It’s all Child’s Play in Dubai

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It’s all Child’s Play in Dubai

Glitzy, at times brash, Dubai has a soft corner for kids. And Bollywood, too. Stir the two together and you have the very first Bollywood theme park in the world. Here kids (and adults) can watch live song and dance shows and go on interactive thrill rides based on blockbuster movies like hunting down Gabbar Singh of Sholay fame and reliving the cricket legend of Lagaan.

Then there is Motion gate which seeks its inspiration from Hollywood with adventure rides based on famous movies like Shrek and Ghostbusters. Dubai Parks and Resorts which runs these two movie-based parks has another in the offing: LEGOLAND.

After these silver-screen treats, kids might need to cool off with a splash at Wild Wadi, a  knuckle-biting water-themed park replete with 30 rides including a 360-metre Lazy River, gravity-defying rides and the highest water slide outside the US.

More of the same? Try one of the world’s largest water parks at Atlantis, a flamboyant resort on the man-made island of Palm Jumeirah. Spread over 42 acres, the park features Master Blasters, speed slides, rivers, rapids, lush tropical landscapes… even a private beach. The Leap of Faith catapults riders in a transparent tunnel through a shark infested lagoon. Less hyperkinetic kids would enjoy the Dolphinarium at Dubai Creek Park, famous for live dolphin and seal shows.

Snow and skiing in the Middle East? But, of course… at Ski Dubai, an indoor ski resort in the Mall of the Emirates. But your kid does not know how to ski? No problem. Qualified instructors will teach him/her the basics. For thrills of the more conventional kind, Mall of the Emirates has Magic Planet featuring an XD Theatre and an 8-seat virtual reality experience that combines state-of-the-art graphics with a highly advanced motion platform.

While mom buys gold in the souks or indulges her shopaholic streak in the Dubai Mall (one of the largest in the world with 1,200 stores), kids can play a game of football on an artificial turf pitch, skate on the Olympic-sized ice skating rink and ooh and aah at the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo – all located in the mall! Inside the 48-metre-long walk-through tunnel in the aquarium, kids may eyeball sand tiger sharks, stingrays, giant groupers, and shimmering shoals of fish… And emerge near the Rainforest Cafe done in a jungle theme with life-sized wild animals and a gift shop attached.

An Underwater Zoo will bring out the child even in grumpy adults as they stroll past 36 aquatic displays including playful otters, strutting Humboldt penguins, not-so-handsome water rats and fearsome piranha. The icing on the cake is the Aquarium Viewing Panel which imparts the sensation of walking on water as one looks down at the bounties of the synthetic ocean.

But it is at KidZania in the Dubai Mall that kids bawl their hearts out when they have to leave this 8,000-sq-m zone. At KidZania, children get to play at being grown up in order to better understand the world of adults. Manned by experienced English and Arabic speaking staff, KidZania is a city for kids – with a bank, fire brigade, radio station, police station, theatre, international airport with an aircraft flight simulator… Here little ones can don the uniform of 70 professions ranging from a surgeon, police officer, pilot… A bulletin board informs them about jobs that are available and they are paid for their ‘effort’ in Kidzos which they can bank or spend.

Desert safari anyone? This is an exciting option for kids who love speed, zooming up and down sand dunes, sliding down sideways, riding a 4×4 that is like a beast on the rampage… The high octane-ride is followed by camel rides, sand boarding, buggy safaris… and the more nail-biting wadi driving where the vehicle hurtles over rocky terrain and dry riverbeds in a bone-rattling ride to remember. For a bird’s eye view of this Arabian desert oasis, one may consider embarking on a balloon and/or helicopter flight.

A sweet finale to a Dubai odyssey is a dhow cruise down a crinkled creek that reflects the brightly lit towers, mosques, the warm earth tones of the flood-lit old quarter of the city with its textile and spice souks… The dhow crosses others of its ilk – silhouettes lit with fairy lights – and water taxis ferrying guest workers who have made the Dubai Dream possible.

Yes, in Dubai the lines between reality and make-believe often blur and when viewed through the eyes of a child, it is sheer magic.

Gustasp & Jeroo Irani

Gustasp & Jeroo Irani