UAE of the future: What the country will look like after 2020

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2020 is a milestone year in many ways for the UAE – the biggest of which is hosting the Expo 2020 in Dubai.


In addition to this, the country’s leaders have planned a lot of things which would alter the landscape of the country in time for the 50th year of the Union in 2021 and beyond.


On the occasion of the 48th National Day, here are a few of the most anticipated developments for next couple of years.

What after The World Expo

Expo 2020 Dubai promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience – a global six-month celebration of creativity, innovation, humanity and world cultures.

Expo 2020


192 nations are taking part in Expo 2020, and for the first time in World Expo history, every country will have its own pavilion. Expo 2020 will move away from traditional geographical clusters and band together countries facing similar challenges within the three subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. In addition to the pavilions, visitors can enjoy more than 200 food and beverage outlets and 60 live events daily.

Expo 2020 will be open to the public for six months from October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021

District 2020

After April in 2021, more than 80 per cent of the Expo-built structures will be retained and repurposed for District 2020.

District 2020 will see the urbanisation of the Expo 2020 site into a smart and sustainable micro city-within-a-city that aims to provide an innovation-driven business ecosystem, while being a diverse and thriving urban community.

District 2020 is curating a diverse mix of tenants that include global corporations, SMEs, and startups, as well as enablers and social and educational platforms. Two of Expo’s Official Premier Partners, Accenture and Siemens, have already committed to establishing a permanent presence in District 2020. Siemens will establish its global headquarters for airports, cargo and ports logistics at the site, while Accenture will open a digital hub.

Al Wasl Plaza

Al Wasl dome encloses the 150-metre diameter Al Wasl Plaza, which will be a central hub during Expo and beyond, connecting the three thematic districts: Opportunity, Sustainability and Mobility as well as the other main concourse.Image Credit: Archives

Global company Merck KGaA announced it will establish a Sustainability Centre, and Shanghai-based Atlas Capital Holding will create a world-leading blockchain campus at District 2020. Expo 2020’s Sustainability Pavilion will become a Children and Science Centre. Many other major structures, including Al Wasl Plaza and the Mobility Pavilion, will remain as permanent fixtures in District 2020.


Dubai Creek Tower - the new tallest tower

Trumping the best-known characteristic of one of the crowning jewels of the country – the Burj Khalifa – the Dubai Creek Tower is set to become the new, record-breaking, tallest building in the world.

Part of the Dubai Creek Harbour project, the observation tower has been designed by Santiago Calatrava and is expected to complete in 2020 in time for the Expo. The tower promises to feature a 360° observation deck featuring spectacular city views. 

Dubai Creek Tower


The designer’s website states, “Calatrava’s monumental design, chosen out of six proposals from competing firms, is influenced by the natural forms of the lily and evokes the shape of a minaret, a distinctive architectural feature in Islamic culture.”

Dubai Creek Harbour

A six square-kilometer development in Deira, this project will change the façade of one of Dubai’s oldest areas drastically. The Dubai Creek Tower will be the main attraction within this project but that’s not all.

Dubai Creek Harbour project

The developer states that the Dubai Creek Harbour is set to be twice the size of Downtown Dubai, and will have a mega-mall ‘Dubai Square’ along with waterfront residences.

Mohammed Bin Rashid Library

Resembling an open book sitting on a rehl – a traditional lectern which holds the Quran – the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library is set to be an iconic structure worth global acclaim and is almost completed.

Mohammed bin Rashid library

The Mohammed Bin Rashid library resembles an open book sitting on a rehl – a traditional lectern which holds the QuranImage Credit: Archives

Spanning 66,000 square metres, when completed, the library will be the biggest library on the region and will feature over 4.5 million books. The structure is seven stories high and will also serve as a community hub with spaces for events or festivals and a 500-seat lecture theatre.

The Museum of the Future

A regular sight for motorists on the Sheikh Zayed Road, the design for Museum of the Future is an architectural marvel and a stunning ode to Arabic. A futuristic museum in concept, the project promises technological innovations and Artificial Intelligence ahead of our time for an immersive and interactive experience.

Museum of the Future

Under-construction oval-shaped Museum of the Future close to Emirates Towers has taken it's shape. Designed to transport visitors deep into the future of the 21st century, Dubai’s Museum of the Future will showcase futuristic technologies and new ways of living currently under development. The museum will offer people real experiences of futuristic technologies.Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Jewel of the Creek

Located between Al Maktoum and Floating bridges, the Jewel of the Creek project sprawls over 125,675 square metres and includes hotels, residential towers and restaurants in addition to a man-made lake and a waterfront promenade and marina for 65 berths.

