Hard Rock Café demolition sparks a wave of nostalgia across Dubai old-timers

Mini Empire State Building and that guitar finally turn to dust, as the 15-year old landmark joins the fate of the city’s other famous structures that have been lost with time

Nearly two years and a Facebook petition later, the much-loved Dubai landmark came crumbling down as the former Hard Rock Café finally faced the wrath of the wrecking ball earlier this week.

Residents that once stopped to admire the mini Empire State Building structure and those famous guitars will now see a cloud of dust as the demolition efforts continue after the original HRC (fondly called by Dubai residents) was consigned to its fate when it closed its doors back in 2009 to make way for new development plans.

Amidst delays, the structure lay abandoned these past couple of years, even as a new Hard Rock found home at the Dubai Festival City.

However, for many old-timers in the emirate, the former entertainment haunt is yet another lost landmark that will now remain filed in their memory banks, only to be retrieved when a wave of nostalgia comes calling.

“HRC was only the best place to hangout in Dubai, much before the surge of nightclubs and lounges took root in the emirate,” recalled Emirati national, Sameer bin Ali Al Dayani.

The 28-year-old continued: “For us Arabs growing up here, this was our New York moment. But for many residents, it was a must-do stopover when driving down to Abu Dhabi.

“People would actually stop there to take pictures and pose like they were standing in front of the real Empire State Building.”

Al Dayani agreed that the infrastructural development of any country was essential in its growth, but at moments, he misses some of that old world charm.

“As kids growing up, we would hangout at Al Nasr Leisureland, while playing in the park, which now has American Hospital standing in its place. But you do miss that connection some time.

“Having said that, I still enjoy exploring the small lanes of the old Zabeel neighbourhood where, thanks to His Highness, that old world charm still exists.

“We have a local saying, which rings true in this area: it’s a great pride for an Emirati to be in touch with his roots where you can even smell camels grazing by.”

For 29-year-old Feroz Khan, HRC’s demolition brings back memories of a decade gone by.

“When the place first opened, it was considered so far out of town (located near the 5th interchange on Sheikh Zayed Road), that for many of us driving down to Abu Dhabi, it was a landmark that gave us reassurance we weren’t lost somewhere in the desert,” he laughed.

Khan, who was born in the emirate, recalled many a fun times growing up here and enjoying some of life’s simpler pleasures that are missing today.

“I grew up spending every week playing on the open beach in Jumeirah, a stretch that ended with the old Chicago Beach Hotel,” he said. “Now, most of that open beach has made way for developments and what is still open to the public is too crowded to enjoy any more.”

Khan, along with several members of the Twitter community, also admitted they missed some of the old children play areas that were considered ‘it’ places before entertainment areas such as Sega World and KidZania came into existence.

“I miss Sindbad (a popular play area of yore),” recalled 28-year-old Nick Rego. “I went to Sindbad’s in BurJuman every Friday with mum, played all the arcade games and made me fall in love with gaming.”

Khan, along with Sahar Latheef Raheem and Shruti Jagdeesh, also admitted they still have some of the play, gold coins that would be the most coveted possession for a child growing up in Dubai.

Rego added: “It’s not just the play areas though, but landmarks such as Falcon and Flame Roundabouts that don’t exist anymore. It was just cool to drive around it.”

“If not Sindbad, which also had an outlet in Al Ghurair Centre, then it was City 2000 in Deira,” revealed Khan. “But I guess developments are part of the culture in any big city.

“However, one thing that has withstood the test of time is the Dubai Zoo in Jumeirah. That relic remains exactly the same as it was 20 years ago.”

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