirah Beach Park…empty and so pristine (that’s me in red…naturally) | Hili Fun City was the place to be | Guess which bridge we’re standing at! | In Abu Dhabi
A happy 40th National Day to the UAE and everyone here, and here’s to many more years of growth and prosperity. I leave you with a photograph of the Sheikh Zayed Road skyline, taken from the sea. Look at how we’ve grown…just look 🙂