Jewel of the Creek

Digital rendering of the experience at Jewel of the CreekImage Credit: Archives

The project also includes the construction of a 81-metre footbridge over Baniyas Street – which will be completed in the first quarter of 2020. RTA has already completed the construction of 1.4 kilometres of tunnels and seven 7 kilometres of roads leading to Jewel of the Creek

Jewel of the Creek

Digital rendering of the Jewel of the Creek projectImage Credit: Archives

Burj Jumeirah

A futuristic sail-shaped oval-faced building, the project was launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2019. The building will bear, literally, the Dubai ruler’s fingerprint as its base.

Iconic in design the 550-metre building – with two cut halves joining in the middle – is expected to be completed in 2023.


Burj Jumeirah: The project was launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2019. The building will bear, literally, the Dubai ruler’s fingerprint as its base

Action Park

Adding to the many entertainment avenues in the region, Action Park will add adventurous entertainment to the mix. With The Smash Room, Action Paintball park, the Middle East’s first Upside Down House and go-karting circuit, the park is unique in its offering.

For guests who want something a bit slower paced, they can take part in the target shooting area or enjoy refreshments on the roof of the open London style bus, that has been transformed into a café and overlooks the playing field.

Abu Dhabi

Zayed National Museum

One of the most anticipated projects in the capital, Zayed National Museum is on track to open in 2021. A structure dedicated to Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan - the founder of the UAE - both in design and content, the museum will provide a greater understanding of the history, culture and geography of the UAE.

The museum's towers are shaped like falcon wings, designed as on ode to Sheikh Zayed's love of falconry.

Zayed National Museum

Zayed National MuseumImage Credit: Archives

In November, Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi shared a short Twitter video to show the progress of the museum on Saadiyat Island.


The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museum is “on track” and “on budget” to be open on Saadiyat Island by around 2022, media reports said in August. The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi collection will feature work by global artists, in a variety of mediums, produced since the turn of the 1960s.

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi museum

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will have spectacular views of the Saadiyat Cultural District and the Arabian GulfImage Credit: Archives

Surrounded almost entirely by water, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will have spectacular views of the Saadiyat Cultural District and the Arabian Gulf. Galleries, many unprecedented in scale, are distributed around the central atrium on four levels connected by glass bridges above.

Open to the elements, the museum cones housing contemporary art commissions, recall the region’s ancient wind-towers, which both ventilate and shade the exterior courtyards in a fitting blend of Arabian tradition and modern design. The museum will also feature a 350-seat theatre, education workshops and classrooms, an onsite conservation lab, as well as a retail store, cafes, and a restaurant.


Opening in 2019, CLYMB in Abu Dhabi houses the world’s biggest indoor-skydiving space and the world’s tallest indoor wall climbing installation.

Clymb Abu Dhabi

Clymb, the latest attraction on Yas Island, is scheduled to open its doors to the public on November 29.Image Credit: Supplied

Adding more accolades to UAE’s crown of world records, the venue promises an adventure-focused entertainment experience.


Heart of Sharjah

Touted as the region's biggest heritage project to date, the Heart of Sharjah seeks to reflect what Sharjah was like over half a century ago. The goal is seemingly simple, but ambitious – create a tourist and trade destination by revamping the city’s traditional areas to retain the feel of the 1950s.

Heart of Sharjah

Heart of SharjahImage Credit:

Scheduled for completion in 2025, the first phase of which is completed, the site is just five minutes from the city's Corniche and 10 minutes from the Sharjah International Airport. Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) is overseeing the project and states in its website of Shurooq, “The Heart of Sharjah will be realised in accordance with international standards of sustainable development and environmental principles.”

Modern yet housed in old renovated structures, the project is aimed to be a conservatory for Sharjah’s national historical character and spans an area of 100,000 square-metres. The venue houses museums, souks and a hotel. 

Sharjah Beach Development

Planned as a star attraction for the emirate, residents and visitors will soon get to enjoy a 3.3 kilometre stretch of beach development. The project stretches from the Ajman border to the roundabout adjacent to the Sharjah Ladies Club. A wide variety of amenities including public plazas, pedestrian paths, bike lanes, picnic places, seating areas, shading structures, public art areas and water features, will be spread out strategically along the entire route.

