Dubai, Then and Now

The last time I vacationed in Dubai, the world renowned Emirates Golf Club was just an open space in the desert and the burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, was not even a blueprint.

This was in the 80’s (when I was with Newswatch) when the UK and the USA were the top vacation spots for Nigerians.

But now the way I hear folk’s talking about Dubai, it is certainly a popular tourist destination for Nigerians vacationing abroad. Perhaps, even more popular than South Africa as a vacation destination for Nigerians.

Then there were no direct flights to the United Arab Emirates. The best way to get there was either through Europe or a stop in Addis Ababa via Ethiopian Airlines. And the return trip could be even more circuitous.

But now the place is so popular among Nigerians that you have airlines providing direct flights from Lagos and Abuja to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Despite the unbearable hot condition, Dubai was fun when I vacationed with my late physician brother-in-law Dr. John Odita, a first class pediatric radiologist whose practice took him to places as far flung as the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, University College Hospital, Ibadan; Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, University of Texas Medical School at Houston and finally the Louisiana State University (LSU) Medical School.

Today my brother-in-law’s worldwide medical accomplishments and research work is symbolized by the “Outstanding Medical Student Award” named after him at LSU, and awarded every year since 2005.

There are obviously more attractions for tourists in the UAE now, but I remember some very good times in Dubai going wadi-bashing on the desert dunes with my brother-in-law, visiting many tourist attractions and the occasional trip to get Shawarma (a local delicacy) at Karama.

The trip also afforded me an opportunity to establish professional contacts with journalists at the The National and the Gulf News, where I interviewed for a reporter job. And although I have since lost contacts with friends like News Editor Nihal Kaneira and Asst. Production Manager Mansab Abubacker, I was impressed then at how an English Newspaper could be so well received in an Arab country.

I was also astounded by the flourishing of English radio programs on local stations at that time. In fact it was in Dubai that I first discovered Casey (born Kemal Amin Kasem) Kasem’s American Top 40 countdown radio program on the airwaves of a local radio station.

Perhaps, that was one of the UAE’s early signals to the world that it was the most stable and western-friendly country in the Middle East.

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Ben Edokpayi

Ben Edokpayi is a strategic communications consultant with more than 25 years experience in the USA and Nigeria. His most recent corporate assignment was as Media Relations Officer with the California State Compensation Insurance Fund.

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