In his first book My Vision, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, reminisces the day that he stood next to his father, staring at what was to become Jebel Ali port, a project masterminded by the late Sheikh Rashid.
“This project, which was realised within two years, was way ahead of its time when it was inaugurated in 1979. It was an undertaking of epic proportions for a small emirate such as Dubai and I doubt any consultant engineer would have wanted to undertake its feasibility study back then,” he writes.
“Imagine telling a group of investors: ‘This is the Jebel Ali area which, as you can see, is a remote area devoid of water, vegetation and people. I want to build the largest manmade port ever here, despite the fact Dubai’s Port Rashid is already the Middle East’s largest port and has thirty-five berths.’”
Today, Jebel Ali is home to over 5,000 companies, 67 berths, strengthened with an international airport and the setting stage for the World Expo to be held in Dubai in 2020. But the port did not grow alone.
Jebel Ali is no longer the remote area once seen from the eyes of the young Sheikh Mohammed; it has become the entry point to a sophisticated and well expanded infrastructure network, connecting the dots between the old Dubai of his fathers, and the new Dubai that developed from the vision of the Ruler himself.
Many road projects have been undertaken under the supervision of HH Sheikh Mohammed, with the birth of an additional road connecting the emirate with neighbouring Abu Dhabi and the northern emirates; in 2006, project Dubai Bypass Road (now Emirates Road) was launched.
Dubai is now served by three main roads, it soon became clear that Dubai was never small enough for yet another large-scale project that changed many people’s lives. Al Khail Road, which merges from Business Bay and runs parallel to Sheikh Zayed Road in the southern direction, was constructed, opened and refurbished to keep up with the growing traffic demand.
Roads, bridges, tunnels, and canals have been added to the infrastructure along the years, making the emirate not only more accessible, but also more iconic. The wise leadership of His Highness has always been proven with the introduction of ground-breaking projects that have never failed to stun the world.
In the period from his accession in 2006 until 2012, the investment in road projects and crossings over Dubai Creek amounted to more than Dh30 billion, while the projects contributed to saving Dh60 billion in time and fuel during that period.
What has truly shaped the life of millions of residents is the iconic Dubai metro. On the memorable date 09-09-2009, the doors to the longest driverless metro network were opened and the metro on the Red Line became operative. In 2011, the Green Line was added; commuters could now travel from Jebel Ali all the way up to Al Qusays by metro.
The metro soon became the most favourite mass transit system, and as with every successful project in Dubai, it did not end there. Plans have been revealed that the metro system will soon penetrate Dubailand, as the once deserted area is becoming home to new development projects every year.
Adding to the rail network, construction is ongoing for the first tram system in the UAE, serving the areas Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residence and major attractions such as Burj Al Arab. The tram rail network will connect to important metro stations and link to the Monorail on Palm Jumeirah.
Furthermore, the first rails have been laid for what is to become the first train network of the country, connecting Dubai and the other emirates to the Omani and Saudi border. Once completed, a sophisticated network of connecting train and metro lines should cover the emirate.
Whoever said cities should be built around the waterways will be impressed by the infrastructure of Dubai, where waterways are built around the city.
Dubai is blessed with a long coastal strip and its penetration land inwards called Dubai Creek. These were only the ingredients for a much wider network of waterways skilfully extended throughout the emirate.
Business Bay was completed in 2008. A city within a city, the community lies at the heart of Dubai. Yet, it is surrounded by water. Following the wise leadership of HH Sheikh Mohammed, Dubai Creek was extended from Ras al Khor up to Sheikh Zayed Road.
Soon, the same water will make another loop, crossing Sheikh Zayed road, Al Wasl Road and Jumeirah Road to be reunited with the sea behind Safa Park. Once completed, the extension will form boulevard-like scenery in the midst of town.
Water was also the source of inspiration for new-born communities such as Dubai Marina, where an extension of the Arabian Sea became the new waterfront in the once arid desert area, and Jumeirah Lakes Towers, where manmade lakes form the centrepiece of a community surrounded by high-rise buildings.
Making the most of its natural elements, transport on water has been increased under the leadership of His Highness. Although the abras crossing Dubai’s original creek are part of the traditional water traffic, the ferry, water bus and water taxi have been added to the fleet, with potential of forming new connections to other emirates.
The landscape has clearly evolved since HH Sheikh Mohammed came to power, and is ever expanding. And as in any global hub, the airways have not been ignored.
Dubai International Airport ranked the 10th busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic in 2011. It was the 3rd busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic in 2012, and the 6th busiest cargo airport in world that same year. In 2013, it was ranked the 7th busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic.
With the inception of Dubai metro travel to and from Dubai only become simpler; two stations on the Red Line serve the two main terminals. Meanwhile, Terminal 3 was expanded several times, making it the second largest building in the world by floor space and the largest airport terminal in the world.
Although passenger traffic will continue to be channelled through this airport, a more logistics oriented air traffic hub has been established on the other side of town, there where it was once hard to believe that commercial activity would blossom.
Al Maktoum International Airport, named after the former ruler Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is the world’s first purpose-built aerotropolis (airport for the future), with a projected annual capacity of 160 million passengers and 12 million tonnes of freight.
It forms part of the larger Dubai World Central, a planned residential, commercial and logistics complex with most transport modes, logistics and value-added services, including manufacturing and assembly, in a single free economic zone.
What was inaugurated in 1979 and considered by the current Ruler as ‘an extraordinary vision’ of his father, has become the ground on which HH Sheikh Mohammed worked out his extraordinary vision, one that ultimately made the world believe that Dubai is indeed the best candidate to host a world exhibition as large as the Expo.
To conclude with another quote from the Ruler in My Vision: “We have carried our father’s flag just like he carried his father’s flag, and we have continued his vision. The only difference is that he implemented his vision in the sixties and seventies, while we are implementing similar ones in the twenty-first century. But we all still have the same goal of developing Dubai and securing the future comfort and security of its residents.”
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