Sharjah Beach Development

A wide variety of amenities including public plazas, pedestrian paths, bike lanes, picnic places, seating areas, shading structures, public art areas and water features, will be spread out strategically along the entire route.Image Credit:

As with most new Sharjah developments, the unique design will include quality and sustainable hardscape materials, in addition to locally sourced plantings. Parking for 1,100 vehicles is also planned to be installed – making it a convenient and fun destination to visit.

Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism Project

This UNESCO world heritage site is planned to become one of Sharjah’s premiere tourist destinations, due to its natural beauty, diversity of wildlife and its archaeological discoveries. The project is aimed to not only focus on Sharjah's cultural and archaeological history spanning thousands of years, but also to become the in-demand destination for campers, nature lovers and adventurers.

tab 190526 www MleihaRamadan193 as-1558850438431

Discover rich history at the Mleiha Archaeological MuseumImage Credit: Supplied

The second phase of Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism Project will be complete by the end of 2020.

The Sharjah Collection

Focusing on creating memorable experiences for residents and tourists, Shurooq is also developing a collection of hotels that are grounded in nature with unique hospitality experiences. The total cost of the three luxury hospitality projects, Kingfisher Lodge in Kalba, Al Badayer Oasis in Al Badayer desert and Al Faya Lodge in Mleiha, are valued at Dh130 million.

Klaba Eco-tourism project

ImKingfisher Lodge is located in Al Qurm Nature Reserve, which is home to one of the largest mangrove forests on the east coast. The mangrove forest in Kalba is the oldest in the Arab world and this property uses this escape into the world of nature as its USP. Al Faya lodge, connected to the Mleiha project, focuses on Arab traditions and hospitality.

Al Badayer Oasis, a planned demo of which may be held in the last quarter of 2019, is a unique luxury camping experience among the dunes. It is located near one of the largest sand dunes in the region, featuring tents and luxury huts and offering a range of outdoor activities.

Building on the past

As someone who has seen the hardships of life before the formation of the the UAE, Gulf News Editor-in-Chief Abdul Hamid Ahmad calls on Emiratis to remember and draw strength from history to make the best of the future


A picture of the Dubai Creek in the fifties with the long curving sandbank of Shindagha in the foreground, Bur Dubai at the back and Deira on the other side of the creekImage Credit: Gulf News Archive

I was just 14 when the Federation of the UAE was formed, but I was old enough to remember the days before and after December 2, 1971. And, as we celebrate the 48th anniversary of the Federation, it is a time of reflection, a time of remembrance.

The memories are filled with the unbelievable. Imagine a young boy like me at the age of 14; I had hardly any decent clothes to wear. We used to preserve our only kandoora for Fridays so we could wear clean clothes to the mosque. On most days we wore a wizar (cotton undergarment wrapped around the waist) and a vest. We wore this all the time — at work and play. Imagine a young boy like me in the village where I used to live in Jumeirah. We did not have shoes or sandals. We used to walk around barefoot. And on a special occasion, when we placed our feet into flip-flops, it was a moment of luxury. The feeling of our toes catching hold of the rubber strap as the foot fell into place was out of this world. The memory is flooded with such vivid recollections.

I remember the first saloon car that came to our village. It was a big, black American car. It was used as a taxi to ferry people from our village in Jumeirah to the city of Dubai, which is known as Bur Dubai today. That car managed to drive into Jumeirah only after the road was paved. The sandy surface was turned into a clay road. Water tankers would do the rounds and spray water to make the surface strong and smooth. We used to run after the tanker to wash ourselves, or drink water. And sometimes we ran after it for fun.

We had no running water. Water came from wells. Each home had one or two wells inside the house. And we used to pull up the water with leather buckets on a rope. We used the water to bathe, cook and other purposes. Some of the water was salty. To cool the water, we used to pour it into clay pots. Imagine, when we drank from the clay pots after a few days, we used to find small worms.

The first car drove down the road that divided Jumeirah into two — houses located in the north and others in the south. After that first road and taxis, things began to change. We were walking towards a more civilised life. Groceries came. We youngsters, who played traditional games near the sea, started hiring bicycles to ride down that road. In the days of my father, people travelled from Jumeirah to Bur Dubai by sea or by land on camels and donkeys. When I was young, we went to Bur Dubai on rare occasions by taxis that charged us one rupee. Years later, Bedfords became popular vehicles as they could cut through the sand. The affluent owned Land Rovers

Homes of palm fronds


People lived in huts made of palm leaves in the 1950s. In winter, palm fronds were used to make carpets that hung against the walls to protect people from the coldImage Credit: Ramesh Shukla

I still remember the houses we used to live in. They were like tents made of palm leaves and fronds. Rooms were made in these tents of elegant designs. In winter we placed carpets made of palm fronds against the walls to protect ourselves from the bitter wind and the cold. These kind of carpets were called haseers, which we even used as rugs to sit on.

