Goodbye 2014!

Al Sufouh Tram, now in operation in Dubai

A FEW days ago, we cleaned our garden furniture, bought a new BBQ grill, and invited friends over for an al fresco dinner for the first time after the long and hot Dubai summer. In my books, that only means one thing: another year is drawing to a close and we’ll soon be inundated by Santas, seasonal jollifications, and people complaining about the outrageous prices Dubai’s restaurants and hotels are charging for New Year’s Eve.

Ah, but didn’t we have a few interesting months here in our little Dubai bubble? We’ve now got a tram, which goes some way to offset another transport-related achievement: perhaps the region’s largest road diversion for the Dubai Canal project. We’ve also had the Mall of the World announcement, which still makes me a little uneasy, because the master plan looks like I’ll be living under the mall’s roof when it opens. The Dubai Eye, the world’s largest Ferris wheel, and Bluewater Island, the artificial landmass it stands on, also made good progress in 2014. Supposedly conceived to attract yet more visitors to Dubai, I won’t be fooled, because I know that the project, just like the admittedly stunning but unimaginatively named “The Beach”, has only been created to keep the city’s Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence neighbourhoods full of road works and construction vehicles. After years of tram and miscellaneous building works, residents of these districts, or so I have been told by reliable sources, simply cannot cope with clear roads and obstacle free access to their apartments.

Outside the confines of the UAE, Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport was ranked the worst airport in the Middle East with Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport taking fourth place. As a frequent traveller to the Kingdom, I’m not sure what to make of this list, which was compiled by a website called I mean, who goes to Jeddah or Riyadh to sleep at the airport? Haven’t these people heard of the many excellent hotels in these cities? Besides, once you’ve successfully cleared immigrations at either of these two airports, everything else just seems like a piece of cake and even sleeping on the floor cannot really diminish the sheer exhilaration of having left the queues, uniforms, and procedures behind.

So what about 2015 then? In previous years, I compiled list of predictions, but most of them, regardless of how off-beat they were, depressingly either came true or were even outdone by events in the months following my rambling ons, so this year, I’m simply compiling a wishlist. A few days ago, I promptly sat down at my freshly cleaned garden table and took some time out to think about the top three things I would like to see in the coming 12 months.

High up on the list are reclining airline economy seats on short haul flights, or rather, the seats shouldn’t recline. Your flight’s only 80 minutes long, why do you need to recline your seat?! Fixed seatbacks in economy cabins would avoid arguments and fisticuffs, keep food and drinks safely on the tray provided for them, and take out the ethical nightmare of whether I’m allowed to recline my seat or not. Let the toffs in business and first have reclining seats, but let the traveling short haul masses be content with having a seat at all.

In the spirit of the season, I’d also like to see a nationwide ban on early festive offers and promotions. Every supermarket that displays chocolate Santas before 1st of December should be fined 10 Dirhams for every Santa on display and the money should be used to provide festive treats for kids in the poorest countries of the world.

It’s also high time that the matter of electrical outlets in the region’s hotel rooms gets regulated. I hope that 2015 brings an automatic 80 per cent discount for room charges in four and five star hotels without electrical outlets/sockets at or near the bedside tables.

Do you think my wishes are unrealistic? Perhaps you’re right, so let me leave you with a more realistic wish: Here’s wishing you a happy festive season and a prosperous and healthy 2015!

By Martin Kubler