The problem of Dubai is Dubai
Posted on 2024 Jun,20  | By Mounir Harfouche, MullenLowe MENA

Following the unprecedented, torrential rainfall that plunged parts of the United Arab Emirates underwater back in April 2024, bringing life to a standstill in Dubai, Mounir Harfouche, CEO MullenLowe MENA writes: 'The problem of Dubai is Dubai'

'The city that has built a true societal and lifestyle utopia, boasting near-perfect quality of life, has spoilt us. In our pursuit of perfection, we have perhaps become disconnected from reality, harboring expectations that verge on the unrealistic.

We expect everything to be perfect, from services to safety to lifestyle – simply because everything is here. But we forget that this city is not immune to natural disasters. The damage caused by nature is beyond anyone’s control, yet we rely on people’s innate ability to manage crises. And the UAE’s leadership doesn’t need to prove itself on that front. Let’s not forget the way the government managed the Covid disaster, surpassing global standards. Consequently, the population has grown, and the influx of new residents has surged, a testament to the trust placed in this nation.

The storm was unprecedented, and like many others, I experienced its impact firsthand. It was frightening at times, particularly due to the abnormal intensity of the rainfall. Within just 24 hours, the sky poured down the equivalent of five months’ worth of continuous heavy rain.

No infrastructure or amount of preparation could have stopped the impact.

Now, are there some flaws? Of course there are. Is our readiness at its best for handling such unusual events? Perhaps not entirely. And that’s understandable. We are in the desert, and Dubai has developed remarkable infrastructure accordingly. Nevertheless, the city continues to expand, with a growing population and changing climate. What is most important is that the Government takes action. Approved investments to adapt to these new challenges, particularly at the infrastructure level such as drainage systems, amount to billions, and are already being implemented.

The portrayal of the UAE, during this event, by certain segments of the global media, was unfair and unwarranted. It shows the mindset of individuals with political agendas and destructive intentions toward a beautiful nation that does good on so many levels. The UAE not only benefits its own citizens and land but also extends its positive influence to humanity and the world at large in numerous ways.

What I would have liked hearing others discussing is the following:

  • How a country facing an unprecedented climate disaster managed to maintain essential services.
  • How its airport continued operations despite minor flight delays.
  • The unity of the community in providing support, driven by the nation’s spirit of discipline, respect, tolerance, and positive contribution.
  • The efficiency of the system and the Government entities in restoring order within 48 hours.
  • The seamless integration of the public and the private sector in performing as one.

In some of the most advanced nations, we witness people swimming in street fountains when the temperature hits 32 degree Celsius. We see elderly people dying in their homes due to lack of basic air conditioning systems. People suffering from strokes and heart attacks struggle to access timely medical care. We see trains, planes and buses brought to a halt for weeks due to strikes. We see roads and bridges tired and falling apart.

We see unnatural disasters every day, even in the absence of a natural disaster.

And some managed to make this city look like it has collapsed because of some flooding caused by a storm of unprecedented magnitude.

However, the truth remains: Dubai and the UAE are and will always be stronger than the wind, above any flooding level and surely more powerful than any storm.'

This opinion piece was published in ArabAd print edition dated Q2 - 2024