In summer we made areesh, houses made from palm fronds with small holes that served as vents to allow the cool breeze into our homes. To bathe, we had to go to the well; we answered calls of nature in the desert. There were no bathrooms or hammams. With no electricity or power, we lived in the dark. The moon was our light and our best friend in the darkness. We filled lamps with gasoline and wicks and lit them for light. To cook, we brought wood from the desert known as hatab. Sometimes we got coal. Our lives were in black and white, night and day. We knew two colours — yellow and blue, the sand and the sea.

During those times, the impoverished times, we were called Omanis. Our fathers, to better the lives of their families and their children, would travel to neighbouring countries such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. They would take up any job, even toil as labourers.


We were called Omanis because there was no country in this area. There were only emirates — Trucial States on the Omani coast. These were poor emirates, the people lived a harsh life before 1971. People depended on themselves to live from day to day — they worked as fishermen and pearl divers in the sea; they went to the desert to eke out a living as herdsmen; some farmed; and there were those who took to the sea to trade.

It was a hard life. There were no schools to teach the children, no hospitals to treat the sick. And, as far as I was concerned, I was born in 1957. I have no birth certificate. A daya or mid-wife delivered me at home.


Fishing and pearling were the main livelihoods of people in the 1950s and 1960sImage Credit: Ramesh Shukla















My generation and the generation before us have no birth certificates as there were no hospitals. When we were young and fell ill, we were treated by the family. And if our condition deteriorated, we were taken to the mutawa, who gave us traditional medicines. That was the situation in the 1950s, 1960s and even the late 1960s.

But we must be thankful for the help of countries such as Kuwait and Egypt, which found progress before we did. Kuwait built us schools and supplied books; it constructed hospitals and gave us doctors. Kuwait also set up the first television station. It was known as Kuwait TV from Dubai. Egypt gave us engineers and specialised help.


Winds of change

In the 1960s, we started to see a different kind of life, we started witnessing change. In our village we had a school with a curriculum. We received a certificate at the end of our education. It was called the Al Maktoum School. We witnessed the first hospital. We saw caravans enter our villages to administer vaccines against diseases. The first power station was built in Jumeirah. It used to work for two hours a day at the beginning. We saw electricity for the first time.

The first television, a black and white set, was bought by a prominent personality in Jumeirah. We used to go to his house and gather around to watch television until there was electricity supply at home. Radios, as they were operated on batteries, came before television. But the ritual was the same — we would gather in people’s homes with radios and listen to news from Kuwait, Egypt and other countries. Most were eager to listen to speeches by Jamal Abdul Nasser.

The first public housing was built by the late Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, and power was supplied to homes. Life progressed, slowly but surely, until the date of the birth of the nation on December 2, 1971. That date, in fact, I consider my birthday because it gave me a country to belong to, it gave me my identity, it gave me a reason to rise and it gave me passion for a future. It also armed me with the tools I needed to achieve my personal goals and my nation’s dreams.

But back to my school days, my friends and I who studied at the Dubai Secondary School belonged to the batch of 1974, the last batch to study the Kuwaiti curriculum. If we succeeded and did not repeat we would not have to study the new Emirati curriculum, which we thought would be different and probably difficult. We graduated in 1974. Those of my generation have school certificates carrying the logo of the Kuwaiti government.

The UAE Ministry of Education then took over, built schools, drew up curricula; and people who finished secondary school were sent to study at universities abroad. The health ministry also swung into action; we soon had water supply, housing, electricity and roads. The ministries worked directly for the people and provided us with a new life. I remember the first cinema — Haroon Cinema, which was located near where Jumeirah Centre is today.

The details of development are known, not only to my generation but also to expatriates who joined the workforce. The new generation of Emiratis too is very aware. But it is my generation that was witness to the transformation and the two lives we led. We saw how our fathers lived, and we now see how our children are living. We should call ourselves the bridge between the two generations. But I am sure our two lives are not clear to the generation in their 30s. They were born with a silver spoon in their mouths.

