DUBAI: FUN IN THE SUN
The jazzy theme-park music stops for a minute and is replaced by the call to prayer reverberating around the rides. “You don’t get that in Orlando, Florida,” I quip to my son. “But then this isn’t really Orlando standard, is it?”
“No, but it’s getting there,” says my 11-year-old themepark connoisseur. Which is quite a statement, considering that, like an accelerating rollercoaster ride, Dubai opened four between August and mid-December 2015, with another two on the drawing board. The emirate that’s home to the world’s tallest building, the largest shopping mall and the most luxurious hotel is setting its sights on family attractions.
Without a Mouse or a Harry Potter broomstick in sight, it aims to become a second Orlando, part of a plan to attract 20 million visitors by the time of the 2020 Expo (from 14 million in 2015). In a way it’s a surprise it didn’t happen earlier in this family-friendly destination, where hotels are geared up for young travellers, with kids’ clubs and great service. Fun activities abound, from desert safaris to an indoor ski area, which means you can (and we do) go from sand to ski in a matter of hours. There’s the 828m-high Burj Khalifa to visit for ultimate classroom bragging rights and a couple of excellent water parks.
Part of the problem with theme parks here, though, is Dubai’s soaring summer heat, with temperatures regularly climbing to 40C or higher. Which is why we’re standing now in the indoor theme park that is IMG Worlds of Adventure, the size of 28 football pitches — the world’s largest indoor park, naturally. The ceiling is cleverly soundproofed which, considering the volume of my screams after we ascend vertically, then tumble down the Predator rollercoaster, seems rather a good idea. There’s more screaming at the Velociraptor, a coaster that takes us from 0-100km/h in 2.5 seconds, bursting out of the indoor area to twist and corkscrew in the desert heat before returning with some hilarious windswept hairstyles.
This Lost Valley section of the park, like the other two themed areas, has thrill and chill rides, with a dinosaur carousel and adventure play area and some cool moving