When I compare our country today with others that gained independence or were formed before us, I really do think it is incomparable. In the 48 years, we have seen a wonder, the success has been unimaginable.

And this is not all because of the leadership that also witnessed the two lives; not because of the passion of the people of the UAE to catch up with civilisation; not only because of the wealth God has granted us. It is because of all this plus the stability and unity that we have witnessed since we founded the UAE.

The rest of history, from 1971, is known. You can see it around, you can feel it, you are a part of it and have benefited from it. This part of history speaks for itself. But it holds no value without remembering and understanding the other part of history, the other story, the first life.

As the nation celebrates its 48th anniversary, I am sure it will be a day of happiness and pride, but it also should be a day of remembrance. And with remembrance comes the wisdom of lessons learnt.

UAE National Day: Sheikh Zayed, Sheikh Rashid’s legacy will never be forgotten

The late rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai played a vital role in unifying the country in 1971


Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan with Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum at Al Maqam Palace.Image Credit: Ramesh Shukla/Gulf News













Dubai: Had it not been for the exhaustive efforts and cooperation of two great leaders, the shape of the UAE’s future would have been different than the one we know of today.

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum became the founding fathers of the nation through sheer hard work and perseverance, as they remained committed to their vision to successfully join the seven emirates into one united front.

Emiratis fondly refer to Sheikh Zayed as Baba Zayed – Father of the Nation – for it was his ideology of peace, harmony, and tolerance that helped steer the formation of the union. Sheikh Zayed, who was born around 1918 into the Bani Yas family in the Jahili area of Al Ain, was known as a charitable and humble man, who put the country’s needs before all else. He believed that the country’s wealth from oil and gas should be devoted to building a prosperous and advanced country.

Sheikh Rashid is known as the founder of modern Dubai who transformed a modest Sheikhdom into a buzzing metropolis. Born in 1912, Sheikh Rashid grew up in the neighborhood of Al Shindagha and when he became Ruler of Dubai in 1958, took the city to new heights as his futuristic vision of the city encompassed construction of a port, a world trade centre, and the expansion of Dubai Creek, in addition to developing the city’s infrastructure with bridges, an airport and seaports.

The Trucial States

Prior to the formation of the United Arab Emirates, the country was known as the Trucial States that comprised of seven states, including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain, and Ras Al Khaimah.

Throughout the 19th century, the Gulf area was important to the British government for their strategic defence of India. So while the Trucial Sates did not belong to the British Empire, it received protection in turn for not selling any of its land to foreign governments.

This agreement was mutually accepted by both parties until the production of oil in Abu Dhabi in 1962, and later in Dubai and Sharjah, which placed the area in a prominent position in world economic and political affairs.

The rapid development and oil wealth prompted leaders with the desire to form a federation, which was fuelled even further in 1968, after the British government announced its intention to withdraw from the Gulf by the end of 1971.

Formation of the Union

Since his accession to power in 1966 as Ruler of Abu Dhabi, the late Sheikh Zayed had visualised a union between the Trucial States, and according to the UAE National Archives, had remarked, “In harmony and in some sort of federation, we could follow the example of other developing countries.”

The sudden announcement of the British Government to withdraw from the area left a political and military vacuum, which encouraged Sheikh Zayed to follow his vision of creating a more formal union between the emirates.

It was then on February 18, 1968 that history was created, when Sheikh Zayed and the late Sheikh Rashid met on the border between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The leaders agreed to merge their respective emirates, and to jointly conduct foreign affairs, defense, security and social services and to adopt a common immigration policy.

This agreement eventually became known as the Union Accord and was the first move towards the establishment of a federation.

With the support of Sheikh Rashid, Sheikh Zayed embarked on a journey to gain support from the other five emirates, and also invited Bahrain and Qatar to join the union. For three years, Sheikh Zayed and Sheikh Rashid intensified their efforts to create a formal and solid union. After much deliberation, Qatar, Bahrain and the state of Ras Al Khaimah decided to remain autonomous.

On December 1, 1971, the British protectorate treaty expired – marking the end of one era that paved the way for an entirely new chapter.

On December 2, the next day, Sheikh Zayed was elected as the first President of Dawlat Al Emarat Al Arabiyya Al Muttahida (the United Arab Emirates) and Sheikh Rashid was Vice-President.

Ras Al Khaimah joined the UAE two months later on February 10, 1972.



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